Redirects Explained: Why You Need Them for SEO


A redirect is a process that happens when a user asks for a certain page on a website, but they are redirected to a different one.  All of this happens behind the scenes, and even web crawlers like Google will be redirected at times, meaning that redirects have to be implemented carefully so as not to cause SEO problems.

There are two types of redirects that we can use:

301 Redirect


A 301 redirect is used to permanently point users towards a new URL destination.  It is the most commonly used redirect, and is very often used in instances when a page or article has become outdated and a new updated one has been made to take its place.

302 Redirect


A 302 redirect is known as a temporary or ‘found’ redirect.  It means that the page is unavailable, but is probably going to come back.  The ‘found’ part refers to the fact that the page has been found in a different location to the one requested.

When Should I Use Redirects?


There are many reasons why you could end up having to use a redirect, but the most common ones are:

  • Deleting a post or page
  • Enabling permalinks in WordPress
  • Merging websites
  • Moving websites to a new domain
  • Changing your URL structure
  • Changing your CMS

Redirects For SEO


Redirects are a necessary part of a website’s architecture, but you have to be careful when using them, since they are followed by web crawlers like Google, and will therefore affect your SEO factors if used improperly.

There will be times when you have to use a combination of redirects to ensure your sites ease of use and to keep your visitors flowing through your content.

One of the worst things that can happen to anyone’s web browsing experience is that they land on a dead page and get frustrated and leave.

There are a few ways that anyone can perform a redirect, and how you perform a redirect will depend on your CMS (content management system).

If you are using a system like WordPress, you can use a plug in that takes care of all the work for you.

Here is redirection as seen in the WordPress Dashboard under Tools > Redirection

wordpress redirect

This plugin makes it very easy to redirect traffic from an old webpage – simply enter in the URL you want to redirect from, followed by the URL you want to point the traffic to.

You can also enter in the redirect manually as long as you know where to look.

This is done by doing the redirect with the .htaccess file

Here is the file that is used to make this happen:

.htaccess:

redirect 301 /services.html https://www.smarterdigitalmarketing.co.uk/what-we-do/

This will redirect all traffic looking for https://www.smarterdigitalmarketing.co.uk/services and point it towards https://www.smarterdigitalmarketing.co.uk/what-we-do/

 

The 404 Friction Factor


At some point we have all been served up one of these beauties:

404 error page

While it may not be the end of the world, they are still very annoying, and they generally ruin the user experience with what we call 404 friction.

Many users will not understand what a 404 is, and will usually become frustrated and hit refresh a few times to no avail.

In this case the web page has been removed or changed, but the website owners have not put the necessary redirect in place, causing friction to the user experience.

Google actually sees this as a form of neglect and bad site maintenance on your part, and will penalise you if they are left unattended.

These are easily addressed however, and a simple plug in will usually take care of all of your redirections for you with minimal effort.

All About That Link Juice


One of the main factors we have to take into account is the link value acquisition that comes with redirects.  When you use a redirect, it changes the way that Google views that page in terms of its link strength.

Remember, links are what gives your website authority, and if you have a page with a good backlink profile and you use a redirect wrongly, you could lose that link juice.

Here is a general rundown of how redirects affect your domain authority:

301 redirects – These will permanently lead visitors from the old URL to the new one, so the link juice or value that the old page has accumulated will usually be passed over to the new URL.

302 redirects – Since these redirects are only temporary, the link value is not passed on to the new URL, which can pose problems for SEO.

301 redirect

There are several other types of redirects, that are in fact not really redirects.  However, we still though you should be aware of them, as they may pop up from time to time and you might have to fix a few of them.

410 Content Deleted


A 410 message will appear when the content has been deleted, which is more specific than a 404 which generally means it is not found.  If a URL flags a 410, Google knows that you have removed this URL on purpose and will remove the URL from its index.

451 Content Unavailable For Legal Reasons


If you are ever unlucky enough to be issued a judge order to remove a webpage, or if you receive a takedown request, you should give the page a 451 header.  This tells Google that you wanted to fulfil the request, but couldn’t for legal reasons.

FAQ


You can use Google Search Console to identify 404s on your website.

You can use a plug in for management tools like WordPress, or code it in yourself.

If used in the correct way, redirects will not harm your website’s rankings.

If you are permanently moving a webpage, use a 301, if it is temporary, use a 302.

We can help with any type of website migration, as well managing your redirects for you.

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