google multiple redirects issue

+11 votes

Google search engine lowers the ranking of wikitree profiles when there are 'too many' redirects from one profile to the next, after merges are completed.

Does WikiTree clean up the multiple redirects automatically, so if I have merge redirects like
A -> B -> C -> D
the profile redirects should get changed to
A -> D
B -> D
C -> D
even if people didn't merge into the lowest profile number during the merge process. This could be done immediately, or at any time after the merge has been completed, automatically by the system.

That would mean every merged page has only a single redirect, and the correct merged page D would get a higher ranking on google and the redirected pages much lower. Some references:

If that's not the case - could someone explain exactly what the issue was with google? Just the sheer number of redirects within WikiTree? If so, the original 'junk' profiles which redirect to the new ones could simply be 'deleted' or otherwise 'hidden' from the search engines. Just curious.

in WikiTree Tech by Bob Fields G2G6 (9.4k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway

2 Answers

+6 votes
Here is some background:

When we looked into this before, the reason we decided not to do any automated clean-up or deletion was that we wanted to protect the integrity of the change history. Profile A has a history. Someone created it and edited it and merged it. That history is still there, even though it's been merged into D. B has its own history, etc.

We could probably clean up some redirect chains without sacrificing the integrity of the change history, but it makes the issue more complex and it would still be important to merge into the final profile.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Fixing the redirect chain won't affect the change history or integrity for a specific profile, and redirect cleanup (short circuiting the redirect chain) would keep the end result the same and make google happy. It actually makes things simpler rather than more complex (fewer steps in the redirect chain, same final profile). This doesn't change any of the existing guidance about needing to merge into the lowest # or minimizing redirects, it just helps when people may miss that lowest number (happens often, especially when merging entire trees, or reconciling different LNAB). Perhaps you could start with the simplest cases (no change in LNAB with multiple redirects, with a very long chain). Anyway, sounds like you've already looked into this particular solution, thanks for the clarification.
I understand your rationale, but I am not sure that we would lost much, as far as I understand.

Take the following example: A -> B -> C.

Change A -> B to A -> C would not change much. Each profile would have an added line to mention the change of the redirect.
When someone merges hundreds of profiles into one how does this affect the ranking?
Michelle, as long as they are all merged into the final profile, it strengthens that one profile's ranking in Google quite a bit. Not only is the ranking/juice divided by 100 when there 100 duplicates, Google may actually penalize us for having 100 duplicate pages.
A while back someone merged 100+ profiles. About every four went into one. Then another four into another. Then the two were merged. And kept a pattern of this going on into 300+ ( I stopped counting.)  There are hundreds of redirects & most went into 5 or 6 profiles. What would the affect be in this instance?
+2 votes
Thanks Bob for posting this conundrum,
I wonder how many websites have created "bots" that constantly resubmit XML Sitemaps to Google to recrawl their URL?   According to your reference to Jack Karter, "Google is very secretive about it's ranking website ranking factors..."
I would venture to guess that companies who advertise on Google automatically receive higher rankings no matter how many redirects (301 issues) they have.  I am not suggesting anything new.  I just find it interesting that WikiTree receives as high of rankings as we apparently do,   A multitude of "Name Searches" on Google almost always displays this site on the first page. 
by David Wilson G2G6 Pilot (102k points)
I have a feeling the meta titles and descriptions closely match the page content. Which helps tremendously. Maybe wikitree avoided keyword stuffing (which in the long run is a big no go) . Google+ use among wikitree users ? Adding the Blog? Social Media? A mixture of all of these??? Who knows.

2 years ago at rootstech google discussed changes in order to help genealogy researchers find better results. Another possibility.

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