When To Use 301 Redirects on Your Website

If you want to ensure that your website is successful, you need to understand how to properly use 301 redirects. Although they might appear straightforward at first glance, using them correctly in different situations requires some nuanced understanding. However, this skill is something that you should be able to grasp relatively quickly.

There are several reasons you might need to redirect a page:

  • The URL may be broken.
  • Your domain name has been changed.
  • A page needs to be deleted.
  • A new page has been created to replace an old one.

In this article, we’ll focus on when you should use a 301 redirect and how it can impact your website and SEO performance.

What Is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. The 301 refers to the HTTP status code of the page. The most important thing to know about this type of redirect is that it passes between 90-99% of link equity (ranking power) to the redirected page.

In other words, when used correctly, a 301 redirect ensures that your website visitors will be taken to the correct page while also preserving your site’s search engine ranking ability.

Now, why does link equity matter? Link equity means your website has link popularity, which is determined by the number and quality of links pointing to your site. The higher your link equity, the better your website will rank in search engine results pages (SERPs).

In short, when you set up a 301 redirect, you’re telling search engines that you’ve permanently moved a page or even an entire domain and that they should update their records to reflect the new location. You’re also telling them to pass any link equity (or link juice) that the old page has to the new one to help search rankings.

When To Use a 301 Redirect

As mentioned, there are several situations when you should use a 301 redirect:

  • when you’re changing your domain name
  • when you want to change the URL structure of a category on an eCommerce site
  • when you’re merging two websites
  • when you want to redirect an old URL to a new one
  • when you have pages that are no longer relevant

When you change your domain name or merge two websites, all of your old internal links will become broken. This can have a negative impact on your website’s user experience, ranking, and link equity. If you intend to delete a page that is no longer relevant but want to preserve the links that were pointing to it, a 301 redirect will be valuable.

How To Implement a 301 Redirect

There are two ways to implement a 301 redirect: server-side and client-side. The method you choose will likely depend on your website’s hosting situation.

Server-side 301 redirects are the preferred method because they’re more efficient and easier to set up. That said, client-side 301 redirects can still be used when necessary. The difference between the two methods is that server-side 301 redirects are processed on the server before a page is loaded, while client-side 301 redirects are processed by the browser after the page has been loaded.

Server-Side 301 Redirects

If you want to set up a server-side 301 redirect, you’ll need to edit your website’s .htaccess file. This is a configuration file for the Apache server, the most popular type of web server. If your site is hosted on a Windows server, you’ll need to edit your website’s httpd.ini file instead.

Client-Side 301 Redirects

Client-side 301 redirects can be useful when you don’t have access to your website’s .htaccess file or when you’re working on a site that’s not hosted on an Apache (or similar) server. In these cases, you can implement a client-side 301 redirect by adding a bit of code to the header of the old page.

The code will look something like this:

Redirect 301 /old-page.html http://www.example.com/new-page.html

Of course, you’ll need to replace “old-page.html” with the actual URL of the page you’re redirecting and “new-page.html” with the URL of the new page you want to redirect to.

When Not To Use a 301 Redirect

There are a few situations when you should not use a 301 redirect:

  • when you only want to temporarily redirect a page
  • when you want to redirect multiple pages to one new page
  • when you want to keep the old URL and have the new page rank in its place

Temporary redirects should be used sparingly because they can have a negative impact on your website’s ranking. If you do need to use a temporary redirect, the best way to do it is with a 302 redirect.

A 302 redirect is similar to a 301 redirect, but it tells search engines that the page has only been moved temporarily. This means that your old URL will remain in place, and any link equity it has will not be passed to the new page. Avoid using 302 redirects when you’re permanently moving a page, as this can cause search engine bots to get confused.

It’s also generally not a good idea to redirect multiple pages to one new page. Doing this can dilute the link equity of the old pages. If you do need to redirect multiple pages, make sure to set up a separate redirect for each one.

Lastly, don’t use a 301 redirect if you want the new page, such as a piece of content to rank in place of the old one. In most cases, when you set up a 301 redirect, the link equity and ranking power of the old page will be passed to the new one.

If you don’t want this to happen, use a canonical tag instead. A canonical tag is a bit of code that tells search engines which version of a URL is the preferred one. It’s generally a good idea to use canonical tags when making changes to your website so that you don’t lose any of your website’s ranking power.

Are 301 Redirects Good For SEO?

Yes, using 301 redirects is good for SEO because it helps preserve link equity and ensures that your visitors will be directed to the correct page.

It’s also worth noting that when you set up a 301 redirect, your website’s load time will improve. This is because when a page is redirected, the browser doesn’t have to go through the process of loading the initial page before you are taken to the new one.

Another benefit of using 301 redirects is that they can help you clean up your website’s structure. If you have a lot of old, outdated pages, setting up 301 redirects can help simplify your site and make it easier for visitors to find the information they’re looking for.

Other URL Redirect Types You Should Know About

In addition to 301 redirects, there are a few other types of redirects you should be aware of:

302 Redirects

We discussed this above. This is another type of 30x redirect. A 302 redirect tells search engines that the page has only been moved temporarily.

307 Redirects

A 307 redirect is similar to a 302 redirect, but it’s used for POST requests. A POST request is when a user submits information to a website, such as when filling out a form.

Meta Refresh Redirect

Meta refresh is a type of redirect that’s done on the page level rather than the server level. It’s generally not recommended as it can cause confusion for users, and it doesn’t transfer link equity. 

JavaScript Redirect

A JavaScript redirect is when a redirect is performed using JavaScript. This type of redirect is not recommended as it can cause issues for search engine crawlers.

The Bottom Line

301 redirects are a powerful tool that can help improve your website’s ranking and preserve its link equity. However, they should be used sparingly and with caution as they can have a negative impact on your website if not implemented the right way.

If you’re not sure how to set up a 301 redirect, or you want to make sure it’s done correctly, contact Markitors. We can help you with all your SEO strategy needs and ensure that your pages are performing at their best.

Optimizing a website for search engines can be challenging, but you can count on Markitors for expert help. We specialize in SEO, Digital PR, Technical SEO, and social media marketing, and we’re here to help you reach your goals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you grow your business.

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