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I recently took over as webmaster for a company who lost their webmaster on poor terms, so asking him isn't really an option. Some years ago, this company got a new domain name, and for some reason, the webmaster at that time chose to redirect the new domain name to the old one, in order to preserve the link juice of the old domain.

The business owner would like for the new domain to be the "real" one, so that people can see it in the browser, and there is also an unimportant technical reason why I'd like to use the new one as well. What I cannot understand is why the old webmaster would redirect the new domain to the old, instead of redirecting the old domain to the new - in the sense of any obvious good technical reason to do it this way. Is there something I'm missing here, or might I just as well swap the redirects around?

Example domains similar to the real ones, to show what changed:

Old domain: horsetradertimes.com

New domain: buyahorse.com

  • This question is unanswerable in the sense that you will never know 'WHY' unless you talk to your customer or previous webmaster. It's extremely likely that your customer has agreed to such actions and they are simply playing DUMB as many customers like to do when they feel hard done by a previous administrator. – Simon Hayter Jun 12 '18 at 19:33
  • I apologize, perhaps I was unclear. I'm not expecting anyone to be a mind reader and tell me why he did it. I am asking if there is any obvious technical reason why this was done, and whether I might damage our SEO by switching it around. I will edit my question to reflect this. – klasiker Jun 12 '18 at 19:34
  • It's no problem, I've edited your title. – Simon Hayter Jun 12 '18 at 19:36
  • Also, please edit your question and give an example of the domain type (co.uk, com) and an example of the branding or keywords in the domain, since they are highly relevant to this question. – Simon Hayter Jun 12 '18 at 19:37
  • Okay, I've edited it. – klasiker Jun 12 '18 at 19:52
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There are a few possible reasons to redirect a new domain to an old domain. One would be to use the new domain's URLs in marketing materials, social media, etc, but keep the old domain in the index and preserve its SEO. Think of it as URL masking (for users of said marketing materials, not search engines). Another reason (quoting @DocRoot, below) "if you have an alternative domain and have no intention of really using it, other than preventing the competition from having it, then you might as well redirect it." Similarly, if it's an alternative spelling or a popular misspelling of your domain and you want people to land on your active domain anyway, you would redirect.

Perhaps the old webmaster was planning a website redesign to go along with the new domain, but while that was being planned for a future date, decided to redirect the new one for the time being. (Noindexing the new domain, or blocking it in robots.txt, would have been more effective in this scenario; also, if this is the case, he hopefully used 302's instead of 301's.)

Reversing this will take a considerable amount of work, since search engines have already taken note of the redirect, but it's not impossible. It'll just take time and effort. Be sure to change/reverse your redirect scheme, your canonical URL's and meta tags, your structured data, your XML sitemap(s), and your Google Search Console / Bing Webmaster settings, as well as all the internal links, directory links, and social media profile links. (And, reach out to your most authoritative external linkers too.)

As for link juice, the old webmaster shouldn't have worried, if that were indeed the reason. Constructive 301 redirects pass link juice to new pages almost completely.

  • Thank you. They are 301 redirects. Could you please clarify exactly what you mean by "structured data"? I apologize if that is something I should know, but I am pretty new to this whole industry. – klasiker Jun 12 '18 at 20:24
  • No apologies necessary, @klasiker - we all start somewhere! I definitely recommend learning about this, and practicing by doing; the website you're working on is as good a place as any to get into it. Start here: developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data – Henry Visotski Jun 12 '18 at 20:28
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    "The only reason to redirect a new domain to an old domain that I can think of would be to use the new domain's URLs in marketing materials" - Or if you have an alternative domain and have no intention of really using it, other than preventing the competition from having it, then you "might as well" redirect it. – DocRoot Jun 12 '18 at 22:15
  • Agree @DocRoot - actually that's a good point, if it's an alternative spelling or a popular misspelling and you want people to land on your active domain anyway, this would be a viable option. – Henry Visotski Jun 12 '18 at 22:37

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