For anyone who’s been following the story of the shutting down of IHT.com and the migration of International Herald Tribune content to the New York Times Global Edition, there has certainly been criticism over the lack of permanent redirects from the old IHT.com URLs to the corresponding new URLs on NYTimes.com.
It’s understandable that people were puzzled by this move, and when a major site makes a critical mistake it doesn’t take long for it to be put in the spotlight. But there is usually more to the story, and for a number of reasons companies aren’t always at liberty to share all the information.
Fortunately this week The New York Times Chief Search Strategist Marshall Simmonds (disclosure: I work for Marshall) was able to make a statement to Search Engine Land to shed some light on the matter.
Here’s the text of his statement:
I wanted to bring you up to speed on the developments around the shuttering of the International Herald Tribune site, IHT.com, and archive transfer to the New York Times, nytimes.com.
The SEO team has been involved in the project since the beginning and recommended the implementation of one-to-one 301 redirects of all IHT content to its new location at the NYT.com. This, of course, conforms to best SEO practices when moving any content and was accepted and built into the timeline. We’ve moved plenty of content at the NYTimes before without incident.
As the project progressed, and we turned our focus to other matters, the move ran into several complications and a fast approaching deadline. Rather than consult with us, the IHT project team made a last minute decision and used an interim 302 solution without understanding the SEO implications.
After launch the impact was obvious, and we moved in to correct and educate. The NYT development team’s top priority right now is one-to-one 301 mapping of all IHT content to its new location. This, unfortunately, was a perfect storm of quick fixes and lack of attention to protocol and will be fully corrected in the coming weeks.
So the bottom line is, the NYT SEO team strongly advocated the use of permanent 301 redirects from all IHT.com URLs to the corresponding new URLs on NYTimes.com, and they are continuing to do what they can internally to get this implemented as soon as possible.
This situation also illustrates a key component of managing enterprise SEO initiatives. In large organizations with multiple properties spread out in various locations, there are a lot of stakeholders involved in every project, and a lot of factors involved in each decision. What’s best for SEO isn’t always what gets done, despite your best efforts and the good intentions of all the parties involved. Thus the process of making the case for SEO internally and educating on SEO best practices and the SEO implications of all site projects and processes never ends.