Technical aspects of SEO are often overlooked by business owners, as they simply lack the time or expertise to tweak their SEO in every detail. But technical factors can often make or break your ranking if you misunderstand, misuse them or simply ignore them.
301 redirects are really simple at a first glance: they just redirect visitors to a different URL, where the web page has moved. It happens. But 301 do have consequences that influence your SEO performance, and it’s important to know what they do and how to use them.
What Are 301 Redirects?
A 301 redirect is a status code that tells the browser your page is viewed in: “this page has moved permanently to a different URL”, then redirects it to the new address. This redirect is used to avoid 404 pages – another status code that only means the page a user is trying to reach no longer exists.
So far, so good. This is a very useful code tool that allows you to guide your visitors to the accurate address where their content has moved. But there is more to it, and 301 redirects can be both a powerful tool and an SEO nuisance. Let’s learn more about this in-depth dimension of this simple tool.
How to Implement 301 Redirects
If you want to set up a 301 redirect, you have to figure out what type of server hosts you. For servers that run on Apache, 301 URL redirects are done through the .htaccess file.
If your website is hosted by WordPress, there are plenty of plugins that can implement redirects for you. Be sure to use the right type of redirect for your specific purpose.
If you are not sure how to do it or your website is hosted by a different type of server, you can contact your host for info or hire a tech-savvy digital expert.
How Do 301 Redirects Affect SEO?
Should You Implement a 301 Redirect or a 302 One?
Before you implement a 301 redirect, make sure you actually need it, and not a 302 one. A 301 status code tells search engines that your page was moved permanently. If you are planning to revive the old page at some point, use 302 redirects instead.
In short, a 302 redirect is a permanent one, while 302 are temporary redirects.
Redirect Chains Affect the User Experience
Redirect chains affect user experience, waste crawler budget, and decrease the speed of the redirect, which can cost you some visitors. Make sure you don’t have long chains of redirects, or that they have 3 redirects, at most.
To avoid this issue, eliminate as much as you can from the chain and redirect to the final page directly, instead of taking the user through many other pages. Also, make sure the internal links that lead to the first or middle pages in a redirect chain will link to the final page instead.
How to Use 301 Redirects in Your Advantage
Use 301 Redirects to Eliminate Duplicate or Non-Relevant Content on Your Website
This is the main reason why webmasters use the 301 redirects, and it works to your advantage when it comes to search engine rankings.
If you have a blog post that just doesn’t bring traffic, or maybe you have re-written in a better way, use a 301 code to redirect your traffic.
Another thing to look out for is that your redirected page doesn’t have any low-quality backlinks. If this happens, it’s best to leave it as a 404 or disavow the bad links before implementing the redirects.
Be Careful About Soft 404 Pages
Ideally, your 301 redirects will take users to a corresponding page containing the exact thing that was expected from the original page. If, for some reason, your old content is no longer available (let’s say it was a product page of an item that is no longer available), you are tempted to redirect users to the home page or to a category page.
The problem with this is that Google will treat 301 redirects to home pages or non-relevant pages as soft 404 pages. It means that these pages will not be indexed anymore, which obviously leads to a loss of pagerank. The source for this information is Google’s John Mueller, Webmaster Trend Analyst.
Fortunately, you can quickly be notified of this issue by the Google Search Console, which sends warnings when your redirects are non-relevant. When this happens, you can fix the issue by using a one to one mapping for the page you are currently redirecting from. If you have no equivalent for it on your new website, simply leaving it as a 404 page is better than being indexed as a soft 404.
Redirect Your Website from http to https
Nowadays, having a non-secure page is flagged by Google and it can affect your ranking for search engines. To secure your page, you have to add an SSL certificate (Secure Socket Layer) to your website, then redirect all the HTTP pages to their https URLs. Make sure all your pages redirect users from http to https, and not the other way around.
Do You Need a Smooth Implementation of 301 Redirects on Your Website?
Whether you are doing a clean-up on your website, eliminating outdated content, or you are rebranding or maybe moving to a secure https version of your website, be sure you know what you’re doing or hire an expert.
If you need technical SEO expertise, or a more vast SEO strategy and implementation, contact Search Engine Optimisation Experts at Australian Internet Advertising to get a free proposal in a matter of hours. We are happy to contribute with our know-how and experience to the success of your business.