301 redirects are a common way to direct URL's to the right location. Here I will discuss how they work, when you need one and what other code options you have available.
301 Redirects: What They Are and How To Use Them
When building a new website and moving a website from one URL to another, you have to take steps to ensure your visitors get to the right site. This is called a 301 redirect. Here I will discuss how to redirect a URL and when you need to use one.
Types of Status Codes
301 is one of many HTTP status codes. Others include a 404- Not Found, 403 -Forbidden, and a 500 – Server Error. When visiting a web page, and the server sends the page correctly, the status code attached to that page is 200. 301 redirects are permanent, and 302 redirects are temporary.
How to Think of 301 Redirects
Think of 301 redirects as forwarding mail. Once you move a piece of content from the web page and someone tries to visit this content, the error message that will be shown is a 404- page not found. When you visit the old URL, the server will send back the 301- permanently moved status code, then move you to the new location. This happens very quickly and is not noticeable. You will find yourself on the content you searched for. The noticeable difference is that the URL differs from the one you clicked on.
301 Redirects and SEO
The critical role of a 301 redirect is that it will let search engines know that the piece of content you moved now lives on another page and not associate it with the old page. This is the main reason why 301 redirects are so important for SEO.
Top Reasons to Use 301 Redirects
Changing a URL
This is a common reason to use a 301 redirect. The original URL is often poorly optimized or needs to be reorganized. This is when you should utilize a 301 redirect.
Recreating/Updating a piece of content
Updating pages and changing the entire template that is utilized is another common reason. You want to make sure you use a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. Once that is completed, unpublish and archive the old page. Utilizing something like Microsoft excel and an online SEO crawling tool can help with this process.
With regards to SEO, if you notice some more than two pieces of content are competing for a specific keyword, consolidate the content. However, you do not want to lose the traffic that may have been going to the old pages. Once you set up the new consolidated content, use a 301 redirect from the old content to the new page.
Moving content from one domain to another domain
Moving an entire domain to another domain, it is essential to do a page-to-page 301 redirect from the old pages to the new ones. It is easy if there are not many changes with the content from domain to domain. It still becomes vital if changes are made to most content—understanding which old page content relates to the new page content and adding redirects when necessary. Remember that when doing page-to-page 301 redirects, your redirects must come from the original URL.
Moving a website during a phased web launch
A phased launch approach is when you launch the core website pages in phase one, then additional pages in phase two, and so on. It is best to use a phased redirect map. All the URLs from the old domain should be accounted for, and a redirect outlined for each phase. Doing this will prevent people from reaching your old website domain and receiving 404 errors.
Mistakes to Avoid
Setting up a 302 redirect between versions of your domains
When there are different versions of your domain, it is essential to set up a redirect for all the different versions to land on the one you intended.
Setting up a 301 redirect after creating a page
Be sure to set up 301 redirects before migrating your website materials to avoid losing traffic in the process.
Having redirects link to outdated content
This can lead to a bad user experience. The old link will eventually link to the new domain, but there is a delay in the process for the user.
Redirect a page with a different intent than the destination page
Make sure that the 301 redirects are redirecting to relevant content. It is not good when a user clicks on a link with the intent of reaching a home page and lands on a blog. As long as the user is directed to what they intended, it will help with SEO and not lead to a bad user experience
Using 301 redirects is necessary for all websites when developing and changing content on the website. It is important for both SEO and user experience. You will gain more traffic and give your customers exactly what they are looking for with little delay. Consult with a web developer and make sure to take the necessary steps to ensure your website runs smoothly and ranks higher in google.
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Insight by Nathan Maas
Nathan is a digital marketer passionate about how storytelling, targeted messaging, and implementing technology create business-changing content. As an Account Manager, he is responsible for assisting with communication to help his clients increase brand awareness, generate leads, and acquire new customers.
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