Asif Anwar is a Search, Social, & Internet Marketing Consultant/Specialist working in Bangladesh (In Indian Subcontinent aka South Asia). Professionally consulting and helping small businesses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since 2003 and actively learning about Search Marketing trends from 2001. Passionate about SEM (Search Engine Marketing), SMM (Social Media Marketing), and PPC (Pay Per Click).
Sites evolve a lot after it has been created. Even if the contents and themes are same for the site, they throw away the old bottle and take on a new bottle. But, with the old bottle, sometime the webmasters don’t know that they are throwing away precious old wine of the link juice. Even, many SEO experts and webmasters forget what they are throwing away and go for short-term solutions.
Not all sites goes for CMS at first. The common evolution pattern is from Plain HTML site to Animated Flash site and then to Content Management System (CMS) site. For some sites, the evolution pattern can be quite complex. Each time while changing, most site owners and webmasters rarely bother about redirecting old links to the right and very relevant link or page. While doing that, they are harming the visitors, hence their business potential, and also the search engines.
301 Permanent Redirects transfers almost all the SEO value of a site including: PageRank, Authority, Anchor Text and Relevance, etc. Since, Google rolled out the advice to use 301 redirects, there was a debate whether 301 permanent redirectlso transfer the relevance score in SEO. Matt Cutts in the following video has confirmed that Anchor Text does flow-through when you use 301 Permanent Redirects. Which does indicate that content or keyword relevance also passes through.
So, if a site has high PR inbound link to a page that is not on site or lands on 404 page, then the link juice and authority will be spilled and spoiled. Because, the Anchor Text and Relevance of the inbound Link page aka keyword stream flowing the link juice may not land on page that has that relevant keyword. And since the Google Bomb Update, incoming anchor texts coming to a page that does not have the keyword, has very little or no probability to rank well in Google.
301 permanent redirect does transfer SEO values to the landing page from the moved page. However, over time, Google also confirmed that 301 Permanent Redirect does not flow 100% link juice to your site. in March 2010, Matt Cutts of Google confirmed that Google does not transfer 100% of the SEO value. More story here: Google Confirms: 301 Redirects Result in PageRank Loss!
However, in my experience, we have not seen much harm in the redirect of links within same site to redirect old and broken links. So within a site, the relevance will flow perfectly. Moreover, it’s not just about SEO. Sometimes, many people bookmark you page and would want to come back to your site. So, in terms of usability, you loose potential future visitor who already has attained information about you.
The question whether 301 Permanent Redirects transfer age of the domain or page is a debated issue. But, there is absolutely no harm in 301 redirecting your old links to the relevant new links (with the same keyword). If your old link on the site is broken, then you are bleeding the precious link juice out of your site :-o
It is evident that to permanent redirect of old links using 301 Permanent Redirects to the relevant page in your existing site and new domain is one of the best practices in SEO. Because, many inbound links may be out there that are linking to your specific page using specific anchor text that is passing relevance to your site, not just Page Rank. So to feed both the visitors and search engines with exactly relevant information (not a 404 page), 301 permanent redirect is the best thing you can do.
Now that you know redirecting the old links and broken links to relevant page is very important in terms of SEO. What should you do now?
First you have to find the old links withing your site to transfer the relevance graph to the new site structure. If you were the site owner, you may know that after a hard guessing. But, if it is the site of your client, then any guess work will not work. The best way to find the old links on your site is Archive.org.
From Archive.org, you have to collect links from all available chronological versions of the site. You can use HTTack Website Copier to locally cache and create a list of URLs on the old version of the site. You also need to store the Anchor Texts used for the link, so that you can find relevant current page to redirect to.
If you don’t care about what others have bookmarked, and only want to concentrate on SEO value. Then you need to collect all the inbound link statistics along with the anchor texts. But, sometimes anchor texts does not say relevant content on the page that links to you. In that case, you need to collect specific keyword for the respective inbound link, so that you can find the relevant page or URL on the current site.
Once you collect all the old links, you have to verify if the link is broken. Xenu’s Link Sleuth can help you in automatically identify broken links from a link list in txt file. However, while working 404 pages, you will get wrong results. Because, when you have active 404 page, Xenu will show 200 OK Status. So, it would be wise to turn off the 404 pages for the time being. However, there are many software that can help you identify broken links.
Once you have the list of old and broken links, Google the keyword in the braces: [“Anchor Text of the Broken Link” site:mysite.com]. The first result you see other than the homepage in Google search, is the most relevant current page in the eye of Google. Create the link graph using excel sheet or any file format you prefer. Once you get the relevant current page, then you are ready to redirect.
For 301 permanent redirects, you need to manipulate the .htaccess file in your root folder of your site. Tony Spencer over SEOBook.com provides a good article on how you can do it, once you have the list of old links and the corresponding new links.
So the next time you plan to upgrade your site, it is wise to have a back up of your current link structure along with the old ones. So, when your site takes on new links, you can easily create 301 permanent redirect for the current links to the relevant future site.
Some SEOs believe that old links are stronger in getting ranks than newer links, if the content freshness is periodically maintained. So, you can switch the previous method and use the old link as the current link and permanently (301) redirect the current link to the old link.