301 Redirect for the search usability win!

March 20, 2009 ⋅ 3 Comments »

This morning I read an article about CloudKick, a new Y Combinator startup that provides a nice interface for managing cloud computing resources on Amazon EC2 and Slicehost. It turned out to be a good lesson in how paying attention to basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques can also give you usability benefits.

After reading the article, I was looking for a bit more information on CloudKick. When I Googled searched Google™ for ‘cloudkick’, here’s what I saw:

Search results without 301 redirect

The CloudKick home page doesn’t appear until #5, and #4 is actually a separate page from their site! Not the best experience for someone searching for more information about the company. It seems odd that their official web site doesn’t appear until #4, almost as if it’s not really the official web site. And why does the contact page appear before the home page?

Notice anything else? The URL on the #4 result has www in front, but the one in #5 doesn’t. I’m by no means an SEO expert, but I know a thing or two — and I could tell that because links to their site weren’t using a canonical URL, Google was treating it as two different sites. This causes two problems: first, Google doesn’t know that the contact page is actually a subpage of the main web site, and second, it dilutes the PageRank, because Google thinks that these two results represent two different sites.

So I sent a quick tweet to CloudKick co-founder Alex Polvi to let him know about the problem and to suggest that they change cloudkick.com to be a 301 redirect to www.cloudkick.com (or vice versa). That lets Google know that both URLs refer to the same site.

And what do you know — they made the change, and just a few hours later, here are the results I get:

Search results with 301 redirect

Looks a lot better, doesn’t it?

The moral of the story: you may not think you need to bother with search engine optimization, but paying attention to even the basics can give you a big usability win. Make it easier for Google to understand your site, and you make it easier for your potential users as well.


  1. Peter Kahoun - March 20, 2009:

    Well, there's also the question whether the reason why google didn't recognize duplicity correctly is the www. prefix or the http/s protocol. I would bet on B).

  2. Patrick - March 20, 2009:

    @Peter: Good point, maybe it was a combination of the two. But it got fixed on Google soon after they made the change on CloudKick, so I think the key thing was the fact that www.cloudkick.com and cloudkick.com were seen as two sites.

  3. Robert - April 11, 2010:

    Is there anyway to get the value of a 301 redirect without ruining the site for Safari users?