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Solving Google Page Rank problems with a 301 Redirect

© July 2003 Tony Lawrence

July 2003

When I first started this site, it was "APLAWRENCE.COM". That's the name of my company, it's not overly long or hard to spell, so it seemed to be a good choice. However, later on I registered "PCUNIX.COM" thinking that that name is more related to what I do, is shorter and easier to type, and perhaps is more memorable.

Both domains point to the exact same content. The Apache configuration file at my web server just treated them both as virtual domains having the same filesystem location. There was no difference: no matter what domain name you used, you'd get the same pages. These are just duplicate domains.

For several years I flopped around, using the names inconsistently. When I'd refer people to my site, sometimes I'd send them to pcunix.com and sometimes to aplawrence.com, depending on my mood. Of course other sites that made link references to pages on my site were just as inconsistent: some of them point to pcunix.com, some to aplawrence.com, depending upon their whim or how they happened to find me.

Google Page Rank

It turns out that was a bad mistake. Google (and other search engines) don't really know that these are actually the same site, so they index the sites independently. That causes problems for ranking.

Google uses a lot of undisclosed criteria to determine how "important" they think a page is. One is incoming links: other sites that reference your site. In Google parlance, that's a "vote": a site is voting for your site's page rank by referencing it in a link. With two apparently separate sites as I had, that caused a dilution of votes: some sites link to pcunix.com, some to aplawrence.com, and therefore neither really gets the votes they really have.

Worse, Google apparently will penalize sites it thinks are too similar to other sites. As these sites are really identical, that could cause Google to downrate one even more than it might otherwise. I've seen people complain that one of their duplicate domains actually went to a Page Rank of 0.

So having duplicate domains isn't a good strategy for web site popularity. As that popularity drives business to me and increases my advertising revenue, it's very important to me that I get the best ranking I can in search engines, and especially in Google.

In June 2003, that's where I was. Something had to be done.

What is my Page Rank?

Ah, that's a good question, and it turns out not to have an easy answer. If you want a heavy on the math but still interesting dissection of this subject, see The Google Pagerank Algorithm and How It Works.Otherwise, for a sometimes inaccurate look at Google Page Rank, download the Google Tool Bar for Internet Explorer (unfortunately Google doesn't provide this for any other browsers). It will show a gray/green bar for any page you visit. The more green, the higher the Page Rank. If you hover your cursor over the bar, you'll see a numeric score, expressed as X/10. This is apparently a logarithmic scale, so a rank of 2 is much more important than 1, etc. The problem with this is that there are reports and indications that it is not always accurate, but as it's all we have to go by, we can probably trust it to the extent that a page rank of "2" is definitely much less popular than a rank of "4".

By the way, I've found Google's tool bar to be strange in other ways. For example, if I just call up "aplawrence.com", I get a Page Rank of 0, while "aplawrence.com/index.html" gets 6, as does "www.aplawrence.com" and "www.aplawrence.com/index.html". They are all, of course, the same page.

So, back to my problem. The pcunix.com site main page had a Google page rank of 4, while aplawrence.com had 6. So, if I could merge them together, I'd get 10, right? No, because it's logarithmic. I *might* push it to 7 if my present 6 was close, but there's no way for me to tell that ahead of time. No matter what, getting the two to be one has to help. So which one should be the "real" site. Well, no matter what attachment I might have to "pcunix.com", the "6" page rank says that's the one to concentrate on. So I needed to get "pcunix.com" to become "aplawrence.com".

301 Redirect

Well, there are a couple of ways I could approach that. I could just kill off pcunix.com and hope that the sites that link to it will eventually find aplawrence.com and change their links. That sounds like a dumb idea.

I could move pcunix.com to its own content and put up big banners asking people to change their links. That doesn't sound much better.

Finally, I could use a "301" redirect, which is what I did. The first thing needed was to set aside some space for pcunix.com separate from aplawrence.com. In the htdocs (the html root) directory, I put one file named .htaccess which contains this:

redirect 301 / https://aplawrence.com/

I then changed the Apache configuration to point pcunix.com to this area, restarted Apache, and I was done. It's that simple: any request for any page at pcunix.com is redirected to the same page at aplawrence.com.

Time will tell how this will affect me. I'll check back here in a few months and update this page with what I have learned.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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It's been almost a year. How did this technique work for you?


Well, it works fine. However, because of changes in how Google does Page Rank (and its lessening importance), it's impossible to say what effect this did or did not have on Google rankings.


Tue Apr 26 12:03:29 2005: 381   TonyLawrence

In the most recent PR update, my /index.html page dropped from 6 to 5, but some other pages increased from 4 to 5, so who knows what it all means..

It is what it is.. :-)

Thu Aug 11 11:32:48 2005: 963   TonyLawrence

And now it's back up to 6 again. The ways of Google are mysterious indeed..

I've also been interested in watching the Netcraft ratings vs. Alexa - Netcraft keeps improving, while Alexa remains stagnant. Alexa needs to support more browsers..

Sat Jan 21 08:24:01 2006: 1535   anonymous

Hi Tony,
Have another update? Great info here... Thanks for sharing.

Sat Jan 21 11:33:52 2006: 1536   TonyLawrence

While traffic is still increasing, Google PR, Netcraft, and Alexa have all dropped. For Netcraft and Alexa, that may just indicate falling popularity of their toolbars (it seems strange to have much more traffic yet have Alexa say the site is less popular!).

But Google? Who knows the ways of the Google..

Thu Feb 23 12:08:09 2006: 1699   b4rney

Hi Tony,

It is possible that you are still promoting two websites in google's opinion.The first appears to be the most widely used but the second still has strong inbound links. Once google finds a 'www' page it spiders the internal urls which often point to both 'sites'.

