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This is one of dozens and dozens of Questions and Answers found in the members-only area.

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Webmaster's Q & A
Question: I have a site with about 450 pages that ranks well with Google. After studying my stats, there are about 200 pages that rarely get any traffic. If I put a meta refresh tag set at 0 on these pages to instantly redirect people to other pages, will it effect my search engine rankings on the other pages? I realize I will have less internal links to the pages I am keeping. I know that what you say is your opinion and I will have to make the choice myself but I sure would appreciate any advice you might have.

- Submitted by Carol C.

Answer: My concern with your idea of having 200 pages that redirect visitors is that most search engines will consider that to be a severe spamming attempt. You can use a few redirect pages without a problem, but because redirect pages have been misused (to create doorway pages, gateway pages, ghost pages...whatever you want to call them), having too many will be considered spamming the search engine, which can result in your site being dramatically lowered in ranking or even being banned.

Since, as you say, there is little traffic to those pages, I'd be inclined to play it safe and either leave them alone or just delete them if they're not needed. Why risk being penalized or banned for spamming over very little traffic?

Another idea if you have a custom 404 (file not found) error page, is to delete the pages and have the 404 page be a redirect page. Since the pages are deleted, visitors would be directed to your 404 page automatically, then redirected to another page of your choice. That way you only need one redirect page instead of 200 of them.

Or, if your site is on a server running apache software you can use a .htaccess file to control the redirects. This is search engine legal and is the most professional solution. The .htaccess file can be used to control redirects, set password protection, enable SSI, deny users by their IP address, and many other things.

A .htaccess file is merely a text file saved as .htaccess (notice the DOT in front of the htaccess text). Because the file starts with a dot, it signifies it's a hidden file. You may (depending on how your computer is configured) need to save it as htaccess.txt and upload it to your server that way, then rename it on the server. Be sure you don't already have a .htaccess file in use or it will be replaced when you rename the one you upload. If you have one is use, you can simply add to it.

To create a .htaccess page, open Notepad or another plain text editor. At the top, enter this code:

<Files .htaccess>
order allow,deny
deny from all
The above code isn't actually necessary for a .htaccess file to be used for page redirection, so you don't have to use it. What it does though, is keep people from being able to view your .htaccess file. If you use .htaccess for password protection or to keep pages hidden from search engines, the above code will stop snoopers from being able to view your .htaccess file to find out what you're hiding.

You can also set permissions for your .htaccess file via CHMOD, which would also prevent snooping, as an added security: 644 or RW- R-- R-- With either or both the above preventions, visitors trying to gain access to your .htaccess file will receive a 403 (forbidden) error page with most server configurations.

At this point, you might be wondering how you set permissions on the .htaccess file if it's hidden on the server. You need to set your FTP client to show hidden files. With WS_FTP LE, for example:

  1. Click the Connect button.
  2. Select the site to connect to, but do not click the OK button yet.
  3. When the Session Properties dialog opens, select the Startup tab.
  4. In the Remote File Mask box, type: -al
  5. Click OK.
Now when you connect to the site it will show hidden files.

Okay, to make a redirection in the .htacess file, format it like this:

Redirect permanent /oldpage.html http://www.domain.com/newpage.html
The "redirect permanent" tells the server that if it gets a request for "oldpage.html" it is to forward the visitor to the second URL. The second URL needs to be a complete URL. The redirect code should all be on one line, with only a space in between the old page and the URL visitors are being redirected to.

That's it. You'll need to add a line for each page you want to use to redirect your visitors. The nice thing about this is that you can redirect them to different pages instead of the same page.

As a member, you'd have access to dozens and dozens of subscriber submitted questions, many that you may need answers to yourself. You can hunt and hunt the web for the answers, or you can just come here and find many of your questions answered in one place.