In this article, we’ll discuss what redirects are and how redirects work. Whether you’re eliminating pages from your website or changing your page URLs or domain, a lot of redirects will be necessary. If you neglect to set up redirects, any links to your site will become dead links. This results in you losing valuable inbound links, and hurting both your SEO and web traffic. That’s why redirects are important.
What is a Redirect?
A redirect, also known as a URL redirection, is a World Wide Web technique that makes a web page available under more than one URL address. Think of a redirect as a road detour sign. You are telling your viewer that the page is no longer at this address, but it’s at this other address. It’s important to make sure your website doesn’t turn into a construction zone where people get confused and frustrated. You do so by using the right type of redirects on your site. If you don’t implement redirects, people looking for your site will encounter roadblocks, which makes for a poor user experience. In this article, we’ll discuss how redirects work and the different types of redirects.
How Does a Redirect Work?
If you type www.seodesignchicago.com into your web browser, the browser sends a request to our server. The server sends your web browser back to the page you asked for. A redirect tells the server to provide a different page than the one you requested. For example, if you asked the browser for Blue, the server has instructions that says Blue is no longer available, but we can give you Green instead. Then, you are delivered to the Green page, which provides a better user experience.
Types of Redirects
Next, let’s discuss the different types of redirects.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, and the most frequently used. It is a server-side redirect. In a 301 or “moved permanently” redirect, when the request hits the server, it is automatically re-routed to a different page. If you are moving a website, implementing 301 redirects is incredibly important for SEO purposes. If you skip this step, you could lose out on search rankings for your web page. However, a 301 redirect tells the system for you that the page has simply moved permanently to a new page on your site.
302 redirects are a temporary location and not as common as the permanent 301 redirect. You might use a 302 redirect during site maintenance or a site update. However, these days, many websites have a maintenance mode for web developers to test changes before they go live online. So, 302 redirects are very rarely used anymore, especially in comparison to 301 redirects.
The 300 redirect is known as the “multiple choice” redirect. It brings up several options for the same resource. Some purposes for the multiple redirect include multilingual sites and different file extensions. However, it is used pretty infrequently.
The 101 redirect is the “protocol change” redirect. It used to be common for things like HTTP to HTTPS. However, now there is a Rewrite Engine that uses 301 redirects, instead.
A meta refresh is a type of redirect that is executed on the page level, rather than the server level. They are slower and not a recommended SEO technique. If you’ve ever seen the page that says “If you aren’t redirected in five seconds, click here,” that’s a meta refresh.
Server-side redirects are the most common method of redirection. This means the redirect request is handled by the server. The original request doesn’t load, and the server reads the given instructions and instead sends a different web page, rather than the original request.
Client-side redirects happen when the redirect is encoded into a web page, instead of on the server level. When someone loads the web page, the resource begins to load, and then there are directions during loading that reroute the client.
Wildcards allow you to redirect several pages to one resource. One example would be if you have com/category. If your platform supports wildcarding, then all the subpages of “/category/” will redirect to the specific resource.
Things That Aren’t a Redirect
Since a 300 is a redirect, it’s understandable that someone might think a 404 error is a redirect, but it isn’t. A 404 error happens when a URL doesn’t exist and the server doesn’t know where to send the user request. We recommend you set up a 404 page for your users that allows them to search for the page they want, rather than bouncing them off your website. This keeps traffic on your website in the event that they encounter a 404 error.
A canonical tag is a way of telling search engines that a certain URL represents the master copy of the page. They don’t return a status code number. Instead, they tell a search engine that two pages contain similar content. If you specify a canonical, you are telling the search engine that two pages aren’t duplicates, they just contain the same information. (Search engines will lower your search ranking for having duplicate content, which is why it’s important to specify the canonical tag.) One example where you might need the canonical is on an e-commerce site, where two category pages might show the same products.
What You Need to Know About 301 Redirects
If you are moving pages around your site, removing old pages, or moving your entire website, you might need to make use of the common redirect: the 301 redirects. Here’s what you need to know about 301 redirects before you get started.
301 Redirects are Fast
Some worry that instituting redirects on their site will slow it down. However, a 301 redirect will not slow your site speed in any major way. It is just a line or two of code.
Multiple URLs Can Be Redirected to One URL
Yes, multiple URLs can be redirected to one URL. However, one URl can’t be redirected to several URLs.
A Page Can’t Be 301 Redirected to Itself
A web page can’t be 301 redirected to itself, or to a page which 301 redirects to itself. It creates an ongoing loop and no page will ever load.
A 301 redirect passes almost all link equity to the redirected page. This is why it’s important to implement 301 redirects for SEO purposes.
301 Redirects and Link Equity
According to most experts, between 90 and 99 percent of the link value passes from the original page to the redirected page in a 301 redirect. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The Context and Anchor Text of the Links
It’s important to remember that the context and anchor text of the links matter. If you redirect a page that was about one topic to a page that is about a different topic (even if they seem related), the relevance of those links decreases. Say you redirect from a page about dogs to a page about cats. Sure, they’re both pets, but they aren’t the same. This could affect the effectiveness of your links.
Multiple Pages Redirected to One May Lose Value
As mentioned above, many experts believe up to 99 percent of the link value passes during a 301 redirect. However, there is no way to know for sure how much link value is passed when multiple pages are redirected one. Some data suggests that if you direct more than five pages to one, no value is passed between the pages at all. So keep the number of pages that redirect to a new page below five.
Google, Yahoo and Bing Handle Link Equity Differently
Google has publicly confirmed that it passes link equity via the 301 redirect. Yahoo and Bing handle things differently, however. Back in 2010, however, Bing didn’t pass any link equity at all. It does seem as though they’ve updated that policy. Google is the most popular and largest search engine so it is the one that matters most. However, if your site gets a lot of traffic from Yahoo and Bing, you’ll want to be extra careful.
Redirect Best Practices
It’s important to keep URLs intact as you migrate to avoid any loss of link equity. However, it’s likely that at some point, you will need to implement some redirects. If so, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Do not chain redirects. In other words, don’t redirect to a URL that’s already being redirected.
- Make sure your redirects are set up on the server side.
- Use absolute URLs in your redirects, not nodes or page numbers. These can result in broken links and redirect chains.
- The anchor text of inbound links to a redirected page need to relate to the page you’re redirecting too.
- Different search engines handle redirects differently.
- Always redirect a removed page to the most similar available page.
Need Help with Redirects on Your Website?
If you are in need of redirects on your website, hopefully this article has helped you learn more about them. However, it is best to leave redirects to the experts. SEO Design Chicago’s web developers can help you implement redirects on your pages, help you migrate web pages, or even your entire site. Contact us today for help with redirects on your website!