What is website redirection? What are the different types of redirects? In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about website redirection, what it is used for, and what differences error messages mean. We’ll also discuss how redirects can impact your search engine optimization.
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Website redirection, also commonly referred to as URL redirection or even URL forwarding, is a technique that is used to make a web page accessible under more than one URL address. When your web browser tries to open a page that has been redirected, a page with a different URL opens instead. That is how website redirects work.
What is a Redirect?
A redirect is a way to send both website visitors and search engines to a different URL than they originally asked for. Every web page has an address, just like every house has an address. The web page address is called the URL. URL stands for “Uniform Resource Locator.” There might be a time when content moves from one URL to another URL, for various reasons. A redirect automatically tells a web browser to go from the old URL to the new URL. It’s important to use redirects correctly in order to prevent web visitors from getting a 404 error on your website.
There are different types of redirects, but three are used the most frequently (and there is really only one that you will ever probably use for your own site!)
When Do I Need to Use a Redirect?
There are several instances when you might need to utilize a redirect (or several) for your website:
- For URL shortening;
- Because you are moving your site;
- When you are merging content from multiple web pages into one web page;
- To prevent broken links when pages are moved and pass link equity to the new URL for SEO purposes;
- Guide navigation into and out of a website;
- To allow multiple domain names belonging to the same owner to refer to a single web site; and
- For privacy protection purposes.
Serverside Redirects and Client-Side Redirects
Redirects are divided into two groups: serverside redirects and client-side redirects.
Serverside redirects are performed directly on the server. They result in a small bit of content being sent to the web browser, in HTTP status headers. The browsers then know where to go and follow immediately.
A client-side redirect, on the other hand, is the result of some code that runs in the browser and redirects the “client,” or the browser, to another URL. The code needs to be sent to the browser first, so it is slower than a serverside redirect. That is why serverside redirects are always recommended over client-side redirects. These do not provide a good experience for the user.
Types of Redirects
The three most frequently used redirects are 301, 302, and meta refresh. Let’s discuss each type of redirect in more detail:
301 Moved Permanently
The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. This is particularly important for SEO purposes, because it passes nearly all (up to 99%) of link equity, which is equivalent to ranking power, to the new redirected page. The 301 stands for the HTTP status code for this type of redirect. This will almost always be the best kind of redirect to use for any web page.
In the first version of HTTP (or HyperText Transfer Protocol) the 302 redirect was referred to as “Moved Temporarily.” In the updated version of HTTP, it was changed to “Found.” Though some experts say that 301 and 302 redirects can be used similarly, the safest way to make sure search engines are giving full credit to your web pages is by using a 301 redirect when permanently redirecting your page.
307 Moved Temporarily
The 307 redirect is the “moved temporarily” redirect. The most common use for this kind of redirect is during website maintenance, for example. It should really only be used when content really is only moving temporarily. However, you can also use a 302 redirect for this purpose.
A meta refresh is another type of redirect that is executed on the web page, not on the server. These are slower and that is why they are not recommended for SEO purposes. If you ever encounter a web page that says “if you are not redirected in five seconds, click here,” it was most likely a meta refresh. They do pass some of the link equity to the new page, but due to the slowness that causes a poor user experience and the loss of some link equity, we do not recommend it.
How Do I Set Up Redirects?
There are two most common ways to set up redirects. You can do so through web server configuration or through your content management system (CMS.) It might be easier to set up redirects in your CMS if you do not have a background or much experience in web development, but there are several downsides to setting up redirects in your CMS.
For example, when there are issues with your CMS, the redirect might stop working. Also, these redirects tend to be slower. Redirects set up in both your CMS and web server can co-exist and lead to several mistakes and confusion. That is why we recommend setting up your redirects on your web server, and only use your CMS for redirection when absolutely necessary. (Or better yet, ask or hire an expert web developer to set up your redirects for you to avoid any costly mistakes!)
Redirects and SEO
What you might not know about redirects is how they impact your search engine optimization. Let’s discuss how the two are related.
Are Redirects Bad for SEO?
Redirects do not negatively impact your search engine optimization, unless they are not implemented correctly. If they are implemented incorrectly, it causes several problems. For example, your users will have a poor experience and get frustrated because they can’t find the web page they are looking for on your site easily. Search engines will have the same problem with any links to or from your web page. Not to mention, the page that you moved to a new URL could lose its link equity. However, if your redirects are implemented well, you will have none of these issues and your SEO will be just fine.
Best Practices for Redirection
As you get started with redirection on your own website, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.
Avoid Redirects When You Can
If you can, avoid redirects whenever possible. They will increase your website’s loading time and force search engines to waste valuable time they could spend crawling your site instead. However, there are instances when redirects are unavoidable. In that case, use 301 redirects.
Redirect to a Relevant URL
This one might sound obvious, but never redirect to an old web page to an irrelevant URL. This will not make your website visitors happy. It can also force search engines to rank your pages lower. Also, if you redirect to an irrelevant URL, search engines might not consolidate the value of the old URL with the new one. This results in a soft 404 error.
Avoid Chained Redirects
Be sure to avoid chained redirects. A chained redirect is when one URL is requested, a redirect is used to another URL, and then that URL is redirected as well. Google will only follow up to five redirects, so you might lose out if you have too many chained. Also, not all page authority is passed in even a single redirect. You will possibly lose more value for each additional redirect.
Redirect to the Preferred Version of your Website URL
Make sure to choose a preferred version of your website URL and stick with that option for all redirects. For example, do you use the www or not?
If you do go ahead and implement redirects on your website, it’s important to use a redirect checker to make sure they were implemented correctly. A redirect checker is a tool that determines if a URL is redirected, and checks the path that it follows.
For example, you can use this kind of tool to find bottlenecks. A bottleneck is a redirect chain in which a URL is redirected several times, which makes it harder for Google to crawl that URL, and gives your visitors a poor user experience, too. These chains are hard to find and you may not know they exist without the help of a redirect checker.
There are several search engine optimization tools with redirect checkers available, like Sitebulb, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog.
FAQs about Website Redirection
- What is the purpose of a website redirection?
- How do I stop a website from redirecting to another website?
- How do I redirect a URL in WordPress?
- Why am I seeing an HTML auto redirect after five seconds?
- How do I redirect my old website to my new website?
Get Help with Website Redirection from SEO Design Chicago
Website redirection is complicated and tricky. One of the most important things to know about website redirects is that they can be tricky to implement for anyone who is experienced with web design and development. That’s why it’s important to let the experts handle any necessary redirects for you. SEO Design Chicago’s expert web developers can assist with your website redirection for your own website. For help with redirects for your site, call us today!