Redirects are an important part of SEO or website maintenance. They need to be understood and used correctly in order to give a site the best chance of achieving results and revenue.
Redirection is bound to be required at some point throughout a website’s lifespan, particularly for larger sites, and choosing the right kind is vital. This guide will take you through the different types of redirects and when to use them for your site.
A redirect is the forwarding of one URL to another URL. They send both users and search engines to a different page on a website, or a different website entirely, than they originally requested.
This is useful for keeping traffic when a user attempts to get to a deleted URL or an old domain for example. They can simply be redirected to a new and relevant page or a new domain.
If redirects aren’t implemented properly, then users and search engine bots will most likely be led to a 404 error page, which is not ideal for anyone.
There are many reasons why you might need to redirect a URL. Here are some of the most common cases in which redirects are needed:
There are several different types of redirects. The main ones you should know about are:
These types of redirects are described below, with examples of when you might consider using each type.
The 301 permanent redirect is the most common of the redirects, and in most cases is the best option.
It tells search engines that a page has been permanently removed or moved elsewhere and is no longer available at this URL, directing them to another URL instead. Eventually the old URL will no longer be indexed.
301 redirects pass on the link juice (ranking authority) of the old page to the redirected page. It is therefore the most appropriate redirect to use in order to prevent losing SEO value.
301 redirects are perfect for sending users to an alternative page when they attempt to visit a discarded page on a site. Only use the 301 redirect when you are sure you won’t be using the old URL again. If you intend to use that URL in the future, opt instead for a temporary redirect.
There are two major versions of HTTP, which dictate how URLs work on the Internet – HTTP 1.0 and the newer HTTP 1.1. In HTTP 1.0, 302 redirects mean a temporary redirect from one URL to another. In HTTP 1.1, it means the requested page content is found, but exists under a different location on the site.
Generally, a 302 redirect is used for temporarily redirecting one URL to another. This could be implemented when you intend to reuse the redirected URL again in the future.
302 redirects tell search engines that this page content is currently not available at this location, and to look at the alternative URL instead for now, but not to treat this as a permanent move.
As 302s are considered temporary, they do not pass on SEO value from one URL to another like a 301 redirect would. This means it is possible to reclaim the old URL with its SEO value left intact. Therefore, you should only use a 302 if the move is definitely only temporary. Don’t use them when moving a domain or carrying out large-scale restructures on a site for instance.
Although Google have said that in some cases, 302s can be treated the same as 301s, the safest bet is to use a 301 when the redirect needs to be permanent.
307 redirects are used only on HTTP 1.1. They act the same as a 302 redirect would on HTTP 1.0.
307 redirects are to be used as temporary redirects. They should only be implemented when page content has just moved temporarily, and the server has been identified by search engines as HTTP 1.1 compatible.
However, as it is difficult to determine whether search engines have identified the page as 1.1 compatible or not, it tends to be safest to use a 302 redirect when temporary redirection is required.
A meta refresh is a redirect that’s performed at page level rather than server level. They tend to be a slower type of redirect and aren’t really suitable for SEO purposes.
These redirects are commonly used with a countdown and some text saying “Click here if you’re not redirected in 5 seconds”. They do pass on some link value from the old URL to the new, but provide poor usability and aren’t recommended with SEO in mind.
When it comes to implementing redirects for your site, be careful to choose the most suitable method depending on what it is you wish to achieve with these. For example, when moving your site to a new domain and wishing to keep the SEO value, make sure to 301 redirect your pages. While performing maintenance on a certain page and wishing to direct users elsewhere in the meantime, consider a 302 redirect.
Having read this guide to redirects, you’ll hopefully now understand the different options for redirecting pages and know when each of them are appropriate to use.