301 Redirects and PageRank

- March 17, 2010

In a recent interview with Matt Cutts, a very interesting topic came to light.   In discussion, the topic of 301 redirects came up and how it relates to PageRank.   More specifically, is there a loss of PageRank if you use 301 redirects to change URLs?   Matt Cutts stated that he thought there probably would be some loss in these instances.

“Matt Cutts: That’s a good question, and I am not 100 percent sure about the answer. I can certainly see how there could be some loss of PageRank. I am not 100 percent sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank decay, so I will have to go and check on that specific case. (Note: in a follow on email, Matt confirmed that this is in fact the case. There is some loss of PR through a 301).”

What exactly are we talking about here?   Well, let’s just say you have a website such as: www.mywebsite.com/mineisthebestproductever.php, and you want to know if changing that URL via a 301 redirect to www.mywebsite.com/mine-is-the-best-product-ever.php will perhaps give you an advantage for keyword targeting.   In short, no, the benefit of spacing out the keyword within the URL will not outweigh the loss of PR over time.  

In many cases, you do not need to change your URL’s.   If you create content effectively on the correct page, there should be no reason to use 301 redirects within your existing site.  

A scenario where you may not be able to avoid utilizing 301 redirects is when you are creating a brand new website with SEO in mind.   In this situation, using 301 redirects is unavoidable because you will be creating new pages, deleting old ones and moving content around to fit your new website structure.   This is an acceptable use of 301’s because they are needed to restructure the site.   Any loss seen in PageRank, will be made up in the future IF you build your site correctly with SEO in mind.

Some tips to remember:

  • Don’t change your URL’s for keyword purposes.
  • Have a plan when creating content so you will not have to implement 301 redirects.
  • Avoid using parameters in URL’s where possible.
  • When redesigning your site, try not to change domains.

Changing URL’s for the sake of getting more keyword relevance or to move content is not worth it from an SEO standpoint.   Plan your content wisely and consult professionals when redesigning your website for the best possible results.

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