Moving content? Think 301, not rel=canonical

Whether you’ve decided to move your website to a new domain or you’re moving content within a current website, it’s important to know how to protect the trust value your current content has with the engines.  Over time, links get built, content ages and acquires trust.  You don’t want to walk away from that if you can help it.  Why start over when most of that value can be transferred to the content’s new location?

The solution to your problem is the 301 redirect.  This redirect is referred to as the “permanent” redirect.  Its cousin, the 302 redirect, is the “temporary” redirect.  Basically the 301 tells us to please follow the link to find the new home for the content.  The 302 on the other hand, tells us the content has moved temporarily, but will return to its original location.  Since, in this example, we know you’ve moved the content permanently, the 301 is the redirect you should use.  We’ve covered this in more detail in a past post.

One big questions folks often have at this point is how much of the value is passed to the new URL.  A valid question, and one with a simple answer.  Most of the value is passed.

We cannot pass all of the value because, like it or not, that new URL is, well, …new.  We do still need to see many of the usual signals firing to help us close the gap back to the original, full trust value for the content.  So, as you watch your stats, you will see a drop in the traffic graph as you work through a transition period.  There’s no hard and fast rule on how long this transition period lasts, but it usually measured in months or less.

This past week at a conference someone had a question and asked if they could use a rel=canonical in place of a 301.  They argued that since the rel=canonical passes value similarly to a 301, it should do the trick.

The answer to the question is…no.  You should not use a rel=canonical in place of a 301 redirect.  The rel=canonical is designed to help manage duplicate URL issues.  It is not a true 301 signal to the engines, though it can pass value similar to the way a 301 does.  Implementing a 301 redirect is tough to mess up.  It either works or it does not, and when it does, it passes value.  We recently encountered a website that had so botched implementing its rel=canonicals that it essentially would lead to all of their pages, save one, being stripped of value and de-indexed over time. 

Luckily they’ve found and fixed the issue, but the fact remains.  If you need to move content, the 301 is your friend.

Join the conversation

  1. mosley

    Duane can you clear somthing up for me. You say a 301 will transfer trust as well as link juice to the new url. What about a page that has no external links would it be of use to 301 redirect it or is the trust releated to the links it has?

    I have always beleved that if a page has no external links there is no reason to 301 it (Not taking into account people could have the link in favorites), just fix the internal links to point to the new location.


  2. Duane Forrester

    OK, first off, let's do some centralizing on phrases…

    "Trust" = "link juice" as applied here.

    Even without external links pointed at it, the internal links alone will push value to the page prior to the redirect, thus helping us assign a relative vaue to the page.  Couple that with items such as you suggested (bookmarks) and there is still a useful reason to implment the 301.

    Now, this assumes the volume of work you have to do is managable.  In a case of a large website where redirecting every page would be problematic in term sof sheer volume, targeting "unloved" pages by tracking all pages and rating them by inbound link counts, values, etc., may be a valid choice.

  3. mosley

    Thank for your answer. I am trying to understand Bing Search more.

    Here as you say you are talking about link Juice when we mention trust, but I hear you mentioned trust as in “a loss of trust” and "gaining trust" when talking about other factors, such as wrong use of canonicals and redirects, incorrect sitemaps and such.

    Is there trust score given to websites?

    Is it safe to say a well maintained website, with correct use of tags, redirects, sitemaps and maybe free from violations found by the SEO Toolkit would lead to better trust?

    anything else you can tell us about trust, or what makes a quaility website in Bings eyeys (Besides great content)


  4. Rayhan

    Thank You, That's really great and essentiall for websites. Great fix !


  5. Duane Forrester

    Yes, there is a score assigned to websites by Bing.  It's called Static Rank, but is an internal-only element.  It's not shared publically at this time.

    Broadly, yes, a well maintained website is in a better position to be trusted, but its critical to remember there are literally hundreds of signals coming to bear on any one URL which defines where it ranks.  There is no tool available currently that can take those into consideration, and even the IIS SEO Toolkit tool falls well short of the total number of signals processed.  It's a solid tool, as are many others, but that tool does not benefit from any inside-Bing information.

    Other things to consdier are the usual suspects:

    – page load time can impact the user experience, so mind that – no numbers to share as its all relative

    – the typical on-page SEO work still holds water, so there's still value in that

    – social plays a bigger role these days, but isn't in a position to sudden light up your world if a Tweet goes viral – still should be invested in, but managed thoughtfully to showcase your own engagement with visitors – being good to your visitors pays off in the long run

    – quality inbound links from trusted websites still help, so ask for them when you can – just don't buy links

    – mind your canonicals as they can stop value from reaching the desired page

    Things tend to evolve slowly in the world of search optimization, which is good news as that means its easier to get on top of the changes when they do happen.

  6. mosley


  7. DaveJay

    Don't understand the whole rel=canonical and how it works.  Can you do an individual post on that or reply to me with a concise explanation.  Encountered it in many places but haven't found clear explanations.

  8. paranormal

    thanks i was moving a domain and found this very interesting.

  9. cybermales

    Thanks, but How about problem duplicat title / description on the blogspot..??

  10. crozzzlinx

    thx for the explanation, cheers for bing!

  11. More Me Time

    Hi, would you advise me to use this redirect or something of the kind if I revert a post back to a draft in my blog, remove the internal links, rename it, rewrite and improve it for posting as a 'newer edition' of the original?

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  13. passionlive

    I'm moving my domain to a new site – . Should I deindex the old site manually or Bing will do it automatically once the 301 is in place?

  14. toolboxboy

    Hi Duane. About a month ago, I 301 redirected thousands of pages in site A to the home page of site B. Site B is a new and well designed site with far better navigation. Site A contains about 300,000 pages. I was hoping that Bing will immediately start finding and indexing thousands of page on Site B.  As expected, Bing continued requesting pages from Site A as normal and got 301 response code for each request. What amazes me is that Bing indexed only 100 pages from site B, so far.

    Why is that happening?

    Did I do anything wrong?

    Should I do anythig

Comments are closed.