In your experience of running your business website, you’ll be tackling technical SEO along the way. One of them is a 301 redirection.
If you haven’t heard of a 301 redirect, it’s a way of telling search engines that a page of your site or your entire domain has been “redirected” to a brand new location. This new location can be a new domain or a different page on the same domain.
Now, why should you care about a 301 redirect if it sounds too technical for your day-to-day business and something that you wouldn’t want to tackle yourself?
We’re going to clarify that in this article. Here, you’re going to learn what a 301 redirect is, what its benefits are for your SEO and web visitors, and how you can implement it without losing out on SEO.
- What is 301 redirection and why should I care?
- Common reasons to use 301 redirect
- 301 redirection and SEO
- A 301 redirect versus a 302 redirect
- What are the benefits and disadvantages of 301 redirecting?
- How to Redirect One Page to Another Without Losing SEO Value
- 301 Redirection Mistakes to Avoid
What is 301 redirection and why should I care?
Again, 301 redirects are “firm” instructions that lead a website visitor from one URL to another.
Let’s say you’re a web visitor wanting to visit the website https://wxyz.com. As you enter the address, you’re being led instead to https://xyz.com. This means that you arrived at another URL other than the one you initially entered.
Put in mind that 301 redirects are a permanent redirect, unlike 302 redirects that are temporary. We’ll get into that later in the article.
Below are common reasons why you would want to send people to another page of your site or another domain that you like:
Common reasons to use 301 redirect
1. To rebrand or change your business name
If ever one day you want to change your old company brand name to a new one, this means you will need to change your domain name too.
Taking down your previous domain and building up another one is a time-consuming process, and this can make your loyal site visitors and customers confused. Also, you’ll be giving your audiences a poor user experience whenever they visit your old site and see a 404 error page.
2. Update pages of your website
Another reason to implement a 301 redirection is that you’ve created a new page with a much better content and want frequent visitors of an old page to find that new page.
For example, if a product page on your e-commerce website gets a ton of traffic but you’re looking to create an improved version of that page, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing your old page’s traffic since the redirect brings your existing traffic to that new page.
Site owners do a 301 redirect for different purposes. Whether you want a vanity URL, have redesigned your pages, created a new site, or a fix a URL that is no longer working, a redirect allows you to assign a new URL to the location you’re leading your visitors to.
The great part about this is that it creates a seamless experience for your audiences regardless of the changes you make.
301 redirection and SEO
While there are many other redirects, you’ll want to set up a 301 redirect because it preserves your SEO value. What does this mean?
You can think of a 301 redirect as someone moving to a brand new home. As expected, that person will be bringing all his valuable belongings with him.
It’s great to use a 301 redirection because it is the only kind of redirect that allows you to keep or retain everything you’ve worked hard on for years – your organic website traffic and backlinks.
Here’s what Moz says about using a 301 redirect to pass up to 99% of your SEO power to a new URL:
With 301 redirect that’s permanent, search engines will be indexing the new URL instead of the old one, passing it the previous URL’s trust and search rankings.
When it comes to the issue of duplicate content, a 301 redirect also makes a great solution if you find that your website has several pages with duplicate content.
You can simply redirect all those duplicate pages to the page that has the highest rank. It’s what search engines will index without you running the risk of getting penalized.
A 301 redirect versus a 302 redirect
A lot of people are questioning the difference between a 301 and 302 redirect. The differences are quite subtle, and one can easily ruin his SEO without being careful.
How do these two standard redirects differ from each other and which one is the best one to use for SEO?
I’ve mentioned previously that a 301 redirect is only a temporary move. Being a temporary redirect, it means that you’ll be bringing your site visitors back to the redirected page in the future.
Remember that in a 302 redirect, no link juice is passed from the redirected page to the new page. Moreover, it can potentially hurt your SEO rankings for the following reasons:
- Division of link popularity between the two URLs
- Duplicate content issues
- Continued indexing of your redirected site or page despite its temporary lack of maintenance or optimization
Site owners usually opt a 302 for A/B testing web pages and temporarily leading customers to pages with seasonal offers.
Be cautious when using a redirect because each redirect has a different purpose. Avoid making the mistake of using a 302 redirect if you’re looking to retain your SEO while enjoying the benefit of a new page or site.
What are the benefits and disadvantages of 301 redirecting?
Done right, 301 redirection lets you enjoy these advantages:
- Prevents nasty page errors that turn your audiences off– People who’ve saved your web pages for future reading and loyal site visitors will be seamlessly directed to your preferred URL. This keeps your best customers satisfied.
- Saves your hard-earned website traffic– Again, 301 redirection prevents your visitors from getting lost by redirecting them to your new URL when they visit your old URL.
- Maintains your search engine ranking – Search engine spiders automatically index your new page or site, at the same time, drop the old one from its index. If you have a great backlink profile, be assured that this will be transferred to your new URL.
