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301 Redirects: The Complete SEO Guide To Proper Redirects

There is a frequent issue which creates challenges for SEO practitioners, website owners and search engines alike: canonicalization.

The issue surfaces because it’s common for duplicated pieces of content to occur multiple times on the same website. For instance with product descriptions which are common across multiple options, or similar examples occur with how tags and categories work which means multiple pages of content are duplicated in the eyes of the search engines.

The most common example provided is where “www” (is, and is not used) – such as:

http://BlueRidgeDogChews.com

http://www.BlueRidgeDogChews.com

http://www.blueridgedogchews.com/default.asp

http://blueridgedogchews.com/default.asp

All (4) URLs take the visitor to the same webpage content for this eCommerce store – try this for yourself with the links above, or using your own website.

Which one should be benefit from the link value? More than that, how do we stop the other page versions from counting against us as duplicate content?

If we have links built to these URLs (and we are largely unable to mandate how someone links to our site), then we will see a dilution of the links across the different URLs. This is wasteful and ineffective: we want all the links to be counted and credited, but unless we tell Google that links to these various URLs should in fact be to the original.

Fortunately, webmasters can help the search engines get to the original, credit-worthy page.

Introducing Redirects: 301 & 302

A redirect is a way of telling the search engine that a query to one URL should be directed to another. So, we can use a redirect to tell a visitor or a search engine, that going to BlueRidgeDogChews.com means the user should be redirected to www.BlueRidgeDogChews.com, but the issue is whether the link value to the former is passed on to the latter as well?

This depends on the type of redirect used: 301 or 302.

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirection of one URL to another. A 302 is a temporary redirect. The difference is important: most links will be redirected to the new or ‘original’ domain under a 301 (permanent redirect), compared to none under a 302 (temporary redirect).

Introducing rel=”canonical”
A further tool is utilizing an alternative: rel=canonical code. This code snippet is inserted in the <head> section of the web page’s code. It specifies which page is the original, and therefore,  passes-on the link value and appropriate accreditation.  The format is:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.rankpay.com/" />

In this instance, https://www.rankpay.com is tagged as the original page.

Google’s Matt Cutts has provided a helpful two-minute video sharing the best practices of:  rel=canonical –vs- 301 Redirects:

 

Takeaway

Search engines are incredibly intuitive at figuring out which page is original content and which isn’t, but there are issues with distributing the link value between URLs pointing to the same content.

There are two main ways to tackle canonicalization: 301 redirects (or permanent redirects), or using rel=canonical.  Please send us a Support Ticket or give us a call at 1.877.RANKPAY, if you’d like us to help evaluate any specific situation regarding your website – we’d welcome the opportunity to help ensure that your site is set-up for success.

Categories: SEO |
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