Will a redirected domain transfer its pagerank or its keyword ranking positions?
After a few months of redirecting one domain to a related one, I think I can shed some light on the specific impact of doing this. (Well, at least in terms of how Google will treat the associated search keywords and pagerank)
Background: When my server got hit last summer, I quickly scrambled into lock-down mode. One of the security decisions I made at that time was to put a forum I owned into indefinite stasis – not only was it becoming over-run with spam, but I had had a few issues upgrading to the latest version and felt the potential value of the domain was pretty low compared to the amount of work it needed to be safe and profitable.
Since I had a domain dedicated to a related topic that was making money, the quickest way to get the forum offline was to redirect it and all of its various URLs to the homepage of the other domain. The extra few dozen daily visitors probably added another buck or two to the profitable site’s daily income, so I didn’t think too much of it again for a while.
Pagerank – At the time of closing down the forum, it had a pagerank of 2 and the domain I was redirecting to had a pagerank of 3.
After two pagerank cycles, the new destination domain actually dropped to a 2. This was the first clue that the redirect wasn’t actually transferring pagerank – but what about keyword ranks?
Well, I checked under the primary keywords in the forum, and sure enough the related blog was ranking in its exact old place. The keyword rankings seem to have transferred 100%.
Going back online: While cleaning up some other stuff on my file server, I decided to get the forum back up, updated, and secured behind some anti-spam protection. So far, the upgrades seem to be keeping trouble out.
Perhaps what was most interesting though, was to see that the domain still had its old pagerank despite being inaccessible for over six months. It didn’t start off back at N/A or 0 then wait for Google to index the site again – no, its actually still a PR of 2 despite the fact that zero of its URLs are indexed in the search engine.
Conclusion: Domain redirects can quickly transfer keyword rankings, but pagerank seems to stay with a domain even if the domain isn’t publicly available or indexed.
All in all, the related domain did not receive any higher rankings for its own targeted keywords. In fact, those even dropped by a point or two during the time that they might have theoretically received “extra juice” from the offline domain.