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What is a 301 redirect in SEO?

8 minutes of reading
What is a 301 redirect in SEO?
Category SEO

Suppose you just moved to a new place but forgot to update your mail to the recent address. What do you expect next? Of course, all the letters that hold important information would pile up in the mailbox at your previous address. Until a moment when the thought of those mails suddenly strikes your busy mind, and you head back to the place and gauge the scenario. Then, without further ado, you would directly hurry to sign up your latest address.

What if such a case occurs on your website that you changed the URL of a webpage or moved your site to another address? All your dedicated visitors would find nothing but a 404-error page as the content they are groping for is no longer available at its original address. And that’s where 301 redirects come in.

Let’s parse through this further!


What is a 301 redirect with SEO & how does it help?

In simple terms, a 301 redirect tells the browser about the permanent moving of a page to another location. The browser takes this seriously and cooperates in redirecting the traffic intended for the page to the latest address.

301 here implies the HTTP status code of the redirected web page. Redirect beckons to the most relevant or similar live web page from the deleted or discontinued one. This is done to deliver the best user experience; further, any backlinks associated with the page wouldn’t lose any value if the old page is removed.

For instance, when overseeing the URLs, you come across one, such as https://www.sample.com/old111.html, which you might want to fix up, and thus, you might employ a 301 redirect to re-channel the traffic from an older page to a cleaner one could be, for example, https://www.sample.com/clean.

Doing this will avert the users from arriving at the earlier page, and the sites that showed backlinks to it will let the link equity pass to the new web page. Once the page has been redirected, all the backlinks should be updated to ascertain that the link value remains with the new page only.

A 301 redirect shows as “301 Moved Permanently” or “301”. This HTTP status code displays the response from the host’s server to the browser soliciting the URL. It prevents the visitors from ending up on broken or irrelevant pages on the site, which significantly aggravates the user experience. While 301 redirects also signify good maintenance of the site structure.

Do 301 redirects affect SEO?

No person who knows about SEO is oblivious of its role in making and breaking page ranking in the SERPs. To clarify, page ranks are the results of the sophisticated algorithm of Google or other search engines that operates to estimate a page’s worth.

The higher your rank in the search results, the higher your traffic. Consistent SEO efforts achieve this. Several factors can impact the SEO of a site and, thereby, its position in the SERPs. Most SEO experts highlight the correlation between Page Rank and 301 redirects, where the former is still taken as a potential ranking factor by Google.

Web pages used to lose some page rank, often deemed 15%, before 2016 when a page was redirected. However, matters changed after 2016, when 301 redirects no longer influenced Page Rank. After that, if you ever come to redirect a page to another, the new page relishes the same authority and traffic as the original one.

This is why 301 redirects are so worthwhile to enhance organic traffic. However, they can also bring about certain poignant SEO-related issues that are often not surfaced and discussed.

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When should you use a 301 (permanent) redirect?

Permanent redirects are wielded in several instances, involving relocating a page permanently to a new address. Here’s a list of the most typical scenarios where 301 redirects are used.

Deleting Web Pages

If you want to delete a page from your site, consider three options: 301 redirects, 404, or 410. You are not alone if you, too, have found yourself sunken in the sand of confusion.

Before deleting the page, ask yourself what you want. Do you want your visitors to land on a useful alternative page or want to get rid of it? If you do 301 redirects, the page will be relocated permanently; with 401, the deleted page shows an error, and 410 status specifically shows that the page has been deleted.

Shifting a page permanently to a new URL

There might arise situations where you would want to alter the site URL. It might be due to a better idea that has struck your mind, changed product name, or other reasons. Implementing 301 redirects will ensure that the search engines crawl and index the new page, divert visitors to the new URL, and maintain the rankings.

Emigrating a site to a new domain

Several reasons may push businesses to modify their domain name. For instance, they may swap from .com TLD to b.co.inTLD, or as the next step to rebranding, they may switch to a domain that showcases the new name of a business. Here, 301 redirects are used to signal the browser of the permanent address change.

