Redirection and the Impact on SEO Rankings

Redirection and the Impact on SEO Rankings

Last Edited June 17, 2019 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

SEO stands for search engine optimization. Redirection is a term to describe the act of forwarding one URL to a different URL. Redirecting a page usually means you are giving the page a brand new URL. The act of redirection is pretty simple and is used frequently, most of the time unbeknownst to the page’s visitors. There are free tools that you can use to confirm if your page redirects are working as they should be.

When set up correctly, an instant redirect that no one even notices will happen. In a perfect world, your SEO rankings will not be affected either. SEO, or search engine optimization, is your key to getting visitors to your site, so it is very important to pay attention and help this as much as possible.

When executed properly, redirects will not harm your SEO rankings at all. Conversely, when executed improperly, they can destroy your SEO rankings. Read on to understand how these two things have to work together in order to allow your site to succeed and pick up some tips on how to go about doing it.

Why Should You Use Redirects in the First Place?  

Reasons to have pages be redirected are plentiful and varied. The most common reason to utilize a redirect is when a URL is broken or obsolete. Possibly, the entire website is now inactive. Maybe you created a new website and want people visiting the old one to see the new one instead. Perhaps you are testing to see which type of site people like better.  

If you moved or deleted a page, or if you bought a new domain but want to keep your same website, you may use a redirect. Or, if you need to merge numerous sites together or even direct visitors to new destinations are all reasons to set up redirects. When set up properly, visitors will not even notice that they have been redirected. Lastly, new domains often require redirects for one reason or another.

How to Setup a Redirect     

Setting up a redirect can be done very quickly and easily using copy and paste. You need to find an appropriate .php code, copy it, and then paste it into the proper folder in your hosting location. This code will use a 301 redirect, which you will soon see is a good thing. This will bring the visitor to the new URL even though they typed in the old URL. Or, perhaps there was an old, outdated link to the previous site somewhere that they clicked on.

That is the beauty of redirects. Instead of you having to hunt down every link to your old site and change it to the new site, you can just have the old site be redirected to the new site. That can save you a lot of money if you have had business cards or other methods of advertised printed up and distributed already. Businesses that have been around for years may have outdated websites that they want to upgrade.

Perhaps the URL that they would like is not available, or for other reasons, they need to change the link to their website. If this place has been around so long that people know it, or perhaps have all sorts of calendars, magnets, billboards, etc. around town, it would make a lot of sense to just have the old website redirect over to the new website. That being said, it does not even really matter what the new website is because the visitors can find it by the old one that they already know and trust.


Types of Redirects     

There are three main types of redirects. They are 301, 302 and Meta Refresh. 301 is the type of redirect that is recommended for SEO purposes. A 301 indicates that a URL has moved permanently. 302 means found or moved temporarily. These are three very different methods with three very different results. Meta Refresh is its own demonic countdown, which will be explained soon enough.  Which method you choose will be critical to saving your SEO rankings, if that is a concern to you.

301 Redirect  

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. The 301 redirect is arguably the best method to use if you must use redirects on your website. A 301 redirect is a total and utter switch of pages, meaning that the detour page is now the main page. The old page will no longer show up in Google’s index, and the new one will replace it. 301 is the clear way to redirect if at all possible. It is fast. It is seamless. It does not harm your SEO rankings at all. In fact, who knows, the very page you are reading this on may very have been redirected from somewhere else without you even knowing it!

302 Redirect    

A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect used for redirecting your site visitors to a different page but only temporarily because you plan on bringing back the original page later. It is rumored that 301s and 302s may be treated similarly, but you can never be too sure. 302 redirects are a touch more complicated to set up and maintain than the 301 redirects so please use them sparingly and put in the time to be sure that you know what you are doing if you choose this route. If at all possible, try to use a 301 redirect. A poorly configured 302 redirect could be very bad as far as your site’s search engine visibility.

307 Redirect     

The type of redirect known as 307 came to be after the 302 redirect. The 307 redirect should only be used when you need a temporary redirect, and the server has been confirmed to be 1.1 compatible. An example of a time to use this is during site maintenance. It is all but impossible to know with any certainty if the search engines have identified a page as compatible so it is best to just use a 302 redirect, even if the content has been moved only temporarily.

