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I have a unusual set up with a website. Unfortunately I cannot serve the website source from the root domain i.e.

http://www.example.com

I've been forced to redirect to a subdirectory to display the website content when the root URL is requested e.g.

http://www.example.com

Has a 301 redirect to:

http://www.example.com/subdirectory/index.html

Would it have an adverse affect on SEO to have this at the root domain?

Update:

After reading the below posts and studying the recommended links I used a 302 redirect. I chose this option since it appears that the Google recommendation is to use a 302 if it is a redirect from the root domain. To counter measure any possible duplication issues I made use of the rel="canonical" tag on the destination of the redirect.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Historically, I've maintained many MediaWiki implementations where this is the case (i.e. ^/wiki/) and, after switching to a ^/ rewrite configuration, I have not noticed any ranking differences which I would attribute to the change in URI scheme - if it's applied uniformly I wouldn't worry about it.

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Three Downsides:

  • Your root domain URL is your most linked page, a HTTP 301 redirect only passes about 90% of the value, you lose 10% of your link value of these links.
  • Navigational queries (i.e.: the "domain part" of "domain.tld") are less likely to produce site links.
  • Less deep-crawling: Google crawls top down - starts with the most linked site, which will most likely be your domain URL, as this does not exist you waste this zero level of crawling depth. (just say: I have had crawling issues on one site where such a setup existed, it got better after I made the start page == root domain).

Another Point:

What about the robots.txt? the robots.txt is only allowed on the root of the domain. If it's not possible for you to deploy it on the root you will not be able to use that very useful tool.

If your site has a commercial intend (a.k.a. you want to earn money with it) you should go the extra mile (i.e. switch server provider, switch framework) to make this very basic step right.

Additionally a Google'er once said that for this kind of start page redirect should better be an HTTP 302, But I didn't dig deeper on this....

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+1 on using a 302 instead of a 301 for the root redirect. By using a 301, Google will possibly use the longer (uglier) URL instead of the root URL in search results. The effect is minimal, but users usually expect to see the root URL in search results. –  John Mueller Oct 11 '10 at 7:35
    
FWIW I disagree with the other points though; there is no given X% that is passed through a 301 redirect, navigational queries are generally unaffected and it should definitely not affect crawling. The robots.txt is something to look at though (usually it's hosted normally & on-site redirects are followed anyway). –  John Mueller Oct 11 '10 at 7:38
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That link is dead, but perhaps this is what you were trying to link to: seroundtable.com/archives/022165.html –  Lèse majesté Oct 11 '10 at 7:45
    
thx john m. for the clarifications. the "nav. quieres no sitelinks issues" and "less crawling" were two takeaways from an very old site where i had that kind of setup. these were solved with a proper setup (having a startpage at root) - but yes, it could have been an interdependent cause or just coincidental - a sample of one is little small :) –  Franz Oct 11 '10 at 11:52

One extra thing to add, you do/will lose a very small percentage of your page rank initially from the 301 redirect. Google alludes to it in their SEO document but it isn't some huge amount, the largest percentage I have seen guessed is 15% and that is probably higher than what it is in reality.

The only reason for the small loss in SEO ranking is that Google doesn't want to reward looping redirects or looping links that build page rank.

Also, the company I work for had to do a redirect from www.example.com to www.example-product.com for the entire site and we saw a drop in SERPs for 1 day and then jumped back to the levels from before to the switch.

Overall, the biggest thing Google says is that you should do what you need to do to give your users the best experience and Google's web crawlers have been given enough logic to reward you for that. They have over 200 rules for a reason, to make sure they don't ding you much or at all for making your site better. As others have said major wiki sites do this all the time and haven't seen a huge hit to PR. Even if you take a very minor hit initially it is for the benefit of the site in the long run so it will be a positive change.

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There is no given X% PageRank that is lost on a 301 redirect like this. Redirecting the root URL to a lower level URL (using a 302) on the same site is fine and very common. –  John Mueller Oct 11 '10 at 7:40

Definitely not. This is a widely used redirection tool across many sites. My personal site redirects from the root directory to a wordpress folder and maintains a pagerank of six.

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While I think you're probably right, having high page rank while conforming to a particular practice does not necessarily mean that practice has no negative SEO effects. After all, you could have a high page rank despite the redirect. And many sites out there have a PR of 6 while still breaking a lot of SEO best practices. They could just be very useful sites that lots of people link to. –  Lèse majesté Oct 10 '10 at 0:41
    
point taken. You're absolutely right. –  binaryorganic Oct 10 '10 at 23:48

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