Google - No Need to Update External Backlinks When Changing website URL

Google's Gary Illyes has said that there is no need to update external backlinks when migrating to HTTPS. The link juice loss is minimal.

Google’s Gary Illyes has recently replied to a question on Twitter asking if it was advisable to change incoming links to the SSL version when switching to HTTPS. This is quite a relevant topic as many webmasters have recently changed over to HTTPS following the HTTPS algorithm that boosted encrypted websites in the search results.

While Gary Illyes admitted there was some benefit, he said that it was minimal and therefore “not worth it” provided your 301 redirects were implemented correctly.

You can see the discussion on Twitter below:

While the response was about websites moving to HTTPS, it also applies to any change of domain name or even change of a particular URL.

For those that take SEO very seriously any amount of loss of link power is potentially a concern, so what is the damage?

Matt Cutts was asked the exact question concerning Page Rank back in February 2013; “Roughly what percentage of PageRank is lost through a 301 redirect.” You can see his reply in the video below:

Let me give you the history on this. At some point, an SEO wrote to me privately and said, hey, I’m wondering how much page rank disappears when you have a 301 redirect.

I wrote back and said, OK, why is that on your mind?

And they said, well, the historical page rank papers always said that 10 percent, 15 percent, whatever amount of page rank gets lost, given any particular link. So from page A to page B, there’s a link. The page rank that flows is, take the page rank and multiply by 0.85, 0.9, whatever it is, and then take the remaining links and divide that page rank equally between the outgoing links. So a certain amount of page rank dissipates on each link. If 301s don’t have that sort of dissipation, then instead of linking, I should do all my stuff with 301s, and I won’t lose my page rank. And I’ll have 10 percent more page rank, and more things will rank.

And so you don’t want people thinking along those lines, where they’re going to shoot themselves in the foot trying to use 301s instead of links. And so at the next search conference, where it happened to be convenient, I mentioned that a certain amount of page rank also dissipates through 301s. And unfortunately, then the pendulum swung too far the other direction. People started to get worried, oh, if I use a 301, how much PageRank do I lose?

And so I sent an email to the team that is in charge of this, and, of course, the implementation can vary over time, but this has been roughly the same for quite awhile. The amount of page rank that dissipates through a 301 is almost exactly — is currently identical to the amount of page rank that dissipates through a link.

So they are utterly the same in terms of the amount of page rank that dissipates going through a 301 versus a link. So that doesn’t mean use a 301. It doesn’t mean use a link. It means use whatever is best for your purposes, because you don’t get to horde or conserve any more page rank if you use a 301, and likewise, it doesn’t hurt you if you use a 301.

So great chance to just sort of clear that up a little bit. It’s exactly like having a link. That’s the current implementation. We don’t promise that it will be that way for all time and eternity. But I don’t see any reason why in particular it would change.

As you can see, this implies that slightly more link juice is lost than Gary Illyes implies. That being said, we have clearly seen the benefit of transferring to HTTPS with the HTTPS ranking boost (Wikipedia’s recent HTTPS clearly showed a ranking increase) and with Gary’s advice being a few years more current than Matt Cutts we would definitely be inclined to take his view on it especially concerning HTTPS migrations.

That being said, we would not start doing 301 redirects unless we had no other choice.

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

About the author

Editor, Hosting Expert, SEO Developer, & SEO Consultant.

Jonathan is currently the Editor & CEO at The Webmaster. He is also an SEO Developer offering consultancy services, primarily to other web development companies. He specializes in the technical side of SEO, including site audits, development of SEO related features, and site structure & strategy.

In his spare time, Jonathan has a passion for learning. He regularly undertakes professional courses on subjects ranging from python, web development, digital marketing, and Advanced Google Analytics.

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