If you own a website, at some point, you must have tried to change the URL of a page to something new.
Whatever be your reason, your ultimate objective is to ensure your visitors are directed to the correct page.
Enters 301 redirect to your rescue.
Redirection may sound technical, but it’s easy to implement (atleast in WordPress).
Plus, you can even use it to get more traffic to your website.
Let’s understand the concept of 310 redirection in detail.
What is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect is an indication that a web page has permanently moved from one location to another within the website.
It redirects visitors and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally typed into the browser.
Here’s an example:
When you search for https://onpagechamp.com into your URL bar:
It takes you to a different URL i.e., onpagechamp.com.
It is because of the 301 redirect.
How do 301 redirects affect SEO?
Earlier, if you used a 301 redirect, it would cause around 15 percent loss of PageRank.
PageRank is an algorithm created by Google to measure a site value by determining the quality and quantity of links pointing to it.
In 2013, Matt Cutts shared in a Google Webmasters video how assigning 100 percent PageRank through 301 redirected links would open the door to manipulating Google’s PageRank.
You can watch it here:
But this isn’t the case anymore.
In 2016, Google changed its stance and announced that 301 redirects would not result in loss of any PageRank.
That means if you redirect example.com/page1 to example.com/page2, the redirected page will have just as much SEO strength as the original page.
This can also be good for your traffic (we’ll discuss that later).
When to use 301 redirects?
Here are some of the common reasons why marketers set up 301 redirects:
People access your website through several URLs.
For example, your home page can be found through – http://whatsmyname.com/home, http://www.whatsmyname.com, or https://www.whatsmyname.com.
For a user, these 3 URLs are the same, but not for a web server.
For a smoother UX, you can pick one of those URLs as your preferred destination. And then, 301 redirects can help to send traffic from the other URLs to your preferred URL.
It builds up the authority in the process.
2. Rebranding or renaming a website
If you are changing your company or website name, you can use a 301 to redirect traffic from your old site to your new one.
You don’t want to lose all the backlinks that you have worked so hard for.
Besides, a 301 redirect is crucial in preserving the SEO power of the original URL on the new domain.
Thus, 301 redirects help keep both your SEO efforts and traffic from the old site.
3. Integrating another website with your domain
It’s common for brands to purchase domain names to drive more traffic to their website. These websites are generally the variation of their existing brands.
In such cases, a 301 redirect is essential to make sure that the brand’s original domain maintains its authority in the process.
For example, you can notice how http://www.marketingpilgrim.com directs to Neilpatel.com.
4. Fixing clerical errors
Sometimes, it’s possible that we accidentally put incorrect words within URLs.
For example, you want a URL for your blog posts to be example.com/dofollow-nofollow-backlinks, but my mistake you had it written as example.com/dofoollow-nofollow-backlinks.
If the link is published and is getting organic traffic, changing the URL at a later date will make it lose its ranking.
You can avoid this using 301 redirect status code. It will preserve the search rank in the entire process.
5. Shifting from http to https website
Having HTTPS adds a huge amount of credibility to your site.
Google has openly admitted that they favor HTTPS over HTTP.
So when you decide to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS, 301 redirects can help bring traffic to the new, secured version of the site.
The logic still remains the same: your URL has changed and you want to preserve both the traffic and the search rank through a 301 redirect.
6. Fixing redirect chains
A redirect chain is defined as a series of redirects that occur between the initial URL and destination URL.
It can harm the SEO of the website and lower its position in the SERP.
Instead of creating a chain of redirects, you can simply jump to the final destination with the help of 301 status code.
While Google advises to use only a single 301 redirect, in cases that’s not possible, they advise keeping the chain less than 5.
Chaining slows down the process of displaying web documents, and not all browsers support long redirect chains. Users will leave and not wait for the page to load.
7. Fixing broken redirects
Broken redirects are those pages that redirect to non-existent resources (or dead pages).
Having a broken redirect leads to poor user experience, besides hindering your website crawlability.
This is because neither users nor search engine bots can find your final URLs.
That’s why it’s vital to find broken redirects and fix them using the 301 redirects.
You can check for these errors using an HTTP status code checker.
Benefits of 301 redirects
A lot has been said about 301 redirects. But it’s time to learn how you can turn it into a viable source of traffic for your site.
There are two ways to do that.
1. Merging two web pages into one
Let’s say you have two blog posts, with these URLs:
Also, let’s assume that both the pages have some decent backlinks.
But the problem is that you aren’t getting as much search traffic as you expected.
What can you do then?
You can try to fix it by merging and consolidating those two pages into one.
Consolidating web pages increases the chance of the merged page performing much better than the two average-performing pages individually.
For starters, it results in better content and so it increases the chances of getting more traffic.
And second, 301 redirect doesn’t cause any loss in PageRank. When you combine those pages, the authority of both the pages get merged too.
You can merge them into one new guide, and use 301 redirect to forward the other article into the merged URL.
2. Merging two websites into one
When you merge two websites, you combine their ‘link equity’ too. It’s always better to have one website with 100 backlinks than two websites with 50 backlinks each.
Plus, it combines their content too. Thus, it helps create a website that has a higher chance of ranking in the search engine result page.
In fact, there have been many case studies proving that merging two websites have resulted in increased traffic.
Backlinko’s Brian Dean bought the site Point Blank SEO, and redirected it to Backlinko. They saw a whopping 116% traffic increase in just 12 months. Isn’t that amazing?
Common 301 redirects mistakes to avoid
1. Using 302 redirects for a permanent redirect
A 302 redirect tells search engines that a web page or site has been moved to another location temporarily.
That’s why it doesn’t transfer any link equity (or PageRank) to the new URL, and the original page still remains indexed in Google unlike in the case of 301 redirects.
It doesn’t hurt your SEO effect as long as you are using it correctly.
However, the problem arises when people don’t know the difference between the two, and use 302 to redirect to a site permanently.
2. Redirecting to a different page than intended
We might not do this intentionally. But sometimes, while setting up 301, we accidentally redirect it to the wrong location.
You don’t want users looking for your home page but instead, redirected to your services page.
If you don’t want to hurt your SEO efforts, you need to be extra careful.
3. Setting up a 301 redirect after creating a new page
As I mentioned previously, companies buy related websites or domains to drive more traffic to their website.
But the biggest mistake they make is that they purchase the domain without setting up a 301 redirect first. Google recrawls the brand-new domain without any inbound links from the original site pointing to it and thus, the new site’s SEO goes down.
That’s why it’s crucial that before migrating your website content, you set up 301 redirects if you don’t want to lose any traffic.
4. Using a 302 redirect during the content migration
Unless you are redesigning or updating your website, make sure that you use only 301 redirects to migrate your content links.
Otherwise, you will lose link equity and search rankings while making changes to your domain.
Clearly, 301 redirects can offer a lot of SEO benefits for your site if used correctly.
It can bring you lots of organic traffic and make it easy to migrate your website without losing your previous SEO efforts.
However, it’s crucial that you use the correct type of redirect status code for your purpose to get the correct outcome.