A 301 redirect instructs the browser that the page requested is not available at the entered URL and can instead be found at a new address. This automatically redirects the browser to the unique URL, where the relocated content is found. Typically, these redirects are not noticed by the user, as they can seem seamless to the eye.
This redirect is the friendliest option for SEO when content or a web address is moved from one URL to another.
How 301 redirects help user experience
Throughout a website’s lifetime, it is very common for its URLs to change. There are various reasons, from website optimisation or even pages being removed, etc.
Since URLs are used in many places on the internet, they can contain links to many other sites. If a page’s URL is changed without proper redirects, all links to the former URL will arrive at a 404 page, hindering the user experience.
An example could be moving content from http://www.calibrenine.com.au/content to http://www.calibrenine.com.au/bettercontent.
If a link on the site points to the old link (calibrenine.com.au/content), a visitor to the site will reach a 404-page due to the page moving.
If a 301 redirect is implemented from http://www.calibrenine.com.au/content to http://www.calibrenine.com.au/bettercontent, the site will take visitors to the new page without error.
Why 301 redirects impact SEO
301 Redirects, also known as “permanent redirects,” are considered the best application for URL changes. These are recommended by Google for URL changes and are the best option for SEO.
This helps prevent site users from landing on a 404 error page and keeps the site’s benefits from external links to the old URL.
Since a 301 redirect is permanent, it communicates with search engines that the content has moved permanently and allows for all benefits (backlink authority, for example) to pass from the old URL to the newly created URL.
When to use a 301 redirect
There are many instances where a 301 redirect can be used, which can include:
- URLs needing to be changed for SEO improvements
- Website redesign or refresh that impacts page locations
- Moving to a new domain
- Removing a page without losing the link benefits
- Other websites linking to the site incorrectly
Check regularly to see if you need to implement 301 redirects
Using Google Search Console, you can see if requests for URLs are met with a 404 error.
Checking for and redirecting any broken links is essential for SEO and also for general website maintenance.
Implementing 301 redirects
Most content management systems (CMS) will have either built-in 301 redirect capabilities or the option for plugins to be installed that allows for manageable 301 implementation.
You might have to speak to your web developer to ensure that your website’s server settings allow for redirects to be made. Sites that don’t use a CMS or have bulk redirect compatibility might find it simpler to upload redirect instructions directly to the server.
How to see pages that are redirected
A handy tool to see which pages are being redirected would be a crawl simulator. A free version of Screaming Frog SEO Spider crawls a site and then produces a list of 301 redirects found.
What’s the difference between 301 and 302?
While 301 and 302 are similar, they both produce very different results. 302 redirects are used when content has temporarily been moved but intends to move back to the original URL. 302 redirects do not transfer any link benefits and are generally considered to be not friendly for SEO and typically avoided. If your page has been permanently moved, always choose a 301 redirect.