Few people take the time to research and understand how URL redirections work, until it’s too late and they’ve suffered loss of traffic to their website. Understanding redirects is key when working with website development or promotion; as it can make or break your website’s success. Take some time to read and learn about URL redirects to avoid disappointments – trust me, you won’t regret it.
URL redirection is an SEO technique that makes a single web page accessible from more than one URL. Why would anyone want multiple URLs to point to the same page? People and businesses use this technique for a variety of reasons. Let’s explore some the reasons!
Multiple domains due to misspellings
Sometimes redirects are used because people misspell some words. For example, if developers plan to build a mall called Happy Time Mall, management may buy the URLs HappyTimeMall.com, HappeeTimeMall.com, HappyThymeMall.com and HapyTimeMall.com, then direct all four URLs to the correct site. By accounting for common misspellings, redirects will ensure people who mistype don’t land on a 404 error page.
Website migration and URL changes
In other cases, a business may want to maintain existing landing pages when changing its web address after a rebranding campaign. In another circumstance, a business may stop selling a specific product, let’s say black gloves. In such event, the business may consider directing people who click on the black glove product link back to the general gloves landing page.
No matter the reason, there’s always a right way, and lots of wrong ways, to redirect a URL from one webpage to another. When migrating the entire website, the stakes are raised even higher. If the right redirects aren’t set up the right way, the website that moves to a new address can suffer an immediate crash in traffic. You’re also likely to suffer drastic drops in search rankings as Google may develop doubts about your website’s integrity due to poor user experience.
301 redirects: The only choice for full domain transfers
When transferring all of a website’s pages to a new URL (http://www.MyWebsite.com.html becomes http://www.MyWebsite.com), it’s always best to use permanent 301 redirects. 302 and 307 redirects are temporary measures that are rarely the best choices for a single web page, and never the right choice for an entire domain transfer.
Some people mistakenly use 302 and 307 temporary redirects simply because they’re easier to set up. In some cases, Google disregards temporary redirects because the search engine assumes the webmaster meant to use a 301 permanent redirect but made a mistake.
301 redirects: Preserving domain authority and providing continuity
Permanent 301 redirects preserve the continuity of your website’s SEO authority. With 301 redirects, between 90% to 99% of a site’s SEO authority, which includes search signals, pages indexed and rankings, transfers from an old URL to the updated URL. Also, when you don’t redirect the old version of your website to a new URL, you risk splitting your domain authority, a numeric score that predicts how well a site will perform.
Guidelines for ensuring success with redirects
301 redirects work even if the pages aren’t identical. In fact, several different pages can redirect to the same new destination. Google doesn’t mind if the pages aren’t exact, as long as the pages contain similar information and keywords, and neither the original nor the destination page are irrelevant. Google takes user experience into consideration when assessing redirects.
It’s important to note that the 301 redirects should remain in place for the entire life of the website. The moment they’re taken down, the site loses the attributed domain authority. Also, penalties can transfer right along with URLs. If your old website has any toxic links, be sure to remove those links before redirecting the pages to their new home.
When transferring an entire domain, it’s best to include every URL in the redirect map. Every crawlable and indexed webpages has link authority. The more 301 redirects, the more link authority is transferred from the old site to the new site.
With very large websites, or those with a peculiar construction, a complete 301 redirect map might not be possible. In such cases, pages with the most link authority should be prioritized. The following two types of pages should always take priority:
- Those with the highest number of natural search visits
- Those with the highest number of backlinks
It’s almost always a bad idea to redirect to a site’s homepage. Instead, redirects should always point to an internal page.
Conduct an Audit with a trace redirect extension tool
Your SEO analysis will have to include a full examination of redirects, which is only possible with an audit. To assess the health of a site’s redirects, webmasters should conduct an audit using a redirect trace extension tool. Here are a few elements to look for during your audit:
- Were any links lost in a website migration?
- Did page speed drops due to slow redirects?
- Is there any use of 302, 307, or any other bad redirects?
- Is an unknown URL directing to your site?
- Does a shortened URL point to an irrelevant website?
- Are there too many redirect hops?
- Are both advertising networks and link affiliates optimized?
- Do any hacker websites have a redirects pointing to your site?
You should also be able to use your extension tool to examine the robots.txt of every hop, and use cookie sets to shed light on affiliate ad links. Make sure you choose a tool capable of checking competitor links and discovering SEO issues both on and off page.
Finally, it’s clear that Google doesn’t like redirect chains. If there’re too many redirects, Google will get frustrated and stop following. Therefore, Redirects should always point directly to the destination URL, instead of leveraging redirect chains.
Let Google know you’re moving
If you’re going to redirect a domain, letting Google know about the transfer will make the transition and URL indexing easier. When you notify Google, the search engine will update its index for the new URL for 180 days. During that time period, Googlebot will be able to index and crawl the pages at the new website. Google’s change of address tool is fairly simple, but there’re a few things to keep in mind:
- Move your content and set up your 301 directive before you notify Google
- Use Search Console to add and verify your new website
- Request an address change
Without permanent 301 redirects, domain transfers can result in immediate drops in traffic and search rankings alike. 301 redirects transfer SEO authority more comprehensively than temporary redirects, and they help to convince Google that the new website is as credible and trustworthy as the old one.