Using website redirects: What's a 301 redirect anyway?
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 19/09/2016
When searching the web, there's nothing more frustrating than finding what you believe to be a good value webpage is nothing more than a broken page without a working redirect.
Besides the obvious pitfalls of old and broken links, there are a few instances when it is recommended that marketers redirect outdated pages for SEO purposes, making their websites more navigable for users as well as the search engine bots that are trying to crawl them.
To ensure that your marine business website is generating you valuable leads, Yachting Pages offers insight into webpage resdirects, helping you to ensure the correct page redirect is implemented.
What is a website or webpage redirect?
In online terms, redirection is the process of guiding search engines and user traffic from one URL to a different URL than that originally requested, perhaps as this page has been deleted, moved, or has outlived its usefulness with a more relevant page to view in place.
With three main redirects to get to grips with - 301 redirects, 302 redirects and meta refresh - it is important to ensure you are using the right types to clean up your website.
Which page redirect should I use?
301 redirect: Webpage moved permanently
A 301-status code simply means that a webpage has permanently moved to a new location: This redirect is widely recommended for SEO purposes as it passes 90-99% of 'link juice', or 'ranking power’ to the new page.
If you need to change the URL of a page as it is shown in search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s therefore best to use a server-side redirect such as this - widely known in the industry as a '301 redirect'. This ensures that search engines and visitors, are pointed to the correct page. 301 redirects are particularly useful if:
- You’ve moved your site to a new domain: Using 301 redirects can make the transition between your two domains as seamless as possible for all involved.
- Your website can be accessed via several URLs: If your home page can be accessed in several ways (for example; example.com/home, home.example.com, or www.example.com), it’s recommended to pick one URL as your preferred, or 'canonical' destination - more on that later. 301 redirects can then be used to send traffic from one URL to the preferred URL. Alternatively, you can use Webmaster Tools to set your preferred domain.
- Your are merging websites: As time goes by, there may come a point when a few of your websites or web pages, become redundant. Merging two, three or even four websites can create unneeded or unnecessary content; a problem which can be resolved by using 301 redirects.
302 redirect: Page found/moved temporarily
A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect, used when pages have been moved only temporarily, such as during routine site maintenance.
On the contrary to 301 redirects, 0% of link juice is passed between the two pages redirected by 302-status, and so this method should not be used in the majority of cases.
Meta refresh page redirects
Meta refreshes are implemented on the webpage, rather than at server level. These are usually slower in terms of pageload time, and are not a recommended SEO technique – associated with the page message “If you are not redirected in five seconds, click here”.
Unlike 302 resirects, meta refresh does pass some valuable link juice between pages, but they are not very user friendly – it’s always best to go server-side with a 301.
How do I implement a 301 redirect?
To implement a 301 redirect for websites that are hosted on servers running Apache, you’ll need access to your server’s .htaccess file – if you’re unsure about your server software, or your accessibility to such software, it’s best to check with your web host, or follow this guide on how to set up a 301 redirect. Many of today’s flexible Content Management Systems allow you to set up your own redirects.
Be aware that any page move will take search engines some time to find, recognise and credit with the rankings and trust of its predecessor, so page redirects should not be undertaken lightly.
Although hard to pronounce, canonicalisation is vital to creating an 'optimised' website. Fundamentally, it’s the process that SEO’s use to deal with duplicate content, which is when the same or similar content appears in multiple places across one website, or across several websites.
Although having content duplicated in several places is sometimes a necessary evil and hard to avoid, it causes search engines with a conundrum: Which version of content should they show to online users? The primary purpose of canonicalisation is therefore for search engines, fixing these problems in order to provide the best user experience; search engines after all, prefer to show the original content as it deems this to be the best.
Put simply, canonicalisation (the rel=canonical attribute) ensures that search engines only index one version of the content without removing the additional copies. It ensures that all credit and link juice is passed to the original or canonicalised source. This is why you should always work to published your own valuable content on your website before sharing it with other publications!
So, which redirect is best?
With redirects, it can often be easier to bury your head than to tackle them head on. Hopefully, we have provided some insight into the options available to you, but it is usually recommended to use a 301-status, without forgetting the uses of canonicalisation for duplicate content.