You should know that redirects do not come without risks. Here are possible dangers to consider if you are not careful with your 301 redirections:
- Bad links that point to your new URL– Redirecting your entire domain hurts your SEO if you have a ton of low-quality links pointing to it. So, before you even consider redirecting, make sure to check your backlink profile and find out if you’ve been penalized.
- Your original URL will be treated as a “soft 404” – Do not expect that your SEO rankings will be maintained or increased if you redirect to irrelevant web pages. According to Moz, Google considers this as a soft 404 (“page not found”) error. Consequently, you don’t benefit from any SEO juice.
- A 301 redirection between domains may take time – While search engine spiders will credit your new domain and pass it the SEO value of your old domain, we cannot tell how long this will take place.
How to Redirect One Page to Another Without Losing SEO Value
Below are the proper ways to redirect your domain or pages:
1. Use a WordPress redirection plugin
The simplest way to set up a 301 redirect on WordPress (if you’re using this as your CMS) is to use a redirection plugin. You can use Redirection WordPress plugin – it’s a popular tool that many site owners use.
Search and install it in your WordPress Dashboard:
After you activate the plugin, go to Tools > Redirection. Enter into the “Source URL” field your old URL and the “Target URL” field your new URL:
2. Redirection for Apache
Implement a 301 redirect on an Apache web server by modifying the script code in the .htaccess file. Your web hosting company can help you access this file. If not, you can create a .htaccess yourself and save it in your old domain’s root directory.
Start redirecting your pages by adding any of the following lines of code to the file depending on whether you need to redirect a particular page or entire domain.
Redirect a page to another page:
RedirectPermanent /old-file.html http://www.yourdomain.com/new-file.html
Redirect an entire domain:
RedirectPermanent / http://www.yournewdomain.com/
3. Redirection for pages in PHP
Add this code into the youroldwebpage.php file:
header(“HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently”);
4. Redirection for the Active Server Pages (ASP) platform
Add this line of code into the youroldwebpage.asp file:
<%@ Language=VBScript %>
Response.Status=”301 Moved Permanently”
Response.AddHeader “Location”, “http://www.new-url.com”
5. Redirection in ASP .NET
Add this line of code into the youroldwebpage.aspx file:
<script language=”c#” runat=”server”>
private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
Response.Status = “301 Moved Permanently”;
6. Redirection using Internet Information Services (IIS) on a Microsoft Windows server
You can access Internet Information Services manager in the Administrative Tools window.
When you’re already in the IIS manager, right click on the file that you would like to redirect. Choose the option “a redirection to a URL.” Then, enter the old or redirection page. Pick these two options: “The exact URL entered above” and “A permanent redirection for this resource.”
Lastly, click “Apply.”
301 Redirection Mistakes to Avoid
What are some common pitfalls in 301 redirects that can ruin your SEO and your audience’s online experiences?
1. Building redirect chains
A redirect chain happens when several redirects come in between your old URL and new URL. Instead of your site visitors immediately arriving at their destination URL, they are being redirected somewhere else.
Ideally, there should only be two URLs involved in a 301 redirect: The old URL and new URL.
Whether you forgot that you redirected page A to page B and redirected page B to C, or that you performed multiple site launches over time, know that every redirect added to the chain decreases the SEO juice that is passed on to the new destination.
Also, redirect chains slow down your pages. Remember that speed matters for the success of your business site since it keeps visitors longer and increases your conversions.
2. Switching to a new domain before setting up a 301 redirect
Remember that when you transfer to your new domain, search engines will crawl this domain. One mistake you must avoid at all costs is migrating web content to a new domain without implementing a 301 redirect first.
Remind yourself that 301 redirects transfer link juice to the new destination so it can be crawled and indexed. Do the redirection before moving to your new domain.
3. Unknowingly using a 302 redirect instead of a 301
A lot of site owners who do not know what a 301 redirection is, mistakenly use a 302 redirect. Since the latter is temporary, they will see a dive in their rankings and everything they’ve worked hard for. In addition to that, search engines will continue to index your old URL and deem the new one as the duplicate version.
If you plan to set up a redirect soon, check whether your website management software has a 301 or 302 redirect as the default setting. Always pick the right redirect according to your situation.
Don’t use a 301 for a temporary change and 302 for a permanent one.
4. Internal linking to pages that redirect to other URLs
This is another scenario that creates a terrible experience for site visitors. While internal linking (linking from one page to another on the same site) is an excellent SEO practice, what makes it go wrong is when you link to a page that redirects your readers elsewhere.
People might arrive at a page that has a different content than the one they expected.
To solve the issue, download your list of internal links from Google Search Console. You’ll be able to identify links to redirecting URLs using Screaming Frogg SEO Spider.
A 301 redirect is a preferable type of redirect for both users and search engines. If you want SEO juice to transfer to your preferred location permanently, a 301 redirect is the way to go.
While setting up this redirect sounds simple, mistakes like unknowingly using a 302, redirect chains, and much more, will undermine your efforts.
Use a 301 redirect properly and safely by following this guide, and you’ll be sure to achieve whatever purpose is it that you want (updating your pages and rebranding your business) at the same time preserving your SEO.