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By: Matthew Doucette
Article Update: October 22nd, 2006:
It appears Google has started honoring the 301 permanent redirect. If this is so, this entire article has become obsolete and contains incorrect (although historically correct) information. Google searches for our old sawtoothdistortion.com and xonatech.com domain names no longer return results that are 301 redirects to our new xona.com domain name:
Note: The "sawtoothdistortion.com/evolutionaryprototype" results under the Saw Tooth Distortion domain name are supposed to be there. It is an old video game idea we had which never 301 redirected to xona.com. Therefore, all Evolutionary Prototype results should be included in the search results.
What does this mean?
Before, when Google did not honor the 301 permanent redirect, the searches above would result in all the Saw Tooth Distortion and Xonatech pages that have moved and been 301'ed to their new locations. This should never happen with proper handling of 301 by search engines, as when a search result is a moved page (with a 301), the result should be where the 301 points to, not the original (moved) page.
If you are wondering why the search results from the above searches are not a bunch of xona.com pages (as both sawtoothdistortion.com and xonatech.com have a bunch of pages that 301 to xona.com), it is because the searches are site specific (domain specific), and cannot result in xona.com results by definition.
Please contact us if you have experiences of moving a website with working 301 in Google.
Original (Outdated) July 21, 2005 Article:
Warning: Articles such as this are not "timeless truths." Google may eventually start honoring 301 permanent redirects, at which point this article begins delivering out-of-date and incorrect information. If you discover that Google honors 301s, please contact us immediately, so that we can update this article!
These are my experiences with Google's and Yahoo's handling of 301 permanent redirects. After my 301 redirect, Google dropped my ranking and Yahoo kept it. The details:
We used to be Saw Tooth Distortion™ (sawtoothdistortion.com)...
How did I update from an old URL to a new URL? A webmaster is supposed to do a 301 permanent redirect, which lets programs know that the link has not only moved, but has permanently moved. If a redirect is permanent, a program can update its links. A temporary redirect would cause no change. Now, will search engines honor this 301 redirect? This is the question I asked myself. It's the most important question of all, as search engines are the most important entities that index sites. If they honor the 301, searches that used to result in the old URL should seamlessly result in the new URL, whenever the new URL takes effect. Not knowing how my top two traffic producing search engines Google and Yahoo would react, I decided to try it.
Our Google Traffic Disappears:
At first (before xona.com) I 301 redirected sawtoothdistortion.com to xonatech.com. Within a week the traffic dropped and most of my Google hits were gone. Google is a major source of our traffic, so this was bad news for us. Here's a screenshot of our traffic:
We do not receive very many hits, but the point is that changing your domain via 301 redirects can be devastating to your Google search engine traffic.
Our Uninstall 180 Search Assistant article used to be the clear #1 result for this Google search (by "clear" I mean we had #1 placement for various searches on the subject and many top ten placements for obscure searches on the subject):
Currently, as of the writing of this article, I am nowhere. (Keep in mind that I will eventually result in the top 10 for that search again, due to measures I have taken after implementing the 301 permanent redirect, which are described further down in this article.)
I also used to be the clear #1 result for this Yahoo search, and I still am (as of the writing of this article, but may not be anymore, as the 301 redirect has been removed, as I will explain below):
This meant that Google ignored the redirect, and Yahoo honored it. If Google honored the 301 redirect, the switch-over would have been seamless in terms of traffic from Google. Instead, it was exactly as if I was starting with a brand new website, which can be devastating it terms of getting traffic. I later found out that Yahoo only just recently started honoring the 301 redirect. Many people were upset about the lack of Yahoo's 301 support prior to this.
So Google does not honor the 301 redirect and Yahoo does... What should I do?
Yahoo Works, Google Doesn't; Now What?
Google gives us way more traffic than all other search engines combined. That fact forced us to do whatever we could to get our search results back up in Google, even at the expense of search results in Yahoo and other search engines. So, we took down the 301 and pretended that the old URLs (sawtoothdistortion.com & xonatech.com) are actually different sites that are linking to my new site, xona.com, in hopes of transferring the search result placement of the old URL’s to the new URL. Now that the redirect is down, when you visit the old URLs you are hit with a “this page has been moved” notice instead of experiencing a flawless and seamless redirect that a 301 would provide. This solution that I am forced to do is unprofessional, but it is better than the 301 redirect in the sense that it will transfer some of the old URL’s PageRank and bump up its serach result placement. However, a properly honored 301 redirect would have transferred all of the old URL’s PageRank.
More Information on 301 Permanent Redirect
For more info, try these Google searches:
Update August 1st, 2005:
Now that I removed the 301 permanent redirect and put up a non-automated "this page has been moved, please click here" style redirect, I have regained my number one spot for the search I once dominated:
The #1 spot is my old URL (sawtoothdistortion.com/Articles/Uninstall180Search.html), the original result, not my new url (http://xona.com/2004/07/18-2.html). Also, in exception of the title of the article, the old URL no longer contains the content of the article. This is important as it shows the result was maintained without having to leave a duplicated copy of the article at the old URL. You never want to have duplicate content or any content existing at your old URLs.
So, it appears the best solution, in terms of receiving traffic from Google, is to not 301 redirect, but instead leave the old URL up, remove the content, and link to the new URL.
About the Author: I am Matthew Doucette of Xona Games, an award-winning indie game studio that I founded with my twin brother. We make intensified arcade-style retro games. Our business, our games, our technology, and we as competitive gamers have won prestigious awards and received worldwide press. Our business has won $180,000 in contests. Our games have ranked from #1 in Canada to #1 in Japan, have become #1 best sellers in multiple countries, have won game contests, and have held 3 of the top 5 rated spots in Japan of all Xbox LIVE indie games. Our game engines have been awarded for technical excellence. And we, the developers, have placed #1 in competitive gaming competitions -- relating to the games we make. Read about our story, our awards, our games, and view our blog.
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