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We have discount links like example.com/alex10 that set a discount in the session and show the homepage as normal (with a tiny adjustment to say "£10 credit applied").

When we initially set this up we were advised to 301 redirect to the homepage instead of having lots of different URLs all showing virtually identical content. And so that all the link juice pointing towards these faux-landing pages would boost our homepage instead.

So the process is:

  1. Visit example.com/alex10
  2. Server sets discount in session
  3. Server responds with a 301 redirect to the homepage, which now shows a small message informing you of the discount.

Is this correct and currently best practice?

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Unfortunately, Google views redirects to the home page as "soft 404" errors. It treats home page redirects the same way it treats a page that isn't found. You are likely not getting any SEO benefit from those redirects.

I would recommend setting up a separate landing page for these links. Setting up a separate landing page allows you experiment with the content without effecting the content of your home page. I usually find there are things that the home page needs that add clutter to a landing page and reduce sales. It is easier to experiment with removing things like prominent login and navigation. On your landing page your call to action can be front and center for your visitors.

I would also recommend using URL parameters for tracking inbound marketing links. That way it is easy to tell Google that they don't effect the content of the page. There are settings in Google Webmaster Tools for doing so. There are also parameters that are compatible with Google Analytics that Googlebot ignores by default. The "UTM" parameters start sessions in Google Analytics similarly what you describe you are already doing. Here is the Google Analytics URL builder that can help you create URLs with the proper parameters. Your new landing URL might be something like:

example.com/landing?utm_source=discount&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=alex10

You could also use meta rel canonical link tags instead of using redirects. That allows you to have many pages, change the content somewhat, but tell Googlebot that the pages are all duplicate and that there is one URL that it should index in the search engine.

  • Thanks Stephen, really good to know. I'm going to drop the redirects and use a canonical link instead, then investigate special landing pages for these links. – AlexHeeton Feb 19 '16 at 17:13
  • I second Stephens suggestion especially about using URL parameters instead. – rosscooperdesign Feb 20 '16 at 0:51

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