301 Permanent Redirects

Written in 2004.

Why was Business.com banned in Google?

In 2004, Business.com was banned in Google because they had set up the wrong type of redirect from business.com to www.business.com. If you checked the server headers for business.com at that time, you would have seen that they were delivering a “HTTP/1.1·302·Object·Moved” message which redirected their visitors to www.business.com. OOPS! They should have known that delivering a 302 will get your site banned in Google. It should have been a 301 Permanent Redirect, not a 302!

Business.com had a PR0 on their home page and was not in Google’s index

After checking the server headers, I found that they were delivering a ‘HTTP/1.1·302·Object·Moved’ redirect from business.com to www.business.com.

Shouldn’t the folks at Business.com know that doing that will get you banned in Google? You must deliver a 301 or you’ll get banned like this.

Maybe someone from business.com would read this and fix it before it does too much damage to their PR and their reputation. I originally brought this to the attention of the members of the WebProWorld Forums back when I first discovered it.

A lot of website owners are seeing their websites get banned in Google for some reason. In many cases, it’s because they have more than one domain name and have redirected them all to the same content. And they’re using the wrong type of redirect. Getting your website banned in a search engine because of the wrong type of redirect is more common than you think.

It’s a very common scenario. You have a website and you realize that you don’t like your domain name very much. Perhaps it’s your company name–and for whatever reason you think it would be cool to have a different domain name. After all, they’re pretty cheap nowadays. Your company sells red widgets. And, lo and behold, redwidgets.com is available, so you buy the domain name. And you contact your web hosting company, telling them that you have a new domain name and you’d like to point the new domain name to your main website.

Sound familiar? Thousands of website owners have done it, and I’ve done it, too. There’s nothing wrong with this scenario. In fact, there are a lot of good reasons to buy some extra domain names–such as misspellings of your company name (they can be numerous). Some companies have actually bought the domain names that include their name along with the word “stinks” or “I hate”, just to make sure that no disgruntled customers register those names.

Lately, search engines have started to ban websites because they’re doing the wrong type of redirect from the “additionally bought” domain name to the main website’s address. Web hosts, including self-service online control panels that allow you to add domain names and perform redirects, are programmed to redirect one domain name to another using what is called a “302 Temporarily Moved” redirect. A 302 redirect is the wrong type of redirect to use. The 302 Temporarily Moved” redirect should only be used if a website or web page has temporarily moved to another location for less than 24-48 hours. Any longer use of the 302 can result in a website being banned and removed from a search engine.

Improper redirects cause problems

Your first task is to look and see what the search engine sees when it visits your website. When someone (or a search engine spider) requests a web page on your website, your website server responds with server headers before the actual content of your web page is “transmitted”. This includes a date, what type of server it is, and usually a ‘200 OK’ message. If everything’s fine, then the ‘200 OK’ is transmitted and the requested web page is delivered by the web server.

If a redirect is set up, then your web server will respond with either a ‘302 Moved Temporarily’ or ‘301 Moved Permanent’ type of message. Search engine spiders are very picky–and they make decisions based on what your web server tells it through the server’s header.

To check the web server’s headers, perform a ‘server header check’ and view the data that your web server is transmitting. There are many online server header check tools available free, as well as applications that will watch your every move online–called a sniffer.

Fixing the Redirect/setting up the proper redirect

There are two ways to set up a 301 Permanent Redirect. If you are using a Unix web server (you can identify your type of web server through the server header check) then you can use the .htaccess file to add the redirect. You can redirect an entire domain name, all at once, to another domain name, or you can redirect one web page on your website to a new location (typically used if you change static html pages to dynamic web pages, for example). It also can be done in the DNS of the domain name, but I suggest that you don’t attempt this unless you’re very advanced and have set up DNS before.

If your website is using a Windows web server, then the 301 redirect can be done in the Administrator’s section of the server software or through the DNS as suggested above.

For more information, check out my article about Yahoo! Redirects and how Yahoo handles them.

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