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Understanding redirects

A redirect is the automatic loading of a page without user intervention. You click a link to load a Web page into your browser, and within seconds, the page you loaded disappears, and a new one appears. Designers often create pages that are designed for the search engines — optimized, keyword-rich pages — that redirect visitors to the real Web site which is not so well optimized. The search engines read the page, but the visitors never really see it. Redirects can be carried out in various ways:

  • By using the REFRESH meta tag. But this is an old trick the search engines discovered long ago; most search engines won’t index a page that has a REFRESH tag that bounces the visitor to another page in less than ten seconds or so.
  • By using JavaScript to automatically grab the next page within a split second.
  • By using JavaScript that is tripped by a user action that is almost certain to occur.

You’re unlikely to get penalized for using a redirect. But a search engine may ignore the redirect page. That is, if the search engine discovers that a page is redirecting to another page — and, to be honest, the search engines often don’t find these redirect pages unless they use a REFRESH meta tag — it simply ignores the redirect page and indexes the destination page. Search engines reasonably assume that redirect pages are merely a way station on the route to the real content.

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