What is a 301 redirect and when should you use one?
If you’ve decided to give your website a complete SEO makeover, you may be surprised that it’s not just about keywords and stellar content. A lot of website optimization occurs under the hood, including 301 redirects.
This blog will walk you through the types of website redirects and when you should use them for your website.
What is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect, or DNS 301, is a status code sent by a web server to a browser, indicating a permanent redirect from an old URL to a new one. This form of technical SEO is often used when a website undergoes a migration for SEO purposes where new links have been built.
A 301 redirect also passes all ranking power generated from the previous URL to the new one, allowing websites to retain their ranking authority. It is also important for search engines since this code tells Google or Bing that the content has moved to a new page, allowing it to be indexed and updated.
Two types of redirects
Redirects come in two types — 301 and 302. Each serves its own purpose for a website looking to alter its content, and this SEO tactic is typically undertaken by internal or external web developers. Let’s examine the two types of redirects in better detail.
As we know, 301 redirects permanently relocate a page’s content. Implementing 301 redirects is a highly important part of an SEO migration strategy, as it ensures that all the previous ‘SEO magic’ made from the old URL is passed onto the new one, avoiding any impact on your search rankings.
On the other hand, 302 redirects are a temporary relocation of a page’s content and should only be used if you intend to move the page back under the original URL. Because this migration is temporary, 302 redirects do not affect a page’s ranking capabilities.
When should you use a 301 redirect?
As 301 redirects are a permanent solution, it’s essential to consider the circumstances for when they should be used for your SEO strategy. While every website’s needs are different, here are some common cases when you should consider using a 301 redirect:
Redirecting an old page to a new one
Whether your old URL wasn’t optimized efficiently or your business is experiencing a rebrand and needs a new website structure, many websites use 301 redirects when they need to move a page’s content to a new URL. The good news is while you may know the redirect is taking place, users won’t be able to tell the difference and
Removing a page
If you are re-organizing the structural hierarchy of your website and discover you no longer need certain pages, a 301 redirect can help remove these pages from your site. In this case, the page is simply archived and no longer visible to browsers.
Consolidating pieces of content
One common SEO mistake many businesses make when optimizing their website is duplicating content. This can confuse Google as to which pages to index and rank higher, and it may also impact your keyword efforts, as both pages compete for the same keywords.
By consolidating multiple pieces of content under one URL with a 301 redirect, you can maintain the page’s visibility in search engines and have browsers redirected from the old duplicate pages to the new ones.
Redirecting entire domains
If your website is undergoing a protocol change — for example, migrating from HTTP to HTTPS — a 301 redirect can ensure you maintain all existing content and only change the URL’s protocol. This is also the case for websites moving from a non-www URL to www.
Resolving uppercase and lowercase URL issues
While you may be forgiven for thinking this is an aesthetic issue, having a mix of uppercase and lowercase URL variations can impact SEO. Having both versions of a URL tells Google these are two separate versions and will rank them accordingly. In this case, you may want to redirect all uppercase URLs to those with lowercase.
How to use a redirect 301 to boost your SEO
As 301 redirects allow you to transfer ‘SEO juice’ from one page to another, many SEO specialists may recommend them as part of a website’s SEO campaign. Here are some ways to use a 301 redirect to improve your SEO potential:
Resolve keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization occurs when a website has too many similar keywords sprinkled throughout. As a result, Google becomes unsure which page to rank higher, or it may prioritize pages you don’t want it to. A 301 redirect can resolve this issue by maintaining the pages you need optimized.
Recreate, consolidate, or recategorize a piece of content
It’s no secret that Google loves fresh and unique content. And if your content is undergoing a makeover, a 301 redirect allows you to update or recreate a piece of content while keeping the same URL. This tactic also applies if you want to minimize duplicate content across your site or recategorize your URLs.
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