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Buying an old (or expired) domain is very popular. You don’t get only good domain name, you get also backlinks, PageRank and some reputation the domain has gained over years. This is a common practice to speed up the process of high ranking. Almost all “good” domain names are already registered and many of such domains are parked. This only means that somebody discovered a good domain name, has registered it and is waiting for somebody who will pay significantly more than the registration fee.
One of the problems you may face are the backlinks to pages that don’t exist anymore. Anybody following such link will get the Page not found error. This is not a big problem but there is a better way to use links to non-existing pages. You can easily redirect them to the homepage to get additional visitors to your new website. Instead of showing error page to those visitors you will show a new page where some of those visitors may find something useful.
In order to redirect old pages to the homepage you need to find existing links. You can do this by Google Webmasters tools or by Yahoo Site explorer. Both tools show (almost) all links to the website. Create a list of all links to the domain and group them according to the old topics. For each group define new page on the renewed website. You don’t have to redirect all old pages to the homepage–if old pages were about sport then you can redirect them to your new page about sport.
The next step is the actual redirection. The easiest way to do this is by creating few rules in the htaccess file. This is a simple text file in the root of your hosting directory. This file is read by the web server each time a page is requested. The rules are written using regular expressions. This is a very powerful syntax to describe the conditions for some action–in our case the redirection. Below is a short example of two redirection rules.
RewriteRule ^old-category/(.*)$ /new-category [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^old-page$ / [R=301,L]
The first line turns on rewriting engine which will do the redirection. Then there is a comment marking actual rules. The first rule redirects pages starting with “old-category/” to the new category. This rule will redirect many pages that were created under the “old-category”. The last rule redirects old-page to the new home page. This rule works only for one specific page.
This approach is useful also when you change the structure of the website. If you rename some pages you may come into the situation that some links to old pages will not work anymore. One example where such redirections were implemented is a website about recording studio software. Some pages were grouped into the studio software category and therefore the urls of these pages changed. The htaccess redirection solved the problem with links to old urls.
Using the htaccess file is not easy and you need to be careful not to cause server problems. There are many online resources on how to use this file–spend some time to check what you can do and how. If you use this file properly it can be a powerful tool to use links to pages that don’t exist anymore.
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