301 Redirect -

User-generated content site.  New link structure.  Many links already existing in the wild.  All across the internet.

Page has good ranking.

Now, some sections are gone / discontinued.

Others still exist, but the links to the those sections and the pages within them have radically changed.

In some cases there are thousands of links.

Problem is, in the old link structure, the links can come in a variety of permutations:
locus=29&sub=3&node=5&id=37561&lang=eng
locus=29&sub=3&node=5&id=37561&lang=fre
locus=29&sub=3&id=37561&lang=fre

Each of these links could point to the same page.

Seems like writing 3, or more, redirects for every page would get us punished by Google if we did that for a thousand pages.  Am I right?  

Our thinking was to just write a single redirect based on the locus=29 value.  Wouldn't get the user to the EXACT page, but it would get them back to the correct SECTION of the new site.  

Is that better than trying to add thousands of permutations of 301 redirects?

And, for the eliminated sections, send people to the home page.

Put another way: what's the purpose of the 301 redirect - only to deliver the user to EXACTLY the same place they were headed to originally?  Or, to avoid having a few thousand broken links lying around out there in the world by delivering the user to at least the place they wanted to get to?

Many thanks!

OT
oaktreesAsked:
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Lucas BishopClick TrackerCommented:
Seems like writing 3, or more, redirects for every page would get us punished by Google if we did that for a thousand pages.  Am I right?

No, that is not a reason to be penalized by Google. You are simply doing housekeeping in helping users (and Google) get to the page they originally intended to.

Now, one thing that could get you penalized in Google (for duplicate content), is if all three of these pages, have the same content but are positioned as different pages:

locus=29&sub=3&node=5&id=37561&lang=eng
locus=29&sub=3&node=5&id=37561&lang=fre
locus=29&sub=3&id=37561&lang=fre

Open in new window


Make sure you're using canonical url meta tags to address this:
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en

As for your idea:
Our thinking was to just write a single redirect based on the locus=29 value

Logically/technically, this is probably the best way to go about it. I would think the "id" is actually the unique key out of those parameters, but if "locus" is the key, then by all means build your redirect rule off of it.

what's the purpose of the 301 redirect

Technically it's a rule that says "Page X has permanently moved to a new location." Now, if that new location is not the exact same page that it used to be, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it could be.

The question you should ask yourself is, "what is the user experience in this scenario?" If the user was trying to go to a non-existent page that explains the meaning to life, but you:

  • redirect them to a page about dog food, that's a bad user experience.
  • but you redirect them to a page that gets them closer to the meaning of life, that's potentially a good user experience.

Whatever you do with the redirects, make sure the goal is to help your users first.
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oaktreesAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the detailed reply and the great links.

In our situation we are fighting a bit of a rearguard action.  We've already switched over to the new link structure.  So, of those many thousands of links that existed in the old format have been recreated in the new.

I'm thinking about those old links that are out there in the wild.  I suppose there is some kind of math we could do to determine every link permutation of each page:

locus=29&sub=3&node=5&id=37561&lang=eng
locus=29&id=37561&lang=eng
locus=29&sub=3&node=5&id=37561&lang=fre
locus=29&sub=3&id=37561&lang=fre
locus=29&sub=3&id=37561
locus=29&sub=3&id=37561&lang=fre

and so on.  But, that's my concern.  With thousands of entries, multiplied times six...seems like that kind of huge 301 redirect file would have to negatively impact the site in some way in terms of ranking.

This is my key concern - should we go ahead and try to figure out a methodology that writes every user-generated page in every possible permutation [8,000 pages * 6 = 48,000 redirects] or, would it be better for protecting / enhancing our ranking to just bulk redirect folks to the general SECTION of our site?

From the USER'S perspective, it could be seen as an advantage since the site thematic, and the newer entries can meet their needs just as much as the specific ones they've found online, if not more.

I'm agnostic, as I'd be happy to deliver them to either the VERY SAME link, or the general section to help them.  But, my confusion is: what should I do in terms of Google ranking?  Would 40,000 redirects - or more - sort of throw the indexing into a tailspin?  

Which would you do?

One last caveat - users can DELETE their entries at any time, and some do expire.  So...does that even more militate for the section-level redirect?  That way, as the links age out, folks get back to the section.
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Lucas BishopClick TrackerCommented:
In terms of Google, they rank based on relevancy to user experience. Whether your site has one redirect or one million, Google doesn't care. They only care that you don't try to deceive them or the user.

I'd personally want to setup the most accurate redirects. Ones that deliver the user closest to what they were expecting.
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oaktreesAuthor Commented:
Hi Lucas,

Thanks again for your reply.

Sincerely,

OT
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oaktreesAuthor Commented:
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