Have you ever been really excited to see an article or blog post only to find that it is no longer available after clicking on it? An experience like that typically causes a lot of frustration and angst for the user, which can cause them to leave your website. What should have happened when the user clicked on a no longer available URL? A 301 redirect to a similar page or article would have met the user’s needs and kept them engaged. Having the correct redirects put in place can not only be helpful to prevent a confusing user experience, but it also helps search engines too. Many website owners get confused when it comes to redirects, and rightly so. Having the wrong redirect in place confuses both users and search engines, and could possibly put your website in jeopardy of being blacklisted from Google. Nobody wants that, so stay tuned as we explain more.
What is a Redirect?
Before we dive into what a 301 redirect is, it is important to know what exactly a redirect is. Simply put, a redirect is a way to send users (and search engines) to a different URL than originally intended. There are five different types of redirects—301, 302, 303, 307, and 308. Each redirect has a specific function and user experience. I would go into all the details, but that would be a much longer post. So for now, let’s get back to what a 301 redirect is and why you would need one.
What is a 301 Redirect and Why do I Need it?
You might be wondering what exactly a 301 redirect is and how do you know when you should be using it? Well, don’t worry you are not alone. Many people get confused about whether they should use a 301 or 302 redirect. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. Think of it as if you bought a new house; it is a permanent move and you will not be going back. There are a few different reasons why a 301 redirect would be needed:
- The URL is broken, and you need to redirect users to a similar page
- You have a new page that you want users to navigate to
- You have a new website and want anyone who types in your old website to be migrated to your new site
A 302 redirect is more of a temporary redirect. It acts similar to a 301 redirect and the user experience is exactly the same on the page level. It still sends users to a different URL, but what differs is a 302 tells search engines that this redirect is only temporary. A lot of times website owners will use this type of redirect if you want users to go to a page or website for only a short period of time, such as when you are creating a new page or website.
How does a 301 Redirect Impact SEO?
In all of these instances, a 301 redirect is crucial for not only user experience, but for SEO purposes. Here’s where we get to the why a 301 redirect is so important. When you use a 301 redirect, Google will take the old URL out of search results and index the new one. The 301 redirect will keep all of your link value of your old URL (or link juice as some put it) and migrate it to the new. It might take some time for search engines to catch up, but this way your new URL will inherit the equity of the old URL and will continue to rank in the SERPS (search engine results pages). So simply put, having a 301 redirect in place will not hurt your Google rankings. In fact, it is a standard SEO best practice and we strongly recommend using a 301 redirect when applicable.
A 302 redirect, however could potentially hurt your Google rankings if done incorrectly. That is not to say using a 302 is bad—when used in the right manner it is effective. Like we said above, a 302 is a temporary redirect and it will not migrate any of that link juice to the new URL. The problem lies when people mistakenly use a 302 in place of a 301 redirect and lose all of that hard-earned link equity. Why wouldn’t you want to retain all of your hard work on your old URL?!
We get it, redirecting URLs is a very tricky business to be in. So many things can go wrong. If you are questioning whether your website has all the correct redirects, don’t hesitate to give us a call today. Here at Moose May, we are dedicated to helping your business succeed and will walk you through every step of the way.