Google brings up the redirect link building balloon
Google’s John Mueller explained how Google deals with a popular black hat link building trick. His response deflated the benefits of the strategy and also gave some insight into how Google’s algorithm deals with redirected links.
Creating 301 redirect links
The strategy is to buy a new domain, build links to that domain, and then redirect all links to the main website. The belief is that the technique will hide the links from Google as they go through a different domain and pass the ranking signal, while leaving the negatives behind.
Variation of an old-fashioned technique
There is a long tradition of wishful thinking associated with redirects and redirect domains. There is also a history of exploiting the real properties of 301 redirects that can transfer link ranking signals.
Linking to a redirecting domain is a twist on old penalty-scavenging tactics, sandboxing solutions, and viral linking strategies.
In 2005, it was suggested that redirecting from an old domain to a new domain would help the site rank faster, to get it out of what web publishers called 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, deleting 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 generates an incredible amount of links. When the viral link campaign was over, old school SEO redirected all the thousands of incoming links to a product page to help that page rank better.
The 301 redirect part of the viral linking strategy was never publicly discussed at the time. It was just something old school SEOs did to play Google and largely kept the secret to themselves.
This is no longer a technique that works because Google has over time changed the way 301 redirects and the flow of PageRank work.
Google shows why the redirect trick doesn’t work
Here’s how the Reddit post describes the technique:
“White hat or black hat? A SEO consultant advised me to buy a domain similar to the main one, they will create web2.0, backlinks, blog comments and forum posts on this domain. I then use a 301 redirect to the main domain. He says that’s how everyone ranks fast these days.
John Mueller responded by revealing how Google deals with this technique:
“The 301 essentially makes the main site canonical, meaning the links go straight there – you might as well skip the detour, that’s just as obvious to the algorithm and spam team.”
Lots of hand gestures with no benefit
Many black hat theories are generated by people who are relatively new to SEO. They are easily swayed by the lure of tricks which, as John Mueller pointed out, give no advantage.
Because of how 301 redirects work, the redirected domain simply doesn’t exist and all links pointing to it are credited directly to the main site. The whole extra step of registering a domain is absolutely unnecessary for ranking purposes.
The redirect trick is a lesson in the value of understanding how search engines really work. The 301 redirect trick isn’t SEO, it’s superstition-level pointless activity like picking up a dime for good luck.
But there is an advantage to the 301 redirect trick.
Why the redirect trick could be useful for spammers
The only reason to use this technique is if you want to be able to remove all inbound links when they start harming a domain. Some spammers use a technique called Churn and Burn. They generate a gigantic amount of links to the new similar-sounding domain in a short time. The redirect points all links to the real domain and the real domain ranks.
After a while, Google catches up with links and devalues spammy links. This is the part called burning, when all links are burned by Google and no longer count. It is at this point that a spammer can cancel redirects, instantly removing all spammy links with a single click.
The redirect trick is not recommended
This is not a recommended strategy for legitimate sites. But it is useful to know what other people are doing, because there is power in knowledge.
Read the original discussion on Reddit.
Images by Shutterstock, edited by author