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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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A Passionate Plea from SXSW on 301 Redirects

Last week at SXSW, we had the privilege of seeing some of the latest and greatest in search and social that was, quite frankly, a whirlwind of knowledge that we rarely experience at conferences. There's normally a good amount of information at conferences but the sheer bulk of usable data pertinent to the automotive industry made me wish at times that we brought more than 4 KPA people down to Austin.

With that said, there were tons of tidbits of data that I will be sharing over the coming weeks, but one of the most important came during Danny Sullivan's talk with Google's Matt Cutts and Bing's Duane Forrester. They covered so many points that it will require multiple blog posts to bring to light, but one reinforcement piece that struck me was the passion behind all three of these search giants when discussing 301 redirects.

In the automotive industry, it's hard to get vendors to create 301 redirects especially when converting from one website platform to another. The URL-naming-conventions from one provider to another differ greatly and changes can often lead to hundreds, even thousands of broken links. In the automotive industry, we very rarely notice them because it has become a standard amongst most vendors to create a custom-404 which either redirects to the homepage (example) or calls up a set page (example) such as inventory to present regardless of what the URL string was.

This is fine, but it's a bandaid. According to all three on the panel, getting your vendor to put in a 301-redirect when changes to a website are made is akin to asking someone for permission to cross the street. It's a no-brainer. It has to be done, particularly in an industry that is so reliant on search engine traffic.

We'll be discussing more of our takeaways from SXSW in the coming weeks, but cleaning up the basics will put your dealership website on the right track to success.

Bryan Armstrong
I never realized the importance of this until I went through switching Providers and realized the "Fragments" had outgrown the cure. It took a lot of time to re-build. This is NOT a plug, but I took over a Dealership that had been on Dealerskins, switched to Jazel and then signed with TK all within 3 years. I fought the TK contract that had been signed prior to my arrival, but must admit, they sorted it all out. Easy and quick is not always the best. God forbid anyone should ever have to go through switching from a Cobalt site. But then, if you do, you may find you don't even own your URL, so it'll be a moot point.
Joey Abna
Glad you are bringing this subject up JD. Another aspect of switching web providers is having a misconfigured web server giving off a 302 when it should be sending a 404. The bots index the 302 pages and you end up with tons of worthless pages that reduces your overall site quality. One thing I would like to see the automotive website vendors give dealers is a little more control and input on how redirects and 404 pages function. If you have a page that ranks well and has good search volume on a platform that you switched from the dealer should be able to correctly 301 the page to a new page to help maintain the search position. Google Webmaster Tools gives site owners great information about crawl errors like 404's soft 404's and tools in place to let Google know that fixes have been implemented so the pages can be properly re-indexed.

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