When your business has a website, it’s probably not going to remain static for long. Pages get deleted or moved from one domain to another, or you might decide to change the structure of your site. Handling these changes correctly is critical to help search engines understand your actions, assist visitors in finding the right content, and avoid losing the rankings that you’ve fought so hard to obtain.
Not all website redirects are the same. There’s a right and wrong way to address website changes. Here’s what you need to know about redirects and some best practices for using them to maximize your SEO efforts.
What Are Website Redirects?
A redirect is a method of connecting an old webpage to a new one. The old one might have moved, or it could contain outdated information that you no longer want to display.
You can redirect a web page with a simple line of code that the visitor never sees. When they try to go to one page, such as www.yoursite.com/pageA/, the redirect will send them to the new page, such as www.yoursite.com/pageB/.
The good news is that you don’t need to know how to code to use redirects. Most of them can be handled with plugins or simple code. You can also ask your website programmer for help.
When to Use Redirects
One of the things you want to avoid is having a visitor arrive at a page on your website that returns an error code, such as a 404 error. Another problem is delivering information that doesn’t fulfill the searcher’s intent. Redirects can help solve these issues and more. Some of the situations in which you’d want to use a website redirect include:
- You are migrating your website from one domain to another
- You are consolidating two or more websites into one
- You have discontinued products or services or have updated versions
- You add security and switch from HTTP to HTTPS
- You want to fix duplicate content issues on your website
- You change the URL structure on your website
The Different Types of Website Redirects
Redirects have a status code that starts with the number three. There are 100 different possible codes, but only a few that are common and relevant to SEO. Here are the ones you should understand:
301: Moved Permanently
A 301 redirect is the most common type of redirect used to send people from one URL to another automatically. In most cases, the simplest way to do a 301 redirect is from within the website’s .htaccess file. Here are two examples of the type of code that you can use:
Redirect 301 /oldpage.html https:://yoursite.com/newpage.html
RedirectPermanent /oldpage.html https:://yoursite.com/newpage.html
Note: this assumes that both pages are on the same website. If they aren’t, you will need to provide the full URL for the “old page.”
A 302 redirect is temporary, but it isn’t used often. You might want to use this type of redirect if you are conducting A/B Testing or running a short-term promotion. You should only use it if you plan to bring back the original page shortly.
307: Temporary Redirect
A 307 redirect is another type of temporary redirect. The difference between a 302 and a 307 redirect is that the HTTP method remains unchanged with a 307 redirect, but you can change it with a 302 redirect.
It’s possible to redirect a page using something called a meta refresh tag. Google doesn’t prohibit the practice but also doesn’t recommend it. The reason is that search engines may not be able to recognize this type of redirect properly, and it takes longer to process than other options.
Website Redirect Best Practices for SEO
It’s common practice to redirect one URL to another. But how you accomplish this matters for both the user experience and your search engine rankings. Here are some redirect best practices to follow to maintain your SEO value.
1. Redirect to the Preferred Version of the URL
When you set up a redirect, make sure you are directing visitors to the right version of the URL. Is it the most recent version of the page? Is the content topically relevant to the page you are redirecting from?
2. Use the Right Type of Redirect
Make sure you are using the proper type of redirect so that the search engines understand your intention. Is your redirect permanent (301) or temporary (307)?
3. Avoid Redirect Chains
Avoid setting up more than two simultaneous redirects. Having chains invites error and takes up processing time. If possible, have each individual page redirect to the new page.
4. Clean Up Redirects
Websites change constantly, and you may end up with those dreaded error messages if you don’t reevaluate periodically. Do you have temporary redirects in place that should be lifted or changed to permanent? Are there any broken links you need to fix?
5. Avoid Redirecting All Error Pages to the Home Page
It’s a fairly common practice to redirect all 404 error pages to the site’s home page. But Google views this as lazy and will still treat these as “soft errors.” The better strategy is to map out your 404 errors and redirect each one to an appropriate page on your website.
While redirecting a web page seems like a simple task on the surface, there are many more ways to this than people think. And also quite a few ways to get it wrong and mess up your search engine rankings!
Understanding redirects is a vital part of your SEO strategy. At Connection Model, our goal is to deliver comprehensive results-based solutions to our clients, which might include redirecting some pages on your website. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
Written By: David Carpenter