When we move/delete a page, update/redesign a website, or move the website to another domain, it is important that we set up redirects. A redirect is a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one that was originally requested. When done correctly, visitors will not notice any change, and we will prevent the loss of traffic that might otherwise have occurred from organic and referral traffic. Correctly setting up redirects will also salvage valuable SEO authority signals and reduce any drop in rankings that we might have seen due to changes made on the site. Setting up redirects, the right way, is therefore key to a new website’s success.
When done incorrectly, redirects can cause massive impacts to you rankings, traffic, and conversions. Because of Google’s crack down on low quality links over the past year and a half, potential for harm caused by redirect mistakes has increased significantly. It is as important as ever to be certain that redirects are set up the right way.
Times when Redirects are Necessary
- When moving your old site to a new domain.
- When redirecting an old domain with links/authority to an existing website.
- When merging multiple sites together.
- When deleting old pages that are no longer relevant.
- When changing the website’s URL structure.
Types of Redirects
The most commonly used redirects are 301, 302, and Meta Refresh.
- 301 Moved Permanently. This is permanent redirect which will pass somewhere between 80-99% of link juice to the redirected page. 301 Redirects are almost always the best option for redirection because they ensure that we will not lose valuable SEO authority.
- 302 Moved Temporarily. This is a temporary redirect that will pass 0% of link juice. In most cases, 302 Redirects should not be used. Using 302 where we should be using 301 Redirects is a common issue we see on sites. The result is a loss of SEO benefits, and it can sometimes create duplicate content issues.
- Meta Refresh. As opposed to 301 and 302 Redirects, Meta Refreshes are a type of redirect executed at the page level instead of at the server level. Meta Refreshes do pass some link juice but are slower than redirects made at server level. They are therefore not recommended unless your technical requirements or hosting platform restrict you form implementing server level redirects.
Best Practices and What to Avoid
- When redirecting from Page A to Page B, the content on Page A should be relevant to the content on Page B. The content does not have to be exactly the same, but problems can arise when redirecting users to non-relevant pages. For example, a page about gloves being redirected to a page about clothing is fine. A page about gloves being redirected to a page about spaghetti is not.
- 301 Redirecting everything to the homepage is not good practice. Bulk Redirects to the homepage can cause Google to simply drop the old URLs from its index without passing any link equity at all. Each URL being redirected should be redirected to a relevant page. If the page is no longer relevant and receives little traffic, serving a 404 error page is probably the best option.
- When we redirect a website or page, its backlinks go with it. Often this can work in our favor. But it also means that if we are redirecting a website or page that has been penalized or suffers from low-quality backlinks, the site or page being redirected to is going to inherit those problems.
- A site can have as many redirects as necessary but it is always best practice to ensure we don’t create redirect chains where one redirect leads to another. This can be easily resolved by updating existing redirects when discovered. Preferably one and a maximum of two steps is all we should have in any redirect chain.
- Unless there is a reason or some sort of restriction preventing you from doing so, always use 301 Permanent Redirects.
- Be patient. When moving a page from one URL to another, it will take some time for search engines to credit the new page with the rankings and trust of the old page. It can take even longer when redirecting from one domain to another.
There are a number of situations where 301 Redirects are necessary. When used correctly, they allow us to maintain page authority and search ranking. They also increase the user experience by avoiding 404 Errors on pages that no longer exist. In addition to maintaining site health and improving the user experience, 301 Redirects also tell search engines that any link juice given to the old URL should now be given to the new URL. Properly setting up redirects is therefore essential to SEO and a website’s success.
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