What is a 301 redirect?

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Feb 5th 2021

What is a 301 redirect?

301 redirects have a central role to play in your web vitals, overall website health and user experience.

A 301 redirect is created when there is a need to send website visitors to a new and permanent live URL, when the URL they originally requested has been removed or disabled from a website.

As a 301 redirect example, we might have previously had an article https://redirectlyapp.com/insights/what-is-a-301-redirect, but we then chose to give the content its own dedicated page, in which case we’d use a 301 redirect to send website visitors to https://redirectlyapp.com/what-is-a-301-redirect.

301 redirects are a good thing to see - it means a website is being cleansed and kept up to date, which is a good sign for website architecture and overall user experience.

Why should I do a 301 redirect?

A 301 permanent redirect should always point to a relevant or comparable page so that users are offered the best possible user experience. Website users can become frustrated when they’re not delivered the content they expect, which leads to high bounce rates and exit rates. If no 301 redirect is put in place, a user will find themselves greeted with a 404 Error and no one wants that.

If a 301 redirect hasn’t been put in place, any backlink page value the original URL had can be lost and not directed to the new, live URL. This leads to loses in website traffic and can have a devastating effect on impressions, clickthrough rate and website conversion rates.

When should a 301 redirect be used?

There are several status codes for HTTP responses and a “301” redirect is only one of them. 301 redirects should be used for a page redirect that is going to be permanent. The 301 status code tells search engines that any links featuring the old URL need to redirect to the new webpage.

They’re used when moving to a new domain and cleansing URLs, including combing the content from 2 similar pages that might have comparable content and would benefit from a merger.

Does a 301 redirect affect SEO?

The short answer is yes, but only if you don’t put your 301 permanent redirects in place correctly (or at all). By putting a 301 redirect in place, you’re actively telling search engines and users alike that the page that they’re looking for has permanently moved to a new URL. This tells search engines that the content has moved to a new location and will carry any previous link weighting/equity from the original URL to the new URL.

This can and will likely take some time for search engines to discover a 301, acknowledge it, and transfer the trust and ranking of the previous page. It is possible to move this process along a little by using Search Control to request indexing. In some instances, it’s important to prepare for a potential drop in website traffic whilst this process takes place.

Are 301 redirects bad for SEO?

301 redirects aren’t bad for SEO, but they’ve certainly been given a bad reputation in the past. This is usually down to a bad 301 redirect strategy, for instance, not taking the time to redirect users to relevant content. More often than not, users are simply directed to the homepage from what might have originally been a helpful article.

That can be very frustrating for a user who needs particular information. It’s also a red flag to search engines and those such as Google are intelligent enough to realise the content is vastly different, in which case, say goodbye to that trust and ranking.

How do I do a 301 redirect?

When redirecting a URL the process is generally the same for most development platforms. We’ve written articles on how to do a bulk redirect for WordPress, Apache using .hta access, Nginx using server-level configuration, too.

It is, however, technically more difficult to set up 301 redirects and is largely dependant on the situation - whether you are redirecting a www. to a non www. (and vice versa), whether you are retaining the filename or not, whether you are using Apache mod_rewrite or not, and various other complications.

We’ve created a list of CMS tools and integrations for 301 redirects, but when it comes to Redirectly it makes the notoriously time-consuming task easy. Put down the spreadsheet. Redirectly can automatically crawl a website or a sitemap can be uploaded to match against the new websites URLs.

This creates a full list of pages, which are automatically matched if they’re equal, and will provide a list of URLs that still need matching. Once complete, the list can be exported for Apache, Craft, WordPress, Nginx or as a CSV file for a developer to then manage and upload. Learn more about Redirectly’s features.

301 redirect an old domain to a new domain?

Often daunting but an entirely necessary process in most instances, moving your website to a new domain can have a lot of implications. A rebrand? Loss of traffic? SEO? If done correctly using 301 redirects, it’s possible to preserve ranking in SERPs and any domain authority a website previously had.

Ensure both domains are verified, a website and its database(s) are backed up and permissions are available within Google Analytics to change domain settings. Changing domain names means placing 301 redirects on all of the individual URLs. It can become especially complicated if a website’s architecture has changed too. For example, if /blog has become /resources. This is where Redirectly becomes especially useful for a full site migration onto a new domain.

Learn more about how Redirectly works in our handy how to guides.

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