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Yahoo Busting Up 301 Redirects

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Barry Schwarz of SEORoundTable (and now moderator of the SearchEngineWatch forums – congrats!) brought to my attention the troubles webmasters have had with 301 redirects in Yahoo. Yahoo SiteMatch reps even recommended creating doorway pages rather than using 301 redirects, and I’ve read that they will treat 301s as duplicate content.

Is Yahoo! Cracking Under Pressure?
Is Yahoo! Cracking Under Pressure?…

Developers and SEOs use 301 redirects when they change urls. The redirect allows them to keep their old url in the index, with all the same links and all the old ranking, while transferring traffic to the new url.

JohnC at the ihelpyou forum posted regarding a conversation he had with a SiteMatch representative. The rep told him “that 301 redirects do not work at Yahoo, would be counted as duplicate content and penalized accordingly.” This post is from 5-27-04.

Tim Mayer of Yahoo posted in WebMasterWorld on the 301 redirect issue in late March, saying that, “we are working on improving our 301 redirect handling. You should notice an improvement in the relatively near future.”

His advice to the poster asking what to do? “I would be patient. We are working on it now and I wouldn’t do anything on your end.”

As I understand him, Tim meant that they’re working on how Yahoo handles 301s. The WebMasterWorld poster claimed jumbled SERPs with content from their new site over top of their old url.

Tim made no mention of there being a duplicate content penalty in WebMasterWorld, and the only place I’ve heard of this is in the ihelpyou forum.

I wrote to Tim at Yahoo and received a brief reply from him and a more extended reply from his PR manager: “just wanted to be clear that in the situations you presented, Yahoo! generally does not penalize sites for 301 redirects.” Which is not to say that it handles the redirects properly, but that sites that use 301s won’t be penalized for duplicate content.

After receiving Yahoo’s reply I went back to check on the forum thread where JohnC posted to see if he had presented a different situation, thinking perhaps his Site Match rep had reacted to what they considered to be a potentially misleading redirect.

Here’s what JohnC claims to have happened: “My situation is that the one URL that I submitted to SiteMatch was getting minimal traffic, then one day it spiked to close to 200 clicks in a day. Well, the SiteMatch rules state that you have to have a minimum balance of 3 days worth of click-funds in your account or your URLs are inactivated. Mine were inactivated since I left my account at the default settings and it did not replenish my funds quick enough.”

“So, by the time I had that problem straightened out, Yahoo had picked up an older URL that we have 301′d to the correct URL. They were showing this URL in the SERPS and would not show my real URL…. hence the phone calls and so on and so on.”

It doesn’t seem that JohnC’s trying to use 301s to dupe anyone, which leaves me confused regarding the Site Match rep’s reason for stating that Yahoo treats 301s as duplicate content.

The contradiction between Yahoo’s and Site Match’s statements regarding 301s concerns me, so I’m including JohnC’s suggestion to webmasters in a similar situation: “run your 301′s for as short a period of time as you can to get your movement over at Google and then drop the pages to a 404. All the while hoping Yahoo doesn’t decide your 301′s are dup content and hit you for it.”

If Yahoo is truly penalizing 301s then, as Barry puts it, this “leaves the Webmaster in a tight position. If they stick with the 301 redirect, Yahoo will treat it as duplicate content. If they switch to the doorway page all the other engines will treat it as a doorway page.”

I am currently awaiting further updates/clarifications from Yahoo.

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.

Yahoo Busting Up 301 Redirects
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