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The Problem with Social Buttons and 301 redirects

13 July 2012 BY

This is a guest post from Alex Moss. He is Co-Founder and Technical Director at 3 Door Digital, and develops WordPress plugins.

Last week I found myself launching a new company – 3 Door Digital. One of the tasks that I had to do was perform 301 redirects from the old pleer.co.uk domain to the new 3doordigital.com domain. That meant redirecting the content, but I wanted to keep the social ‘strength’ of the pages as well…

Amongst these pages were my WordPress plugins that have gained fantastic page authority and had thousands of social shares. Let’s take one of my plugin pages as an example – Facebook Comments. Here’s the statistics for the “top 3″ social buttons attached to the old pleer.co.uk URL (http://pleer.co.uk/wordpress/plugins/facebook-comments/):

  • 110 tweets
  • 1,358 Facebook Likes
  • 24 +1′s

301 time…

Once the 301′s were implemented I knew I had to start afresh from 0. Damn – I had over 1,000 Facebook likes on this one URL! Either way I knew there was no way of transferring likes (from my research). 10 days later Bas and I found a bug with the like button. Whilst testing I used the old pleer.co.uk URL from the example above as one of the test URLs. I noticed two things:

  1. Facebook recognised the 301 and knew the final URL at 3doordigital.com
  2. Facebook likes from the old pleer.co.uk URL had disappeared now matched the number of the new 3doordigital.com URL.
This wasn’t good I thought. Where did those 1,358 likes go? Why can’t the likes form the old URL transfer to the new URL if Facebook can identify that a 301 has been implemented and know both the source and the target? So, I decided to perform one more test…

Let’s Turn off the 301 for a minute…

So – I disable the 301 redirect on this URL and test both the old URL and the new URL for the same metrics:

Old URL without 301:

  • 110 tweets
  • 1,358 Facebook Likes
  • 33 +1′s
Old URL with 301:
  • 110 tweets
  • 32 Facebook Likes
  • 33 +1′s
New URL (regardless of 301):
  • 1 tweet
  • 32 Facebook Likes
  • 33 +1′s
What I can see here is that all 3 buttons react in different ways to a 301:
  • Tweet button – does not move metrics regardless and does not recognise the 301
  • Facebook Like – if a 301 is in place then the old metrics “disappear” and are not transferred
  • Google +1 button – recognises the 301 and merges the metrics (not just transferring – unless of course my +1 button plugin gained 209 likes in the past week :P)

Conclusion

From this I can see that the +1 button reacts in the best way to keep the original metrics. Twitter does not lose metrics from the old URL but this means that, if you want to show off the higher metric, you will have to connect the old URL to the button within the new URL. However, Facebook seem to know about 301′s within the Like button but choose to ignore any metric merging or transfer. This is a shame considering that like buttons help EdgeRank. One important question I have is, knowing Facebook are aware of the 301, do they transfer EdgeRank to the new URL? If not, why not?
AUTHORED BY:
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Alex Moss is the Director at FireCask, an online marketing agency in Manchester specialising in Search, Content and WordPress development. Alex is also the Co-Founder of Peadig, a WordPress framework powered by Bootstrap.
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