A 301 redirect is the permanent redirect from one page URL to another. A user’s browser automatically directs them to a new destination page that’s been created out of the 301 redirect.
More importantly for search engines it tells them that the page has now permanently moved to the new URL. That means that the search engine won’t set to work on indexing the redirected web page and will retain previous backlinks, domain authority and SEO ranking.
First things first, it’s important to decide on your canonical URL (your preferred domain), so that you can maintain one variable for all of your web pages. If you have multiple versions of a URL or domain you risk other websites backlinking to the incorrect URL, which reduces the amount of direct clicks to your preferred domain.
301 redirects effectively merge two URLs (the old with the new) and all variables of a domain, for instance:
… would all automatically redirect to https://redirectlyapp.com/ when choosing it as your preferred domain.
So, if an external website is using a URL that is not your preferred domain when backlinking, users could be viewing content that you don’t want them to see or that URL could be ranking on search engines too.
A 301 redirect means that the user is much more likely be linked to the correct URL and search engines consider all ranking metrics (such as inbound links) on a 301 redirected page, to pass over to your preferred URL.
It’s worth noting that the effects aren’t instant as search engines like Google will have to crawl the website and recognise 301 redirects, however, in time it will but you might see a drop in organic and direct traffic whilst Google crawls and recalibrates pages to the new 301 redirect.
In any case, a canonical URL is very important for maintaining domain authority and gaining more traffic to your website. Read more about 301 redirects and 5 common URL redirect mistakes to avoid.