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On a site I'm currently working on, there is a 301 Redirect to redirect a nice short URL for users to type in when trying to find a particular piece of content - e.g. www.mydomain.com/apply -> www.mydomain.com/some/application/page

To my knowledge, it is best practice to use a 301 redirect here - the content is located in just one position and we want that page to be ranked accordingly.

I've been told that "quite often" users who want to visit the site mistakenly enter the URL into the search bar of the browser instead of the address bar. The search result will just return a link to the site, but not that particular page, so they then click through and just reach out homepage and get confused.

They have asked whether we can index that page so that it appears in the search result, so the users can click on it there. My initial reaction is to be against this. As far as I am aware, it is bad practice to try and force an index of a 301 Redirect, isn't it? Is it even possible, how do you do it?

I've tried looking into this and it sounds a bit similar to a "doorway" page, but rather than the aim here being to try and fake our way into a better page ranking, it is to make sure the user can find our site in this 1 specific search.

I'm currently of the opinion that we shouldn't try to bend the rules to cater for this specific scenario, but I'm struggling to think of alternatives that will also help the situation.

What if we assumed that the page rankings for the true content page are not important, and general users wouldn't search for it anyway, but we didn't want to harm page rankings of the whole site in general?

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2 Answers 2

By the virtue of what an HTTP 301 redirect is (server response "permanent redirect"), you are asking Google to index something you are telling them is not there. So if you create a rule saying direct www.mydomain.com/apply to www.mydomain.com/some/application/page and you have no content on this page there is nothing to index.

I think an easier way of going about what I think you are trying to achieve is to use a server side URL rewrite rule. This replaces www.mydomain.com/some/application/page with www.mydomain.com/apply. I would then create a 301 sending any direct/old index traffic to the new page URL. This way the page will have content and Google will have something to index.

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Thanks for your response Martin. That's an interesting way of turning on its head, to make the redirecting page the actual "master" page. However the page being redirected to is actually hosted on a different server, so a rewrite may be difficult to apply, something for me to look at though. –  PirateKitten Jan 24 '12 at 17:37
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I think your best course would be to use mod_rewrite so that your users and google see the shorter url

Using this in your htaccess should do the trick

RewriteEngine On RewriteRule ^([^/]*)apply/$ /some/application/page.html?=$1 [R=301,L]

You could also do it this way

RewriteEngine On

#condition to redirect
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^/?apply/?$
RewriteRule ^/?apply/?$ /some/application/page.html [R=301,L]

There are mod_rewrite generators around and I suggest you use a 301 redirect because so far as Google is concerned it is a permanent redirect.

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Wouldn't this also just create the 301 Redirect rule, which is already in place for the short URL (as stated in the question)? –  PirateKitten Jan 25 '12 at 11:04
    
@PirateKitten the second one yes, the first one would actually rewrite the URL as far as google and the user are concerned - literally you would never see the longer url in a browser again. –  toomanyairmiles Jan 25 '12 at 11:22
    
As I commented on the other answer, a rewrite rule isn't really suitable in this case. The short URL is just a friendly URL that links to another server and application. I'm ideally looking for suggestions that remain with the two URLs in place. –  PirateKitten Jan 25 '12 at 19:03
    
@PirateKitten then I'm out of suggestions, beyond saying that changing what you're currently doing to a 301 might make google index the page the way you want it to. –  toomanyairmiles Jan 25 '12 at 19:30
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