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301 redirects should I or shouldn't I?

Posted on 2011-03-25
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Last Modified: 2013-12-09
I own and run the site thelocalgolfer.com - we get a pretty good amount of traffic, have PR4 page ranks on a lot of pages, and are pretty well known in the golfing community.  We have plans to expand throughout the entire country by the end of the year.  With these grand plans we also decided to buy the domain localgolfer.com (basically getting rid of the "the") to add a little easier domain to say.

So my question is should  I do a 301 redirect and move my domain to localgolfer.com?  Or should I just keep it as is it is?  What are the ramifications of each?

Thanks experts!

Neil
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Question by:neilsav
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freshcontent earned 400 total points
ID: 35219890
Neil - my short answer is keep it "as-is".

I've been involved with a URL change that affected most of the pages on a larger website, and we took a 30% search engine referral traffic hit from changing most of our URLs.  If you change the entire domain name and 301 all of your traffic, I think that you will see at least a 10% drop, if not more.
We are now back up and growing beyond the original amount of traffic, but it took us more than 3 months to get "back to even" with our pre-URL change numbers.

I'm not going to say that you shouldn't change your name to the shorter URL, but if you have an established site name with a brand, referrals, and (IMPORTANTLY) backlinks from other sites on the internet to your site, you will take a hit from 301 redirects.

If you can afford a short term hit, you may see a better long-term profile from the shorter domain name, but most folks I know are not willing to risk the 301 redirect traffic and search engine referral hit.

It was a smart move to buy the domain name, so at a minimum you can keep it out of a competitor's hands.

I would suggest using the other domain name as a 301 redirect to your current site name.

This isn't a slam against 301 redirects in general, but if you have a choice to NOT have to use them, that is always better, in my opinion.

My 2 cents...
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Expert Comment

by:kuzmanovicb
ID: 35221811
Without "The" url sound much cleaner.
You need to do 301 from old site to new one.
If You are on Apache web server use .htaccess mod rewrite to redirect old domain to new one.

Best Regards
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by:neilsav
ID: 35222016
I appreciate both responses, does anyone know if backlinks that are 301 redirected still count as "votes" to the new redirected domain?

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by:kuzmanovicb
ID: 35222033
I think after some time they will not count anymore, You should change them as much as possible
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by:Tony McCreath
ID: 35222576
Keep it as is.

Don't take the risk of losing traffic just to drop the word "the", Listen to @freshcontent

301 redirects are the best option for changing URLs but Google themselves have said they leak ranking juice. So it's best to avoid them.
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by:freshcontent
ID: 35224769
neilsav - yes 301 redirects used by backlinks will still count as "votes", but they are imperfect and Google and Bing experiments that I've seen have shown that they do not count as much as direct links that are not 301'd.

301 redirects are useful, but if you can avoid them entirely, it is MUCH better.
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Assisted Solution

by:m_walker
m_walker earned 100 total points
ID: 35224787
IF  you want to move to the other domain, you can do it in a slower manner as well. BUT for it to work well, your pages should not have any hard codded hostnames.
What you can do is have both names point to the same site.  Then publish and use the one you want.  Any old links to the old host would still work as if the old host is still up as a native site.  Keep an eye on the counters and when the new zone has more hits then the old, setup the 301 redirrect to tell sites that you are moving.

Just a thought.
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