Google Can Automatically Forward Ranking Signals
Making the most out of ranking signals is critical to boosting one’s website SEO ranking. SEOs and webmasters typically utilise 301 redirects to pass full link equity or ranking power to other pages. However, Google’s John Mueller recently said that website SEO experts do not need to use 301 redirects to forward ranking signals from their old web pages to a new link.
What Are 301 Redirects?
When moving houses, one would usually sign up to have their mails forwarded to the new address. This is crucial because it ensures that the homeowner does not lose any important information sent to them. 301 redirects work in the same way. If a website or a piece of content moves to a new link, one should take the necessary steps to ensure that site visitors get sent to the right place.
Mueller Discusses 301 Redirects For Forwarding Ranking Signals
The discussion was brought up during the weekly Google SEO hangout on 4 June. A website owner explained that their team was working on a website that has changed several URLs without adding 301 redirects right away. They asked Mueller if Google has set a time limit for implementing 301 redirects before the website’s ranking drops.
Usually, SEOs and webmasters set up a 301 redirect from the old web page to the new one whenever they change an existing URL. This practice helps transfer the ranking signals to help web pages either maintain their position on the search engine results pages or get a positive rankings boost.
Many website SEO experts rely on 301 redirects when changing the URL of an existing page, but it turns out that things turn out fine even if they do not set up 301 redirects. This is because Google is more than capable of passing signals on its own.
According to Mueller’s reply, Google works perfectly fine without getting help from 301 redirects, but it completely depends on the situation. This means that there are different factors that one should consider when dealing with such a problem.
For instance, if the old piece of content still exists, and a webmaster produced a copy of it with a new link, then Google’s system will consider the two links as a part of the same cluster. Google will then select a canonical URL between the two links.
When selecting the URL, Mueller said that Google would prefer the new URL over the old one. As they select the new link, their system automatically forwards all of the ranking signals from the old link to the new one, even if the site owner has not set up a 301 redirect in place.
In this particular scenario, SEOs and site owners will not see any huge difference if they add a 301 redirect later. The only noticeable difference is that it sends a much clearer message to Google’s system, saying that the website owner wants the search engine to index the new URLs instead of the old ones.
SEOs and webmasters would not see changes to their site rankings in this setup, but they will notice that Google would switch the ranking signals to the new links a bit more consistently.
This may seem reassuring to website owners and online businesses who have the same situation. Still, there are a few “if” scenarios on whether Google will automatically transfer ranking signals from one URL to another. Based on Mueller’s reply, there are two conditions that need to be met for Google to do this:
- If a URL changes, but the content stays the same, then Google’s system will forward the signals automatically.
- If Google recognises that the new link is the canonical version, its system will forward the signals automatically.
Meanwhile, if the webpage’s content changes along with the URL, Google might not transfer the ranking signals. Moreover, the search engine might see the old link as the canonical link, so they might not automatically forward the ranking signals either.
The best thing that businesses and site owners can do is set up manual redirects than rely on Google’s system. Still, it is good to know that the search engine can forward ranking signals without 301 redirects in case they forget.
Moreover, if a site owner accidentally deletes their old web page, the source of their ranking signals would be removed from the Internet. Even if one republishes the same content from the deleted web page, the ranking signals are still lost.
Mueller said that Google would lose all the data they have on the original web page, because suddenly, it will be a 404 page. Moreover, the search engine would consider the new web page as fresh content and would not be able to make the connection between the new and the old links.
So, in this scenario, it does not matter if the website owner adds a redirect soon or much later because by then, all the signals are lost, and redirects would be useless.
If an SEO or website owner deletes web pages and moves them somewhere else, they would see little to no improvement from adding redirects for a certain period – though this time gap may vary depending on the website.
For cases like this, Mueller recommends adding 301 redirects to ensure that all ranking signals can be forwarded over no matter how small the value is.
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