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Epiphany Search

Yahoo LogoAfter confusing the world with their seemingly meaningless latest ad campaign, Yahoo made another huge blunder this week after shutting down the long running Geocities website without paying any attention to some SEO basics, and potentially wasting millions of dollars in the process. Geocities had been around since around 1995 and offered its users a free place to host their website. At its height, Geocities was the MySpace/ of its day, leading to Yahoo purchasing the site for $3.57 billion in stock (yes that’s $3.75 billion!) back in January 1999.

Due to the age of the hosted websites themselves, and the large amount of (aged) links pointing at those sites, Geocities contained some of the most powerful webpage’s on the web in terms of SEO.

  • Before the big switch off Google UK returned 30 million results for the Geocities domain.
  • Many of these hosted sites ranked for many high traffic and competitive terms in Google.

Can you imagine how many links were pointed at those 30 million pages?  Can you imagine the amount of traffic Geocities attracted on a daily basis? Personally, I don’t like to think about it... I’m not saying that Yahoo didn’t need to do something with Geocities, they did, it hadn’t turned a profit for a while (if ever), and it had lost its meaning in a Web 2.0 world. But if there was ever a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, then this was it. If you were to visit a Geocities hosted webpage today you would be greeted with a bland 404 page, as the original content has been removed. This is pretty bad from a user perspective but what really upsets me is all the link equity that that page held (and 30 million+ just like it) has been lost. Gone, destroyed, wasted. Forever. As every good SEO professional knows if you have a page that ranks for a particular keyword, or even if you remove (or even delete) a webpage you should 301 redirect the old URL (address) into a new location to carry across the age and incoming link equity that page holds. Now, I’ve never 301 redirected 30 million pages and transferred the link equity those 30 million pages held into one new location, but boy I would like to try! Yahoo could have also been more intelligent about this and redirected various URLs into appropriate places in their own portfolio. I can also think of various ways in which Yahoo could have used the power of the Geocities domain to embarrass Google significantly in terms of manipulating rankings. Can you imagine the uproar Yahoo could have caused if they’d starting selling links on Geocities?  :-) If you’re thinking of closing down a section of your website, or even removing a few old pages, please don’t do what Yahoo did and waste the power of those old URLs, consult an SEO professional and make sure you keep your rankings and your link equity!