301 Redirects: The Basics for SEO
June 14, 2022
The 301 redirect is one of the most commonly used redirects in SEO. It’s a good idea to understand how it works to ensure your site performs optimally in Google.
Even though it’s a simple redirect to implement, understanding how and when it should be used isn’t so simple. In this post, we’ll explain what a 301 redirect is, what the difference between 301 and 302 redirects is, and what some of the best practices are for implementing 301 redirects on your site.
Need help implementing 301 redirects on your site, or want to work with an SEO agency to help improve your rankings in the SERPs? Here at Racer Marketing, we have years of experience getting results for our clients, and we’d love to see how we can best support your business.
Why it’s so important
301 directs play a major role in SEO. Correct implementation can help consolidate ranking signals, move pages to new URLs and improve a page’s ranking. Poor implementation can lead to technical SEO issues and can result in your site’s rankings dropping.
By understanding the basics of 301 redirects, you’re in a better position to optimize your site or to understand the work done by your SEO agency.
What is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect is a redirect that indicates to search engines that a page has moved permanently. Both users and search engines are redirected to the page’s new URL. A user usually won’t notice anything different, apart from the fact that the URL is different to the URL they typed in or clicked on.
This type of redirect shows search engines that a page has moved to a new URL and that this move is permanent. This results in link equity and other SEO benefits being passed on to the new URL. This is very important since it helps the new URL rank for the keywords the old page was ranking for, as well as ensures any backlinks pointing to the old page are now counted towards the new page’s rankings.
What’s the difference between a 301 and a 302 redirect?
Both the 301 and the 302 redirects redirect users and search engines to the new URL. This leads a lot of people to assume they’re the same thing.
However, this isn’t the case, and the difference between the two is actually a very important one.
A 301 redirect is used when a page is moved permanently, whereas a 302 is used when a page is moved temporarily. Although they’re the same for website users, they’re not treated in the same way by search engines.
Even though this is a topic that’s heavily debated in the field of SEO, it’s generally accepted that 302s don’t pass on the same SEO benefits as 301s do. This is why it’s considered best practice to use the 301 redirect when moving pages permanently.
When should I use a 301?
You should use a 301 to indicate that a page has moved permanently, either because you have changed the URL or because you are merging two (or more) pages into a single page.
You can also use it to consolidate ranking signals, for example, if a previously deleted page still has backlinks pointing to it. You can then 301 the old page to the most relevant existing page on your site, ensuring anyone following the link will be redirected to an existing page.
A 301 can be a better alternative to a canonical tag in some cases since it sends a clearer signal to search engines and seems to consolidate ranking signals more effectively.
There are countless situations where you could use a 301 and many different ways of using them to improve your SEO. Below are some of our top tips for using 301 redirects effectively!
Only 301 pages to other relevant pages
The first tip is to only use a 301 to redirect pages to pages with the same or similar content. For example, a 301 redirect can be used to merge multiple versions of the same page or to merge multiple blog posts into a single larger blog post that covers all of the topics that the original pages did.
However, you should avoid redirecting pages to other pages that aren’t on the same topic. This could decrease the relevancy of the page and send the wrong traffic to a page. After all, if you’re looking for a blue t-shirt you don’t want to be redirected to a page selling yellow bikes!
Use a 301 to redirect to the preferred version of your site
After launching a site, it’s common for multiple versions of the site to exist. The example below demonstrates what we mean by this:
All of these four pages contain the same content, and if you have other pages on your site, those pages likely have the same duplicates.
To prevent this from causing issues, it’s important to choose a preferred version and redirect all other versions to this preferred version on your entire site. Say you want to use https://www.mysite.com, you would redirect all other versions to this version across the entire site.
This can easily be done in the .htaccess file of your site, as detailed in this article.
Avoid redirect chains
301 redirects are great for consolidating ranking signals, but it’s common for one page to be redirected to a new page, only for this new page to be redirected to a third page later on.
If this happens, it’s helpful to go back and point the original page directly to the newest working page, instead of pageA redirecting to pageB redirecting to pageC.
Finding redirect chains – Finding all of the different redirect chains on a large site can be challenging. However, regularly crawling your website can help you find and fix redirect chains, as well as other minor SEO issues quickly and cost-effectively.
301 redirects are a vital part of SEO, but knowing how to use them correctly and effectively takes some work. Hopefully, this post has helped you understand what 01 redirects are and when they should be used.
Do you have questions after reading this post? Or would you like some help improving your rankings on Google and other search engines? Feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!