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Google Pops the Redirect Link Building Balloon

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Google Pops the Redirect Link Building Balloon

Google’s John Mueller offered insights about how Google treats a popular black hat link building trick. His answer deflated the benefits of the strategy and also gave insights into how Google’s algorithm treats redirected links.

301 Redirect Link Building

The strategy consists of buying a new domain, building links to that domain, then redirecting all links to the main website. The belief is that the technique will hide the links from Google since they are passing through a different domain and pass along the ranking signal, while leaving behind any negatives.

Variation of an Old School Techniques

There is a long tradition of magical thinking associated with redirects and redirecting domains.  There is also a history of exploiting the real properties of 301 redirects that can transfer link ranking signals.

Link building to a domain that redirects is a variation of old tactics for penalty recovery, sandbox solutions and viral link strategies.

In 2005 it was suggested that redirecting an older domain to a new domain would help the site rank faster, to push it out of what web publishers called the Google Sandbox.

Redirecting URLs to another domain has also been suggested as a way out of the Penguin penalty. The idea was that if the links were poisoned, taking down the page and redirecting all links to that page to another domain would remove the penalty from the site.

Another way redirects were exploited was as part of a link baiting and viral link campaign. An SEO creates content that generate an incredible amount of links. When the viral link campaign was over, the old school SEO would redirect all the thousands of inbound links to a product page to help that page rank better.

The 301 redirect part of the viral link strategy was never publicly discussed at the time. It was just something old school SEOs did to game Google and largely kept the secret to themselves.

This isn’t a technique that works anymore because Google has over time changed how 301 redirects and the flow of PageRank functions.

Google Shows Why Redirect Trick Does Not Work

Here is how the Reddit post described the technique:

“Whitehat or blackhat? Seo consultant advised me to buy a similar domain to the main, they will create web2.0, backlinks, blog comments and forum posts to that domain. I then use a 301 redirect to the main domain. He says that’s how everyone’s ranking quickly these days.”

John Mueller responded by revealing how Google treats this technique:

“The 301 basically makes the main site canonical, meaning the links go directly there — you might as well skip the detour, it’s just as obvious to the algorithms & spam team.”

Lots of Hand Waving with Zero Benefit

Many black hat theories are generated by people who are relatively new to SEO. They are easily swayed by the appeal of tricks that, as John Mueller pointed out, do not give any advantage.

Because of the way 301 redirects work, the redirected domain simply does not exist and all the links pointing to it are credited directly to the main site. The whole extra step of registering a domain is absolutely pointless for ranking purposes.

The redirect trick is a lesson in the value of understanding how search engines actually works. The 301 redirect trick is not SEO, it’s a useless activity on the level of superstitions like picking up a penny for good luck.

But there is an advantage to the 301 Redirect trick.

Why the Redirect Trick Might Be Useful to Spammers

The only reason to use this technique is if you want to be able to drop all the inbound links when they begin to hurt a domain. Some spammers engage in a technique called Churn and Burn. They churn a gigantic amount of links to the new similar sounding domain in a short amount of time. The redirect points all the links to the real domain and the real domain ranks.

After a time, Google catches up with the links and devalues the spammy links. This is the part called the burn, when all the links are burned by Google and no longer count. It’s at this point that a spammer can cancel the redirects, instantly removing all the spam links with a single click.

The Redirect Trick is Not Recommended

This is not a recommended strategy for legit sites to use. But it’s useful to know what other people are up to, as there is power in knowledge.

Read the original discussion on Reddit.

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Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

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Roger Montti

Roger Montti is an SEO consultant & web publisher with nearly 20 years experience. He offers Site Audits for ranking ... [Read full bio]

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