Restructuring your website? 301 Redirects can save the day

Everyone is familiar with status code 404- Not Found. You do not want visitors to your website to encounter this error. In case you are upgrading your website to a new URL, you can forward the visits to the new location through the server, using a 301 redirect. 301 redirects come in handy in case you are upgrading, redesigning, or moving your website. It is not that these redirects are complex to implement, still many website owners and developers simply forget about them. In the process, this causes a serious hit to SEO efforts and can completely wipe away ranking in search.

To avoid something like this to happen, make sure it is incorporated into the to-do list for each project plan. Creating and managing 301 redirects is like brushing your teeth, simple but very important. It should be a core part of website design and development.

Time and again, we find frustrated website owners and bloggers reaching out on social media in case of failure. They have been on the receiving end due to a lack of 301 redirects which should have been done while updating or redesigning the websites and blogs.

So developers and SEO experts need to educate themselves on the importance of 301 redirects, which are really easy to implement actually.

Let’s do a quick recap on what 301 redirects are and few ways to go about it.

What is a 301 Redirect?

Simply put, a 301 redirect takes the visitor from the old web page location to a new one when it has been moved permanently. A user may input the old URL. If 301 redirects are applied, the server will send back the status code 301 – Permanently Moved, and then redirect you to the new location. This happens in just a couple of seconds so that a user does not see the process behind it. You will simply find yourself on the content you were looking for, but if you will look closely, the URL has changed automatically to the new one.

Other than redirecting the server, 301 redirects are also linked with the SEO of the post/page. Search engines like Google or Bing can be redirected to the new destination to access prior SEO visibility. This way ranking of the page is not affected and you can still reap the benefits of organic traffic.

When to Use a 301 Redirect

  1. You’ve changed a URL and you want your traffic and SEO history, from the old URL rerouted to the new URL.
  2. You’re merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the correct pages.
  3. There are multiple URLs to access your web page and you want all of them to land on a single destination. You can choose one of them as a canonical/preferred URL and apply 301 redirects on others to land at the same destination.

Setting Up 301 Redirects

You have a lot of options as to how you want to proceed with setting up 301 redirects. Some are high-end and more suitable for developers, while others are more user-friendly can be easily implemented by the end-users. We will discuss three methods here to use and recommend:

  1. .htaccess file for Apache

The most followed procedure for websites that are hosted on servers running Apache, is to edit your site’s .htaccess file. You can locate this file in your site’s root folder.

Here are some snippets of code for adding common types of 301 redirect via .htaccess file:

  • When you are just “moving” a site to a new domain. Place this on the OLD site:

  • When redirecting a single page:

  1. Redirection Plugin for WordPress

Are you using WordPress? Make use of the free Redirection plugin to set up 301 redirects right from within your dashboard. This plugin is very intuitive and even website owners or bloggers can use it easily. This is how it would look like:

  1. WP Engine Dashboard

It is very easy with WP Engine hosting too. 301 redirects are linked right within your WP Engine dashboard. Again this whole process becomes very innate and every regular joe can venture into their account easily and go about adding the necessary 301 redirects. It is sufficient to go through the quick tutorial about the 301 processes to get you started.

Final Thoughts

We have discussed the usability of 301 redirects in terms of SEO history and PageRank. You just need to keep a few points in mind while redirecting. Firstly, do not redirect to a page with a different intent than the original one. For example, it may infuriate a user who wanted to access your home page but lands on the blog of your website after the redirect. Also, it is better to create a redirect first before migrating your website content so your site doesn’t lose traffic and SEO ranking in the process.

If you are in the planning stage of your project, just incorporate them into your to-do list. You just need to take the time to create and load them anytime you delete content, move content, or restructure your website.