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

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SEO Backlinks. CREDIT: THE WEBMASTER
Jonathan Griffin
By Jonathan Griffin, Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

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:

This principle also applies to any change of domain name or 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 PageRank 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 a while. 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 suggests.

That being said, I can see the benefit of transferring to HTTPS with the HTTPS ranking boost, as Wikipedia’s recent migration clearly showed).

Furthermore, Matt Cutts’s advice is quite old now, so I would be more inclined to listen to Gary’s.