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How to setup a 301 redirect?

The final step in the expired domain link building process is actually setting up the 301 redirects. There are a few ways to do it. A slight warning upfront, the process requires some technical knowledge, but it’s nothing too complicated.

And if done correctly, the 301 redirect technique should reap the power from the “forgotten” links of expired domains. So, keep reading and get ready to take your SEO game to the next level!

So, what is the best approach for redirecting expired domains?

As explained in our A to Z for finding and buying expired domains, one of the key steps is finding a domain relevant to your niche. However, the execution of the 301 redirects might be the most crucial step in the entire process. To reach the final goal, two main conditions have to be met:

  • Google can’t be alarmed about the suspicious redirect
  • Redirected page or website has to “make sense”

To better explain what we mean, let’s take an example. You have a business repairing vintage cars, and your website is live. You’ve also found an expired domain in your niche (car industry) with a strong backlink profile. Here is how you can approach the redirection.

Straight-forward redirect

Okay, let’s start with the obvious example, but the one we don’t fully recommend. The concept is simple; find a relevant expired domain, and just redirect it to your own website.

Well, it’s not that simple. If it was, everyone would just purchase a bunch of expired domains, and do the same thing. Google algorithm is not THAT stupid after all. 

We’re not saying you shouldn’t redirect an entire domain. You definitely can do that but it would be better if there is some content on it before redirection. This brings us to the second approach.

Recreate previous content

The key to this method lies in the anchor texts. Take a look at expired domain backlinks and figure out what the context behind them is. Better yet, check the content on the referring page, and see how the link was incorporated in the text.

In our vintage car repair example, let’s say the expired domain has a backlink from the official Ford website. That link has a “best vintage Fords” anchor text and points to a page on your newly bought expired domain. The next step is pretty obvious – use the Internet Archive to scrape the content that existed on that page. Add that content to your car repair business website and just redirect the backlink.

However, the next question presents itself – what if you can’t recreate the old content?

Create new content on your website

As reported in 2014, the Internet Archive has indexed about 400 billion web pages. That number is definitely much higher today. However, there are cases where you won’t be able to find the page you want. Or maybe the page did not exist in the latest available snapshot.

In that case, the best you could do is to presume what the content was about and create a new one on your website. Once again, you will have to rely on the context of the backlink, but reading the text on the referring page should help significantly. 

The hardest job here is writing the content. After that, the redirect is done in the same way as the previous example.

Create an acquisition page

This might be the trickiest and longest method. The idea is to rebuild the expired domain, create content on the homepage saying something like “XX is now part of a YY group. We have moved to another location”, and then redirect the expired domain to your site. 

The (kind of) risky part here is how would Google perceive this. Will he believe this is about the merging of two businesses/websites? Well, our counter-question is this: How could he ever know that you didn’t partner with another business? The key here is that the expired domain did not have any previous penalties and that it only had one owner. For extra safety, it would be good if the purpose of the website was not changed over time.

That should be enough to avoid any kind of sniffing on Google’s part.

Domain-Level vs Page-Level redirect

This is the choice that has to be made. Should you redirect an entire expired domain, or cherry-pick the pages to redirect?

Short answer? Redirect the pages. This approach takes longer but is a much better option. Using Ahrefs, you can find the most “powerful” pages on the expired domain and only redirect them. This way, you ignore the irrelevant and “weak” pages and focus solely on those that will carry the “link juice” to your website. And this makes sense. Why redirect pages that have spammy backlinks? It doesn’t make sense. 

On the other hand, redirecting an entire domain is much easier. But because the redirect is not as “natural” as with pages redirection, it’s more likely that results will be inferior.

And where should the links point to?

Okay, so you’ve decided to take the longer path and 301 redirect specific pages. Good, now the question is where TO redirect them. As is known, the page with more backlinks pointing to it is considered “more important” than the one without links. 

