Should I use the Canonical Tag or 301 Redirect to change domains?
At SMX West, Adam Audette mentioned that he had some success with the canonical tag and that in some cases he noticed that the canonical tag had been much more effective. It stuck in my head for a few months and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to test this out. Also, at SMX West, I talked about some of the gains that we saw because of finally implementing the canonical tag the right way. Trust me, it took a few tries to get it right!
As it turns out, I’ve been moving my personal blog to the Visible Factors blog and added a thoughts section on tonyadam.com, just to separate things a bit. (I know, that itself was a lot to digest!). But, before I 301 redirected the entire /blog/ section, I realized, “Oh! Perfect opportunity to test out the canonical tag.” So, I took two articles and implemented a cross domain canonical tag on one and a standard 301 redirect on the other. And, I was honestly shocked at the results. The test included two posts that I get a decent amount of traffic for. tweeting the post, and updating the posts in wordpress, basically, with the intention of forcing a crawl.
Cross Domain Canonical Tag vs. 301 Redirect Test:
For the cross domain canonical tag test, I took my post on Keyword Research and wanted to add the canonical tag for the post on visiblefactors.com. The 301 redirect test was based on my post on determining business development opportunities and I added a 301 redirect to the .htaccess file on tonyadam.com to permanently redirect that post. At that time, I went through the test, step by step.
Implementation of Canonical Tag and 301 redirect:
Cross Domain Canonical Tag:
I also implemented a 301 redirect on tonyadam.com:
redirect 301 /blog/508-find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/ http://visiblefactors.com/blog/2010/03/17/find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/
As of Saturday here was the rankings in SERPs:
Then I updated the posts in WordPress and posted a tweet on Saturday:
Tweet for canonical tag test:
Tweet for 301 redirect test:
Finally, as of Wednesday morning, here were the results in SERPs:
SEO Keyword Research:
Business Development (as of today):
Which should I implement?:
As you can see, the test proved Adam’s comments at SMX West about the canonical tag seeming like it was more effective instantly. The post on keyword research was updated in SERPs and seems to be more effective at updated the SERPs instantly. If that’s your goal, I would use the cross domain canonical tag implementation to get that done. It seems like it is the clear cut winner as the other post still hasn’t updated in the SERPs.
At the same time, I’ll be implementing a 301 redirect because I want my entire blog directory to be moved for all traffic to get redirected, etc. The test has shown me though that the cross-domain canonical tag is extremely effective. Especially in situation where you have identical content on two domains and you’d like to condense equity, but, both sites still need to stay up.
I’ll be running larger tests if possible over the next couple months and if possible share these results, but, if you’ve seen examples, I’d love to hear them in the comments!