Altering site structure

Site structure is often tweaked to enhance the SEO performance of the site and facilitate content categorization. Furthermore, Google and other search engines also get familiar with the way pages are connected. Similarly, 301 redirects are also considered while changing site structure, which involves subfolders such as eCommerce categories, blog categories, etc.

Going from HTTP to HTTPS

HTTPS in the domain is a potential ranking factor considered by Google. In case you have finally weighed the substance of integrating SSL into your site and moving from HTTP to HTTPS, you need to employ 301 redirects. This is done to ensure that the protocol gets indexed by Google and all the traffic aimed at the original page is steered towards the HTTPS page instead of throwing 404 on the screens.

Switching from Non-WWW to WWW URLs

Your site should be accessible on either www URL or non-www URL. If you can reach there via both URLs, you need to address the issue using 301 redirects and do away with duplicate pages.

Unifying two or more domains

If you plan to merge a certain number of ccTLDs into your chief .com domain subfolders, you will need to implement 301 redirects.

Settling ‘Trailing Slash’ hitches

Google sees URL variants with or without trailing slash as different web pages, and they are. One should remain cautious while handling trailing slashes in the URLs of pages and may use 301 redirects to point the user from one page to another.

Fixing upper-case vs. lowercase glitches

Similar to variants with or without trailing slash, URLs with upper-case and lowercase differences are deemed distinct. Even a single capitalized letter in the URL would be regarded as a different and duplicate page.

Therefore, you must use 301 redirects to settle the issue. To boot, it is always recommended to use lowercase letters while structuring URLs to avoid confusion and hassles.

Are 301 redirects bad for SEO?

Earlier until 2016, using 301 or 302 redirects resulted in dilution of Page Rank. However, this is not the case anymore. Those who ask “are redirects bad for SEO” or “do 301 redirects hurt SEO” should now prepare to celebrate that 301 redirects are one of the best SEO practices.

The queries of redirects being malicious for ranking would be answered in affirmative until 2016 when pages lost about 15% of Page Rank.

The magic of the tool lies in its ability to signal the browser about the permanent relocation of a page and inform the same to search engine bots and not to crawl the outdated URLs anymore. Updating search indexes and passing the Page Rank to the redirected page is accomplished through 301 redirects.

301 redirects aren’t inherently bad for SEO. In fact, in most cases, they are helpful, as they help in preserving traffic that the original page enjoyed. However, they must be placed strategically and correctly. Any slip in doing so could result in diverse glitches on the site, leading to Page Rank loss and traffic loss.

On the flip side, the correct implementation of 301 redirects would prevent all your hard-earned dedicated audience and your success from going down the drain. Once done with the redirect implementation, you can use a redirect checker to ensure that a particular URL has been properly redirected and scrutinize the path it is trailing. The information collected from the checker is manipulated to spot the blockages glitches such as multiple redirections of a URL in a redirect series which renders it harder for crawling the URL for Google. Redirect chains result from instances where an already redirected page is deleted, and a redirect checker helps to detect the same.

301 redirect isn’t a hairy concept to understand until you set out to implement it on your site. However, it isn’t too daunting at the same time. The only difficult thing here is to implement and manage them effectively, and you are sort of skating on thin ice when doing so. Now, you finally know the answers to “do 301 redirects hurt SEO,” “what is 301 redirects in SEO,” do redirects affect SEO, and so forth.

And voila! This is all you need to know about the concept of 301 redirects and their implementation on a site. 301 redirects are a critical part of SEO processes, which you need to execute patiently and carefully to avert any errors and put them in the right place.

iCEA Group

As a leading international digital marketing agency established in 2007, we have consistently set the standards for traffic acquisition and conversion. We proudly host Poland's largest technical department, staffed with highly skilled SEO, SEM, and UX specialists with years of experience. Our offer knows no borders! As evidenced by our successful campaigns in not only the Polish market but also in India and the United States. Driven by our dedication and expertise, we empower our clients to achieve online success.

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