What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is a way to inform a search engine that a webpage has been moved permanently to a new address. Additionally, when users attempt to view the old page, it instantly directs them to the new one by acting as a redirect.
By doing this, the 301 redirect ensures that users are forwarded to the page they were looking for (even if it goes by a different name or address now), in addition to helping maintain the original page’s search engine rankings.
So naturally, the next step in getting the value out of this shortcut is knowing when to use it.
When to use a 301 Redirect
There are five main instances when you would want to utilize a 301 redirect:
- When you are migrating your website from one domain to another, one of the most common reasons to use a 301 redirect is when you migrate your website from one domain to another. This could be due to rebranding or because you’ve decided to change the structure of your website. By using a 301 redirect, you can ensure that any backlinks pointing to the old domain will continue to be of value to the new domain.
- When you are consolidating several pages into one, another common reason to use a 301 redirect is when you are consolidating several pages into one. For example, if several pages cover the same topic, you may want to merge them into one page to make it easier for users and search engines to find that specific information. By using a 301 redirect, you can ensure that any backlinks pointing to the old pages will continue to be of value to the new page.
- When you are making changes to the URL structure of your website, when you’re making changes to the URL structure of your website, it’s paramount that a 301 redirect is used to ensure that any backlinks pointing to the old URLs will continue to be of value to the new URLs. This will help preserve the original pages’ search engine rankings and ensure that users are directed to the correct location.
- When you are removing old or outdated content from your website, another common reason to use a 301 redirect is when you are removing old or outdated content from your website. By using a this technique, you can ensure that any backlinks pointing to the old content will continue to be of value to the new content.
- If you want to redirect your website from a non-www address to a www address (or vice versa) or HTTP to HTTPS (less common nowadays), you can use a 301 redirect. It’s best practice to point a 301 redirect code from each domain that has a www, non-www, HTTP, and HTTPS. Google appreciates the main domain being HTTPS for security purposes (and you may see a slight SEO boost).
Tenacity Note: When creating redirects, we recommend you limit the number of redirects in the chain, even if that means you need to create more redirects.
Do: http://www.domain.com -> https://domain.com
Don’t: http://www.domain.com -> https://www.domain.com -> https://domain.com
Why 301s Matter for SEO
Using a 301 redirect also helps maintain the link equity (search engine ranking power) built up by the original webpage.
When a search engine (such as Google) crawls a website, it follows the links from one page to another. If a page has been removed or moved, and a 301 redirect is put in place, search engines will follow the redirect and update their index with the new URL. This ensures that the link equity is passed on to the new page and that any backlinks pointing to the old URL will continue to be of value to the new page.
However, it’s important to note that it is not recommended to overuse 301 redirects, as it can negatively impact SEO. This could be for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that overuse of 301 redirects can slow the website down, thus decreasing the quality of a user’s experience as well as potentially making it difficult for search engines to understand the structure of your website.
It’s better to use a rel=”canonical” tag instead. The rel=”canonical” tag is an HTML tag that tells search engines which page you want to be considered the “original” page. This can be useful if you have several pages with similar or duplicate content, as it allows you to consolidate the link equity of those pages.
How to Implement a 301 Redirect:
While we recommend checking with your web host on the best way to implement 301 redirects, most options for incorporating them onto your site fall into one of three ways: Redirect Rules with your Web Host, CMS (or Plugins) Redirects, and Server-side Configuration.
Web Host Redirects
First, your hosting provider’s control panel might be the easiest way to redirect a URL. Depending on the hosting service you have, in many cases, you can navigate to the menu on the control panel for your website’s hosting provider and look for words such as ‘redirects’, ‘redirect rules’, or ‘manage domain’.
CMS or Plugin Redirects
Next, there is a way to insert 301 redirects with CMS plugins or through the CMS itself. If you’re using a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, you can use plugins to implement redirects. For example, the Redirection plugin is a popular choice that allows you to manage and implement 301 redirects within your WordPress site easily. Many other CMS already have this feature built-in to their system, so be sure to check if the CMS you use for your site has 301 redirects incorporated.
Finally, there are server-side redirects. These are the most technical, as server-side redirects are implemented through configuration files such as .htaccess on Apache servers or web.config on Microsoft IIS servers.
For Example, to implement a simple Page-to-Page 301 redirect in .htaccess, you can modify and add the following code to the file:
Redirect 301 /old-page.html https://www.example.com/newpage.html
Regardless of your chosen method, you must properly test your redirects to ensure they are working correctly. You can use tools such as the Redirect Checker tool to check the status of your redirects and verify that they are returning a status code of 301.
In conclusion, when 301 redirects are used correctly, they can help preserve a website’s link equity, ensure that users are directed to the correct location, and make it easier for search engines to crawl and index a website.
Additionally, it’s a helpful tool for maintaining the search engine rankings of a website. Still, they should be used with care, since the overuse of 301 redirects can negatively impact SEO.
If you need assistance implementing 301 redirects or any other changes to your (or your business) website, feel free to contact us any time—we’d be happy to help!