In that spirit, it makes sense to send link juice to the most important pages on your website. These are usually product or service pages. The pages that bring revenue to your business. And if you have pages that you wish to rank higher (but they don’t at the moment), it might be a good idea to send them that link juice.

Executing the redirect

Here comes the technical part of the process. It is slightly complicated but the 301 redirect can be done with a pinch of tech knowledge. The most important thing to know is this: if you are redirecting specific pages, then you HAVE TO REBUILD the old (expired) domain. More specifically, you have to rebuild the old URLs which you want to redirect to your website. 

The easiest way is to buy a cheap hosting plan and install WordPress on it. If you’re asking yourself: “Well, I bought an expired domain. Why can’t I redirect its pages without rebuilding them?” The answer is simple – when you purchase a domain, that is the only thing you purchased. A domain, not its content.

Edit the htaccess file

After WordPress installation, it’s necessary to access the cPanel (software provided by the hosting platform) and edit the configuration file called htaccess. Every hosting provider has its cPanel, but their interface is usually pretty similar, so locating the file shouldn’t be a problem.

The file can be accessed by going to the FILE MANAGER (or similar) tool within cPanel. Make sure to locate the htaccess file in the public_html folder.

Htaccess File in cPanel

The next step is editing the file, and adding the following line of code:

Redirect 301 /oldpage.html http://www.example.com/newpage.html

The first URL is the page on the expired domain which you’ve previously created in WordPress, and the second URL is the page on your website where you want to send the link juice. Save the changes of your htaccess file and all done! 

That’s it! You’ve successfully redirected a page from a (previously) expired domain to your website.

SIDE NOTE:

Always make a backup of your htaccess file, just in case something goes wrong (which it won’t).

Use a dedicated plugin

For everyone not so tech-savvy, there is a simpler solution – using a dedicated WordPress plugin. The most common one is the Redirection plugin, which reproduces the steps done when editing the htaccess file. Just make sure that all your redirects have a 301 code, and not others available, such as 302 or 308.

Use the registrar

If you’ve firmly decided to redirect an entire domain, you can do that without purchasing a hosting plan, and installing WordPress. The majority of registrars have their administration, in which you can set up 301 redirects. Here is how it looks like in the GoDaddy administration:

 

GoDaddy administration

Verifying the 301 redirects is a must

After the redirection of desired pages, it’s necessary to check all 301 redirects. Of course, there is a specialized tool for that, called Redirect Checker.

Just type in the “old” URL from the expired domain, and check if the message “Everything seems to be fine.” is displayed, followed by the “301 Moved Permanently” notification. For a more hands-on approach, check the backlinks of the expired domain via Ahrefs, and look for a 301 redirect tag.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many expired domains can be redirected?

There’s no rule for the number of pages/domains that can be redirected. To avoid suspicion from Google, redirect pages sporadically, not all at the same time. It’s advisable not to go over the top with redirects, you don’t want your website to consists solely of 301 redirected backlinks.

How long before redirects make an impact?

Once again, there is no general answer to this question. It can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months to see the results.

Is it possible to reverse the 301 redirects?

A: Yes, by deleting the code from the htaccess file, or removing the redirect from the WordPress plugin/registrar.

Is using 301 redirects from expired domains considered risky?

Every technique that does not follow strict Google guidelines is considered risky. However, from our (and other SEOs) experience, the risk is pretty low. As long as the technique is not abused, the risk is considered acceptable.

Is there any loss in link power when using 301 redirect?

No, the 301 redirect retains the same “link juice” as the original, no-redirect backlink.

Final thoughts – the right way to do 301 redirect

Between two practices of redirecting expired domains, we definitely recommend redirecting only the specific pages, as opposed to entire domains. That way, the link juice is transferred solely from the valuable pages you’ve selected. 

If the 301 redirects are executed subtly and in combination with other link-building techniques, there is a good chance it will convey good results. Those results won’t be visible immediately but over time the graph showing the number of users and DA ranking should go only one way – up!

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