A 301 Redirect is known as a “permanent redirect” and that the webpage URL requested has moved to a new location.
The web is made up from websites interconnected to one another. URLs (Uniform Resource Locator) are effectively addresses for web pages. When a web page changes the URL it is allocated then best practice dictates that a redirect should be put in place. A 301 redirect is basically an instruction at server level that tells any web browsers requesting the URL that the page/site has moved to a new location (imagine if you moved house and setup redirection for your post – it’s effectively the same thing, just, online)
What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 permanent redirect is an instruction to web browsers to follow and load a NEW URL because the old URL has moved. The “301” part is effectively a server level header code. 301 associates the re-direction as being a permanent URL move from old to new.
How does a 301 redirect work?
A 301 re-direct works by the hosting environment/content management system telling the web browser that the URL it requested has moved. This is usually done by server level redirection or by a CMS (content management system) plugin. WordPress for example, offers hundreds of plugins that allow for 301 redirection. Re-directs in most environments are done at server level (via .htaccess or via IIS / CPANEL), however some can be done at content management level.
How does a 301 Redirect Impact on SEO?
Re-direction is more about end users, making sure that they do not end up on broken pages, which, may offer a poor user experience. Re-directs are used for SEO purposes to prevent users straying to 404 pages (broken pages). Redirects play an important part within SEO for websites where the URL structure has changed. Redirection allows users/browsers and search engine crawlers to follow and find the new URL location of content. Another benefit of redirection is the preservation of link equity (link juice) from other websites. Let’s say a website on the web links to an article on your website and you move that article, the third party link will now end up taking users to a broken page – redirection is a great way to prevent this and to maintain third party link integrity.
How does a 301 Redirect Impact on User Experience
No one likes broken links. You’ve clicked to a link from a website or search result and that’s it! 404 page cannot be found, we’ve all seen them, and, for most of us, we click BACK effectively leaving the website we intended on visiting. Broken links give users a bad user experience, enough-so that they’ll often leave a website rather than trying to navigate to find what they were originally looking for.
Bad user experience = bad for SEO.
Redirects solve this issue by making sure the end user does not end up on a broken page.
When should we use 301 redirects?
301 redirects for the most part, should be used whenever we intend to move/give a page a new URL permanently. Let’s say we intend on moving www.assertive-media.co.uk/fantastic-article-on-seo to www.assertive-media.co.uk/seo/fantastic-article then we’d look to put a 301 re-direct from the old URL to the new URL.
Not only do we retain link juice, it also means that people are unlikely to end up on a 404.
Common reasons for using a 301 redirect:
- Moving a page on a website to a new URL structure for SEO reasons
- When a page on a website is moved because the site architecture/navigation is changed
- When a page on a website is removed, i.e. a product or service no longer available or on sale
- When a website domain is completely changed
- When a third party website links to an old URL on your website
- If during a site crawl, you encounter 404 errors
- If Google Search Console reports 404 pages