Friday, June 7, 2013

301 redirects and rel=canonical attribute

When should you use 301 redirects on your website? When is the rel=canonical attribute the better solution? This week's article helps you to find the right solution for your situation.

What is a 301 redirect?

A 301 redirect is a server-side redirect that shows search engines that your page has moved to a new URL. 301 redirects pass nearly all of the link power of the old URL to the new URL. In general, 301 redirects are the best way to direct Google and other search engines to the correct page.
When should you use 301 redirects?

301 redirects are the best solution if you're moving your website to a new domain or if you're changing the URL structure of your web pages. Search engines and users won't see the old URLs of your website then.

You should also use 301 redirects to make sure that search engines index only the www. (or the non-www.) version of your website. For example, this link goes to without the www. The server automatically changes it to to make sure that search engines index only one variation of the page.

What is the rel=canonical attribute?

The rel='canonical' attribute is an HTML element that enables webmasters to prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the "canonical", or "preferred", version of a web page.

For example, the same web page could be available in a web version and a print version. By using the rel='canonical' attribute in the print version, you show search engines that the web version is the version that should be found in the search results.

A link tag with the rel=canonical attribute looks like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

The tag must be inserted in the head section of a web page.

When should you use the rel=canonical attribute?

The canonical attribute is useful if your website creates dynamic URLs with every visit. For example, your URLs might contain tracking variables or visitor information:

The canonical attribute shows search engines that the pages with the different variables are the same and that they shouldn't count as duplicate content.

The canonical tag is only a suggestion. Google sees rel=canonical as a hint, but not as an absolute directive like a 301 redirect. Use the website audit tool in SEOprofiler to find out if there are any 301 or canonical issues with your website.

The audit tool checks the pages of your website and it shows all errors that can cause problems with search engines.

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Easy SEO Solutions

Most businesses want quick and easy solutions to their problems. They want high rankings on Google and they want them now.

That's why there are so many companies that offer seemingly quick and easy ways to get listed on Google's first result page. What do they cost? Can your business afford them?

Four quick and easy ways to get your website on Google
There are many different tools and services that promise a fast track to Google's search results. Here are the most popular offerings:

Buy links from high PR pages?
Some companies sell links from high PR pages. Links from these pages used to give your web page rankings a boost in Google's search results. Some of these links still work.

The problem with these links is that Google doesn't like them at all. Since Google's Penguin updates, paid links can get your website into major trouble and your website might lose all of its rankings.

Join a backlink network?
Some companies offer private link networks. If you join these networks, your website will get hundreds of backlinks with very little work.

Just like paid links, these network links used to have a positive effect. Unfortunately, these links are against Google's TOS and Google will downrank your web pages if they find out that you participate in a link network. Several link networks have been penalized by Google during the last few months.

Quickly get backlinks from social media sites, forums and blogs?
There are several software tools that automatically create backlinks from social media sites, forums and blog comments. To get these backlinks, the tools create fake accounts on several web pages and then they create thin content with a backlink to your site.

Until recently, you could give your website a major ranking boost with this method. Google's anti spam updates have stopped this. If you use these tools, you invite Google to penalize your site. All tools that use fake social media accounts are spamming tools.

Quickly fill your website with content?
Everybody knows that web pages need content to get high search engine rankings. The easiest way to get content rich web pages is to reproduce content from other websites on your website.

There are several scripts that will scrape other web pages and remix the content. If you use this on your own web pages, you will soon find out that Google's Panda update doesn't like it.

How much do these services cost?
The companies that offer the services above charge $100-$1000/month. When you consider that all of the solutions are nearly fully automatic, this seems to be a relatively good price.

The problem with the methods mentioned above is that they all will get your website banned from Google's search result pages sooner or later. Google thinks that these methods are spam and they are right.

You can get short term results with these methods but it is only a matter of time until your website will be penalized. That's the real price of these quick and easy SEO solutions.

Checklist: when to avoid the methods above
If your answer to one of the following three questions is 'yes' then you should avoid the methods above at all costs:

Does your company have employees or investors?
Is your website the primary source of your income?
Would losing most of your visitors be a disaster for your income?
If you want to get high rankings on Google without risking your website, use safe search engine optimization methods. Safe SEO methods are search engine optimization methods that play by the rules. If you optimize your web pages with these methods, you will get high rankings that last.

SEOprofiler is a so-called white-hat SEO tool that only uses safe SEO methods. If you haven't done it yet, try SEOprofiler now:

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