What is Redirection?

Redirection is the process of forwarding one URL to another. Ensuring that you are using the correct type of redirect for your requirements is essential so that you are not giving search engines incorrect information about the status of your pages which may then lead to loss of organic traffic. The two main types of redirects are: 301 redirects and 302 redirects. 301 and 302 are both HTTP status codes that tell Google the success of the requests when trying to access a page.

Reasons to redirect

Webmasters use redirects for a variety of different reasons, such as:

  • The original URL is broken
  • You have acquired an SSL certificate and are going to secure your whole website
  • The webpage no longer exists
  • You are performing maintenance on a webpage and want the user to reach a temporary landing page until the necessary changes have been made
  • You have deleted old pages for products/services you are no longer offering
  • You switch CMS platforms
  • Someone is linking to a page that 404s and you want to push that link equity elsewhere
  • You have implemented a new navigation structure

301 vs 302

301 Redirects

A 301 redirect, also known as 301 Moved Permanently, is a permanent redirect that tells Google bots that the original page has moved to a new location and the original URL no longer exists. By putting a permanent redirect, a 301 redirect, in place this applies all the qualities of the original page to the redirected page such as link weight and any penalties it may have endured. This will not only tell search engines the original page has changed location, but also that the content found on that page can be found at the new URL. Once the 301 redirect has been put in place, the next time Google crawls your site it will remove the previous URL from its’ index and replace it with the new URL. 301 redirects are the most effective method of redirection for SEO as you will be able to retain over 90% of the historical SEO authority and search signals from the previous version of your URL.

302 Redirects

A 302 redirect, also known as 302 Found, is a temporary redirect that is commonly put in place when webmasters are performing maintenance at a specific URL but plan to re-enable the original URL once work is complete. 302 redirects are also used by developers who want to show their clients potential changes for a new page without damaging the rankings and trust of the original URL. However, if 302 redirects are placed as a permanent solution, they can largely damage your site’s rankings and traffic value. 302 rankings do not pass on the qualities of the original page such as link weight and page authority so they should only be used as a short term solution.

As it is a lot easier to create 302 redirects using Javascript or a simple meta tag than create 301 redirect commands in your .htaccess file, Google is aware of this and have stated they can recognise when webmasters have made a human error and really meant 301. However, it is not worth the risk and you should always use 301 redirects to prevent Google from indexing your old URL and showing both URL’s in the search results therefore treating the new URL as duplicate.

How to Set Up 301 Redirects

If your website is built on WordPress you can easily download a 301 Redirect plugin to take the hard work out of redirecting a bulk list of URLs. Most plugins enable you to enter the paths of the URLs you wish to be redirected and to be redirected to, as well as giving you an option of the redirect being 301 or 302.

However, if you do not have a WordPress site or wish to hardcode the redirects, then you will need to use a .htaccess file. An .htaccess file is a text document that can be found in the same location as the root webserver. Any changes that are to be made within this document should be done with caution as one small error in a syntax may cause your website to not display.

For example, to redirect one URL to another on the same domain you would use the following syntax:

Redirect 301 /oldfile.htm /newfile.htm

To redirect all files with a certain extension such as redirecting mydomain.com/file.php to my mydomain.com/file.htm you would use the syntax:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .php$
RewriteRule ^(.*).php$ /$1.htm [R=301,L]

Are you in the process of getting a new website and need help mapping your URLs? Does your developer need SEO guidance? Get in touch to discuss your project!