What is a 301 re-direct?
Redirects are used worldwide by millions of web technicians and marketing specialists on a day to day basis. Using a redirect you are able to change the location of a page on the website whilst maintaining the integrity of the website and the position of the moved pages.
Redirects come in various types from the temporary redirects to permanent redirects, which can be implemented at page level or server level. Implementing redirects is quite an easy task, all you are doing is informing the search engines of the new page location, whilst instructing the server or internet browser to navigate to a new url upon landing on the old url.
A redirect is used to point the old destination to the new destination at page level or domain level, which means you can setup a redirect on single pages or a group of pages, or you can redirect an entire domain. Redirects are versatile and very useful and are a must for anyone looking to change the website structure or domain name.
Lets look at redirects at their different levels:
When implementing a redirect, there are many different things to consider, such as, is the new destination page in a better location then it was previously?. When redirecting one page location to another, it is important that the following factors are considered:
- – Is the destination domain the same or is it a new domain?
- – Is the destination domain brand new or does it have some age behind it? (only if domain has changed)
- – Is the destination URL friendly (i.e. not excessive in length or keyword usage)
- – Has the destination URL been used for any other pages previously (Conflict of content theme)
- – Has the destination URL been involved in any link development or bad link practices?
Since the domain is the foundation for a website in the natural search index, just swapping it with another domain is not a good idea, especially if the new domain is less than a year old and has no back links, the knock on effects can involve a loss of rankings.
Changing a domain should only be done when absolutely necessary or if the previous domain is very young and hasn’t built up any credibility. Redirects help save a lot of credibility when moving URLS/Pages, however, the changes in website structure can still have a positive or negative effect in Google depending on the redirection used among the changes in content, page text and more.
So what redirect is right for me?
Temporary 302 Re-direct:
A temporary redirect should be used when the URL structure changes but only temporarily. This is used on websites that are under development and are still undergoing page and url structures. For example, if we wanted to put a temporary redirect on a product page because it was placed in a different destination from what it would be if the website was complete then we would place a 302 redirect on the old destination towards the temporary destination, for example:
- – www.mywebshop.com > Website (being built, still in progress)
- – www.mywebshop.com/products/toys/cars > (Toys section, this was the URL used at one point)
- – www.mywebshop.com/toys/cars > (New projected destination, still under development so temporary url used)
- – www.mywebshop.com/temp/products/cars > Temporary toys section.
The temporary redirect should go from the old url to the temporary url until the new section is complete.
There are hundreds of different situations that are ideal for temporary redirects. It is very important that temporary redirects are not used for a long period of time as they do not stand strong ground in Google’s natural search. Because the redirect is known to be temporary, Google knows that the URL structure is likely to change again, therefore its importance is reduced for being returned in natural search.
How can I tell if a redirect is temporary or permanent?
Temporary redirect header codes are returned as a code “302”, using a server header checker you can see what code is returned, if you see a 302 code then the redirect is temporary. Use the following URL to check the servers header code:
When is it ok to use a temporary redirect?
Temporary redirects are ok for short term URL restructures, for example, if the URL changes because of a website design change or site structure change then a temporary redirect is ok for short term use. Typically, many people that implement the 302 redirect leave it in place to long which is detrimental towards search engine rankings.
Temporary redirects are for temporary use, if implementing, ensure that the temporary redirect is only used for a short period of time, typically 4-6 weeks at the longest.
Why are temporary redirects risky to a websites ranking?
Google and other major search engines use the URL structure as a foundation in the search engine index, but only on the basis that the URL’s indexed are not frequently uprooted and changed. When implementing a 302 redirect search engines know that the URL redirected isn’t permanent, as a result this can cause unreliable results which search engines typically avoid.
Permanent 301 Re-direct
A permanent redirect is used to change the URL of a page on a permanent basis. Because of its header code, search engines understand that the moved URL will be moved permanently. Because the URL is moved permanently, search engines can update their index with the new URL in place, unlike temporary redirects, search engines class permanent redirects as a safer option since this prevents unreliable results.
How to check if a redirect is permanent:
Visit the URL below and enter the URL to check. If the code returned is 301 then this means that it has been redirected permanently.
Page by Page Redirects:
Redirects can be implemented site wide or page by page. When redirecting single pages whilst keeping the site structure is unlikely to have any impact on search engine rankings. Implementing page by page redirects is quick and easy to do and is a popular choice for those either redirecting one or more pages.
Implementing site wide redirects is a riskier job as changing the whole URL structure can have a temporary knock on search engine rankings. When uprooting the whole URL, search engines have to update their indexes. When doing this, its advisable to create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google webmaster central. Its then important to keep an eye on webmaster central to ensure there is no index problems, or no loss of rankings caused by other issues.
An example of a 301 re-direct:
Below is a successful 301 re-direct implementation for a client of ours. The keyword and URLs are hidden to protect the identity of our client, however the modification was made towards the end of 2008. Future posts will concentrate on how to successfully implement a 301 re-direct, whether it be using php or if your website is hosted on IIS.