301 redirections

301 redirects

301 redirects: How to use URL redirects for SEO benefit

You may be thinking about changing your website. Moving a page here, changing the name of a URL there. Well, it’s very important to redirect URLs if you want to keep and improve your website SEO. Changing your URL structure can have serious consequences for website health, and in some cases, can completely destroy your website traffic.

This is especially true for more established websites that have an existing backlink profile.

I’ve seen firsthand how successful redirects can improve a site’s organic search presence while giving a better user experience. As an SEO consultant, I’ll share some useful tips and cases with you in this article.

First though, what is a backlink profile?

A backlink profile is a complete list of all the backlinks that link to your website. These backlinks are very important for SEO because they help search engines figure out how authoritative, relevant, and trustworthy your site is.

Here is a screenshot showing some of the backlinks in our backlink profile. This insight comes from Ahrefs SEO tool and is something I regularly check out on client websites.

Orion marketing backlink profile

I use this backlink insight to assess the quality of backlinks, to see what backlinks competitors are creating, and to identify high quality sites to use for future link building works.

Components of a backlink profile

Here is a short explanation of the different metrics I check out when reviewing a backlink profile.

  • Quantity of backlinks: The number of backlinks pointing to your website. While a higher number of backlinks are generally sought after, the focus should be on quality versus quantity.
  • Quality of backlinks: High-authority backlinks from reputable news outlets and industry blogs are more valuable than those from low-quality or spammy sites. The Domain Rating (DR) is a useful metric when considering quality, A higher DR is preferred.
  • Anchor text: Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in hyperlinks, and helps search engines understand the page’s context. Publishing relevant and natural anchor text avoids over-optimisation or keyword stuffing.
  • Diversity of backlinks: The variety of linking or referring domains. A diverse backlink profile with links from many different sites is more natural and beneficial than having multiple links from a single domain.
  • Follow vs. nofollow links: Follow links pass on link equity (ranking power) to the linked site, while nofollow links do not. A healthy backlink profile typically includes a mix of both types.

Understanding URL redirects

A URL redirect is a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they initially requested. There are several types of redirects, but the most common are:

  • 301 redirects (permanent): Used when a page has permanently moved to a new location.
  • 302 redirects (temporary): Used when a page has temporarily moved.
  • 307 redirects (temporary): Similar to 302 but preserves the request method.

Why redirects are important for SEO

Redirects are vital in managing changes in your website structure, ensuring that users and search engines can easily find your content. Here’s why:

  • Maintaining link equity: 301 redirects pass most of the original page’s link equity (ranking power) to the new page.
  • Improving user experience: Redirects help users find the right content without encountering broken links.
  • Preventing duplicate content: Redirects can consolidate similar pages, avoiding penalties from search engines.

Use URL redirects in these situations

1. Redirecting old pages to new ones

When we update a client’s website, we often find URLs that don’t work anymore. In one case, a client with an e-commerce site had a lot of old product pages that weren’t useful anymore. We used 301 redirects to send people from these old pages to new product categories that were more useful to them.

This way of doing things kept the link value from old pages and made the whole user experience better.

We also had another client who changed their site and the result was that URLs we had previously built links to, were deleted, and resulted in a 404 error. Subsequently the SEO benefit of these links were also lost.

Later on, we were involved in managing the client site again, we redirected old pages to newer ones, helping preserve previous SEO work while sending visitor to live pages.

E.g. we had previously worked on this URL https://www.envogueskin.com.au/matrix-pdo-mono-threads/

and had to 301 redirect it to this new page https://www.envogueskin.com.au/brands/mint-mono-threads/

2. Managing site migrations

It is very important to use the right redirects when moving your site, like when you change your domain name or move from HTTP to HTTPS. We set up 301 redirects from all HTTP pages to their HTTPS versions for a client who was moving to a safer site. They were able to keep their search engine rankings, and this made their page safer and more trustworthy.

3. Combining multiple pages

Sometimes, it’s better to combine information into one page rather than making multiple thin or duplicate ones.

For a chiropractic client who ran their own blog, they had several posts about the same subject – how do chiropractic adjustments work. So we set out to put them all together into one long guide and used 301 redirects to send traffic from the old posts to the new guides.

This approach made the site better overall and made it more authoritative on certain topics.

You can now see that this page ranks for a range of keywords related to how a chiropractic adjustment works (Ahrefs screen shot shown) https://www.aurumhealthcare.com.au/how-do-chiropractic-adjustments-work/

Aurum Health Care backlink profile

4. Fixing broken links

Broken links can hurt your SEO and user experience. For a client’s website audit, we identified several 404 errors (pages not found). By setting up 301 redirects from these broken links to relevant, active pages, we improved their site’s functionality and search engine ranking.

Implementing 301 redirects

The easiest way I use to manage 301 redirects is via a WordPress plugin. For WordPress websites, plugins offer an easy way to manage 301 redirects without technical knowledge.

Specifically, I use the Redirection plugin, a popular and user-friendly plugin for managing redirects.

Wordpress redirection plugin

Here is a step-by-step guide to using the Redirection plugin:

  1. Install and activate the plugin: Go to “Plugins” > “Add New,” search for “Redirection,” install, and activate it.
  2. Set up the redirect:
    • Go to “Tools” > “Redirection.”
    • Click on “Add New.”
    • Enter the old URL in the “Source URL” field.
    • Enter the new URL in the “Target URL” field.
    • Click “Add Redirect.”

There are other ways to manage redirections, including:

  • using .htaccess (Apache server)
  • using cPanel
  • using Nginx server.

How long do 301 redirects take to work?

301 redirects are effective immediately after being implemented. However, the time it takes for search engines to recognise and process the redirection varies.

Within a few days, search engines such as Google will begin to recognise the change.It may take many weeks before the adjustments are completely reflected in search engine rankings and indexing.

How many 301 redirects are too many

While there is no limit to the amount of 301 redirects you can use, there are best practices and considerations to ensure they do not harm your website’s performance or SEO.

Too many links can slow down page load time, which is bad for the user experience. Each redirect causes a small delay, which can add up if several are joined together.

Avoid reroute chains, which send one URL to another URL that then sends you to another URL. Each URL should, ideally, go straight to the end destination.

Additionally, managing a large number of redirects can become complex and error-prone. It’s easier to maintain a smaller, well-organised set of redirects.

Key Takeaways

  • A URL redirect sends users and search engines to a different URL, with common types including permanent (301 redirects), temporary (302 redirects), and temporary (307 redirects), which preserve the request method.
  • Plan redirects strategically. You should only use redirects when you have to, like when you need to move your site, combine your content, or fix broken links.
  • Use direct redirects. Make sure that every old URL goes straight to the new URL, without any extra steps.
  • To keep track of your links and fix any problems that come up, use Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, or other SEO auditing tools.
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