This 'duplication' splits PR between them and may trigger duplicate content penalties.

I would strongly advise you to add another 301 redirect from every (link) page to (link)

Keep us informed of your observations.

Ironically I don't have a 301 redirect

Thu Feb 23 12:15:08 2006: 1700   TonyLawrence

Right this minute, that's deliberate.

Google is supposed to be "fixing" this kind of problem (see (link) ). I had a 301 in place for this, but took it off so I could see if Google really has made any progress.

It's very hard to judge. For a while, I lost toolbar PR on both sites, but both are back up to 6 now. Of course, both the loss and the gain could have been entirely unrelated to both Google's ranking changes and my experiments with 301's.

I'm going to leave it as is for a bit and see what happens.

Fri Jun 9 09:32:23 2006: 2090   Michael

I am in a similar situation right now. What I care most are my high ranked keywords.

Did you measure a drop in your keyword rankings?

Fri Jun 9 11:28:30 2006: 2093   TonyLawrence

No, I didn't. No increase either.

Thu Jan 18 14:48:11 2007: 2819   Anton

I just did the same mistake - if only i read this good post before!

I am waiting that all my pages go to (link) but in the meantime my ad sense revenue dropped to 12% :(

Been 2 weeks waiting for google to notice my change!

Tue Sep 16 11:58:56 2008: 4552   Anime

I have experienced exactly the same problem with my two sites, one of which is slightly better than the other, i will follow the advice given and hopefully Google will approve!

Fri Dec 12 12:39:54 2008: 4920   CitizenX

Your current page rank is now 4 - I think you have a valid point as my site has doorway pages, this in turn lost me traffic from 1000 uniques a day down to 100, I have added 301 redirects in all doorway pages and hope to see my Google results return.

Fri Dec 12 13:15:04 2008: 4921   TonyLawrence

Yeah, I know - it's gone down, up, and down again.

I don't pay attention to it any more.

Sat Oct 17 11:22:49 2009: 7279   Nepalwalks

I have old domain registered on 2001 but after 6 years it was deleted once and again register because I hope this website ( (link) page rank will be retype sooner than new domain what do you think? If you have any idea to retype of page rank please kindly help me

Sat Oct 17 11:33:39 2009: 7280   TonyLawrence

Page rank is pretty much unimportant now. Google has even taken it out of Webmaster Tools (though it is still in the toolbar for now). They say it doesn't mean much today.

That leaves quite a void, doesn't it? What DOES matter?

Wed Oct 21 08:15:42 2009: 7325   PSDsToHTML

PageRank is still important, though not as much. Domain Age seems to be a reasonable factor and relevance with search terms is far more important. We too are transferring ButterflyHTML.com to PSDstoHTML.com. Been 2 weeks since 301 is in place. Yahoo recognized and the new domain ranks higher. Google takes much longer, at least a month to recognize 301 redirects.

Mon Oct 26 10:05:32 2009: 7349   PSDsToHTML

Problem solved, google merged the domains though the effect isn't yet quite clear. Entire domain transfer is certainly not for the faint hearted... :)

Sun Dec 20 17:05:59 2009: 7771   anonymous


Good post. When I look at how google indexes your pages, it shows different titles for the two urls. APLAWRENCE.COM title on google reads "AP Lawrence SCO Unix Consultant". PCUNIX.COM title on google reads "Unix, Linux, Mac OS X Help, Tutorials and support pages". Where is google pulling the APLAWRENCE.COM title from?

Sun Dec 20 17:44:29 2009: 7772   TonyLawrence


Darned if I know - they are the same exact place.

There isn't even a 301 any more, but all content is the same.

Sun Dec 20 17:50:28 2009: 7773   TonyLawrence


I just put back the 301 - I had lost it when I switched hosts a few days back.

Mon Dec 21 01:17:14 2009: 7779   anonymous


Perhaps we can figure out where google is pulling it from. Where on your page did you write "AP Lawrence SCO Unix Consultant"?

Mon Dec 21 02:06:16 2009: 7780   TonyLawrence


Nowhere - not for some time.

Google has pulled something old from its own caches.

Another thing it regularly does is show pages using "ftp.aplawrence.com" - which was never valid. For example, Google thinks "ftp.pcunix.com/MacOSX/gps_macosx.html" is a valid page - it is not and never has been.

Google does strange things sometimes.

Sat Jan 2 22:46:41 2010: 7845   BulkSMS


I was going thru the comments and the article and i enjoyed it and came to know something interesting about redirection , i was keen to know that if i redirect my webpage from the same website with page rank 2 to the root website with page rank 2 will the root website will have rank 4 added or will remain as it is.

Sat Jan 2 22:55:49 2010: 7846   TonyLawrence


if i redirect my webpage from the same website with page rank 2 to the root website with page rank 2 will the root website will have rank 4

If both are close to PR 3 now, you might end up with a 3 overall. Maybe.

PR is not additive,

Thu Apr 29 09:47:06 2010: 8482   anonymous


That simply is not true, at least not with Google. A site is indexed does not mean that it will definitely show up in SERP even if the keywords are included in the title, or somewhere on the page. You could go through the whole results without finding your site. It's Google, it does not care how your site ranks on other SE's.

Thu Apr 29 10:13:41 2010: 8483   TonyLawrence


It's Google, it does not care how your site ranks on other SE's.

Of course. Where did you get the idea that anyone implied that?

Sun Oct 3 21:06:33 2010: 9022   OpencartTemplates


Does this technique still work? I mean, the post is a bit 'old'. Could you clarify? Thanks in advance.

Sun Oct 3 21:29:38 2010: 9023   TonyLawrence


Yes, 301 redirects still work :-)

Sun Oct 3 21:30:48 2010: 9024   TonyLawrence


Or did you mean the canonical tags? Yes, those still work too.


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