Meta Refresh Redirect     

Meta refreshes are a type of redirect on the page level, not the server level. They are slow and terrible as far as SEO goes. These are the boxes no one likes to see that pop-up and say something along the lines of, “You will be redirected in five seconds,” and then there is the outdated looking countdown. No one likes these; please avoid if possible.

404 Errors     

When this message is displayed, it means the website can’t be reached on the server. Whether the URL was typed in incorrectly or the page has been deleted, this is not a good thing. This message could also appear if a redirect is not set up properly. Generally, a 404 error means that the website or web page no longer exists. It is in the best interest of your site to at the very least have a customized 404 error in which the user can get back to the main site instead of reaching a dead end. That is a sure way to lose traffic to your site.

410 Errors     

410 errors will come in to play if a site contains content that has been indexed but should not have been. It will tell Google never revisit this page because it no longer exists. This is good because then it will no longer show up in search engine results. An example of when this could come in handy is if you own a business that no longer offers a particular service. The page about that service is no longer needed. Besides, you would not want it to show up in search engine results because you may attract unwanted, mistaken customers.


How To Check Your Redirects      

There are several different tools available to assist you in checking to see if your redirects are functioning properly. One example is a Chrome browser extension called Link Redirect Trace. It checks for broken or incorrect redirects and alerts you so you can make changes and preserve your SEO ranking.

Another tool is the Google Search Console. This allows you to check for 404 errors and fix them without having to look at each page.

Finally, Content Forest is a tool in which you can copy over your URL and paste it to check for redirects. If any exist, it will provide you with a code to go with the URL and map the path of your redirects. This allows you to check for errors easily.


How to Keep Your Current SEO Rankings While Redirecting     

When redirecting one URL to another, it is critical to do everything you can to persevere the original page’s SEO value. We already know that serving a 301 is the best way to go when you want to keep your SEO rankings because it tells the bots that the page has moved permanently.

Keep in mind that when moving a page from one URL to another URL, the bots will take some time to find the 301, recognize it, and credit the new page with the rankings of its predecessor. This process can take even longer if the crawlers do not visit the page very often or if the new does not properly resolve.


Why It Matters    

When you set up redirects, it is vital that you do not lose or harm your SEO rankings. SEO rankings are imperative to getting visitors to your site. Whether you are trying to sell something, spread knowledge or just enjoy a hobby, changes are the more people who find your site, the better. This is infinitely so if you are trying to sell things.

If you have a successful website that for one reason or another you need to redirect, it would be detrimental if it was not set up properly and you lost all that you had worked for. Along those same lines, even if your site was not successful, you could still lose what little rankings you once had if the redirects are not set up properly.

Depending on the circumstances and reasons for needing the redirects, it may be worth looking into if you could avoid redirecting. This cannot always be done, however.


Final Words     

Redirects, when done properly, are a seamless way to get your website’s users from one URL to another. In a perfect world, the switch will be instant and they will be none the wiser. On the back end, this will not harm your SEO rankings whatsoever. It will not take you much time since all you have to do is copy and paste some very simple text. This can be found for free online in an array of places. It will not cost you any money unless you need to hire someone to help you, but the process is straightforward. If you have figured out how to set up your website, chances are you will be able to figure out how to set up redirects if need be. It will not slow down your site.

There are hardly any drawbacks to using redirects, especially if it means visitors will see a newer, better, cleaner, more updated or nicer looking website. That will be beneficial to everyone, most importantly you, the creator and person who will financially benefit from the increased good feedback. There are many hoops to jump through when designing a wonderful website and this is one of the easier ones to get through, and it is totally worth it.      

It is of the utmost importance to utilize the available tools to ensure that your redirects are set up properly. Not only can you easily find text to copy and paste for free to set up the redirects, but there are many free tools to check them as well. There is no excuse to have your redirects not work or harm your SEO rankings. Do yourself a favor and double check your work.


Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.


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