One of the questions that’s brought to me on a semi-regular basis is whether or not 301 redirects diminish the amount of link juice passed by a link. That’s highly relevant in today’s world, especially when it comes to URL shorteners such as j.mp that use the 301 tag as their mode of functioning. While I’ve had plenty of information to review, digest, and then summarize for people in the past, the rules are consistently changing and more clear data is being provided. More specifically, just a few days after my last post on the subject of canonical URL tags and 301 redirects, Matt Cutts is giving an update on the official stance.
What Cutts is making clear in this most recent video is that yes, you do lose some link juice from 301 tags, but it’s such a small amount that it’s essentially negligible. The only reason Google doesn’t count 100% of your link juice is that internal links on a site also show some diminished returns on link juice, and there’s a fear that webmasters would start gaming their page architecture with the use of 301s if Google let through all the link juice. But really, Cutts is saying it shouldn’t matter and that 301s are generally the best alternative (and certainly better than rel=canonical rags).
Canonical tags, says Cutts, should be a backup in case you don’t have server access to make the appropriate change to your htaccess file. Google will almost always pay attention to canonical tags, but may disregard them if they seem malicious, if they’re placed in the wrong section of your code, or if they seem to be pointing to a 404. However, they’re no better than 301s at improving link juice return for pages.
[via Matt Cutts]