Don’t Make My Really Elementary SEO Mistake

So, fourteen months into marketing Bingo Card Creator and quite a bit into becoming an amateur SEO, I finally added a 301 redirect from bingocardcreator.com to www.bingocardcreator.com

Folks who are more experienced in ways of SEO will be doing a faceplant when they hear that, since it is often suggested as one of the very first things you should do.  The reasoning is simple: search engines currently treat things on different subdomains as being mostly unconnected websites, so in the eyes of the all powerful Googlebot a link from a download site to bingocardcreator.com and a link from a teacher to www.bingocardcreator.com are votes for two different websites rather than votes for the single unified entity.  A 301 redirect, on the other hand, tells browsers and search engine bots that what they are looking for is a) not available where they asked for it and b) is available somewhere else, on a permanent basis.  When Google et al see a URL that is 301ed to another URL, they just treat the first as an alias of the second.

My failure to have this redirect in place is really bad.  I remember thinking of fixing it a few months ago, but it was a stray thought when I was on the train.  The next stray thought was “Well, I’m really the only person who ever links to the page, and I always choose www, so it won’t really make a difference”.

Today, I used WebsiteGrader, an impressive piece of linkbait done by the HubSpot folks.  I think I have mentioned them before.  Anyhow, I was doing it in preparation for releasing my own little bit of linkbait in the next 48 hours or so.  Buried in the results was a gigantic red warning saying that I had forgotten to do this.  I’ve been ignoring the mental equivalent of gigantic red warnings for a year.  However, I’m a very data oriented person, and WebsiteGrader reported I had 550 inbound links to www.bingocardcreator.com (I know the number to be higher, but its an inexact science) and… 553 to bingocardcreator.com. 

Faceplant.  All that work creating linkable content and I was throwing half of it away.

I’m especially embarassed because this is  something that can be fixed in literally fifteen seconds, especially if you’re using Apache.  (Which, if you’re using Joe Random’s Super Cheap Webhosting Service, or GoDaddy for that matter, you almost certainly are.)  Copy the following into the .htaccess file in your web root directory (there are other options, this is just the quickest to explain).  You don’t need the first line if it is already there, and I’d suggest these be at the top of your file:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^putyourdomainnamehere.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.putyourdomainnamehere.com/$1 [L,R=301]

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20 Comments on “Don’t Make My Really Elementary SEO Mistake”

  1. NetManiac Says:

    I’m not SEO expert in any way, but this could not harm You (at least with Google), when You set preferred domain name in Google Webmasters tools. This way You can tell Google to merge http://www.domain.com with domain.com.

    Of course HTTP 301 is respected by all web search engines.

  2. Phil Says:

    Yikes I had no idea. There were close to 1,500 sites pointing to just ausedcar.com. I’ve added the 301 now, it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference, thanks patrick!


  3. Thanks for trying out WebsiteGrader.

    Patrick: If it makes you feel any better, we’ve graded lots of sites (120,000 at last count) and many, many sites make the 301 mistake.

    The good news is that even if you’re late making the change, the search engines will clear up any link fragmentation as the 301 is detected as they update their indexes. It’s not immediate, but it will happen.

    Also, in the case of larger, more established sites, there is rumor that Google will actually figure this out on its own. By why take the risk?

    Dharmesh Shah
    Inventor, WebsiteGrader.com

  4. Jivlain Says:

    Were you really meaning to create a link to your own site with WebsiteGrader’s name?

    WebsiteGrader

  5. Jivlain Says:

    Hmmm, what are the odds…. this actually accepts HTML…

    <a href=”http://www.bingocardcreator.com”>WebsiteGrader</a>

  6. Patrick Says:

    Thank you, Jivlain, I have corrected the error. I think wordpress uses a HTML whitelist, actually.

  7. JD Says:

    Hey Patrick,

    I think it would have been even better if you hosted your blog at http://www.bingocardcreator.com/blog so that you gain from your blog link juice as well.

    I feel that it’s still not too late and you should move your blog to your own domain.

  8. Patrick Says:

    Unfortunately, this blog’s subject matter is sort of not what I’d like at that domain and the links are already pointing to WordPress (which doesn’t let you redirect them outwards). Accordingly, I’m going to keep this blog here. I will be adding a new, focused blog to Bingo Card Creator sometime in the next week or so — a different project (see my next blog post, should be up within 48 hours) has been keeping me busy.


  9. […] If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!Today’s SEO quick tip comes from Patrick McKenzie’s excellent blog (view his original post). […]

  10. mgladding Says:

    This stat seems hard to believe.

    Are you sure that the 553 bingocardcreator.com links is not made up of 550 to http://www.bingocardcreator.com + 3 to bingocardcreator.com?

    I just tried Website Grader on my site and received the same warning reporting http://www.text2go.com seems to have 149 inbound links whereas text2go.com has 184.

    Either way I’m also going to add a 301 redirect.

  11. Andy Brice Says:

    Thanks for the tip, I’ve also added the 301 for perfecttableplan.com. It will be interesting to see what happens. Perhaps it will push my PR back to 5 (it slipped back to 4 some time ago, for reasons unknown).

    I already had the preferred domain set in Google webmaster tools.

  12. Brandon Says:

    Some nice tips listed here.

    Thanks 🙂

  13. Sam Says:

    Hi Patrick,

    I spotted a minor error in your redirect directive. Should be:

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^putyourdomainnamehere\.com [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.putyourdomainnamehere.com/$1 [L,R=301]

    Note that the “.” in the condition should be escaped, since it is part of a regular expression.

    I actually use a slightly different formulation that looks like this:

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.putyourdomainnamehere\.com [NC]
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^$
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.putyourdomainnamehere.com/$1 [R=301,L]

  14. Charles Says:

    Hey Patrick –

    I’m doing a bit of “SEO on a shoestring” for a friend of mine. This is a good tip. I’m doing this in two steps, the first is adding the meta tags and tightening up the title and stuff. The second part is the links. We’ll add the 301 redirect to the first phase.

    When you said “it is an impressive piece of linkbait”, what did you mean by linkbait?

  15. Patrick McKenzie Says:

    The term is explained in greater detail near the start of this article:

    https://microisvjournal.wordpress.com/2007/10/21/developing-linkbait-for-a-non-technical-audience/

  16. Andy Brice Says:

    Patrick.

    My homepage has finally gone back up to PR5. I don’t know if that is related to this change or not. But if it is – thanks!

  17. Patrick Says:

    Mine went down to 4. Ahh well, c’est la vie.

  18. Clay Says:

    My understanding is that the HTaccess redirect option doesn’t work for a Microsoft server site. Is that correct?

    Any suggestions for succh a site (which mine is) ?

  19. Patrick Says:

    IIS? I don’t know how to accomplish it off the top of my head. But my friend Google does!

    http://www.mcanerin.com/EN/articles/301-redirect-IIS.asp


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