Best Practices for Using 301 Redirects Without Hurting Your SEO

Mar 24, 2015

A redirect is simply a method of forwarding from one URL to another. There are certain situations where a webmaster will want to send users and search engines to a different URL than the one originally requested, and setting up a redirect is the best way to accomplish this.

301 best practices

The three primary types of redirects are:
1. The 301 redirect – This is a permanent redirect, and passes 90 to 99 percent of any linking juice (ranking power) of the original URL to the redirected page. In the majority of cases, this is the preferred method of setting up redirects on a website.

2. The 302 redirect is a temporary redirect that passes no linking juice whatsoever – In the original HTTP version 1.0, the status code of the 302 meant “Moved Temporarily;” in the later 1.1 version, this was changed to “Found.” If your content is being moved temporarily, a 302 redirect is probably the best way to go.

3. Meta refreshes are redirects implemented at the page level rather than the server level – They tend to be slower and are not recommended for SEO purposes because they pass only a portion of the link juice. You’ve probably encountered these redirects while waiting for a page to load that contains the text “If you are not redirected within 5 seconds, click here.”

Why You Might Consider Implementing 301 Redirects
One of the most important reasons for using 301 redirects is to preserve the SEO authority and link juice that you worked so hard to acquire if you need to make changes to your website or related site elements. Some of the situations that might call for implementing 301 redirects include:

  • You buy a new domain name and want to redirect your existing site to the new domain.
  • You want to redirect the links and authority associated with an existing domain that you’ve purchased over to your existing website.
  • You want to merge two existing websites into one.
  • You change over to a new CMS (content management system) platform that has a new URL structure.
  • You’re retiring older pages.
  • You’re doing a major website redesign.

Implementing 301 Redirects without Losing Your SEO Authority
In most cases, the 301 redirect is the best method for redirecting users and search engines from a page that has permanently moved to its new URL. It’s a seamless transition for the user, and serves to notify the search engines that the content can be found at the new location. Any link juice associated with the original page will transfer over to the new URL. Be advised that it generally takes time for the search engines to discover the 301 redirect, and to transfer the ranking authority and trust to the new page.

If you’re moving an entire site to a new domain, don’t transfer everything at once. Move the contents of one directory or subdomain first to test the process. After you implement a 301 redirect for those pages, verify that they are appearing in the search results before you move the entire site. Be sure to verify that both external and internal links are pointing to the new domain.

If you’re redesigning your website, move your site first before you launch the redesign. This makes the transition less confusing for your website visitors, and can help you troubleshoot problems that might arise faster and easier.

Add the new site to your Google Webmaster Tools account and be sure to verify your ownership. Finally, create and submit a new sitemap that lists the URLs that have been transferred to the new site. This alerts the search engines to the changes that you’ve made, and prompts the search bots to crawl and index your new site.