Websites and URLs change all the time; that’s nothing new. Maybe you rebranded your company or decided that three pages should be consolidated into one. There are tons of reasons why you might want to redirect visitors to a new URL, and that’s why 301 redirects exist. But, how do 301 redirects impact your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts? Let’s take a look.
What is a 301 Redirect?
Let’s start with the obvious question — what is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect or URL redirect permanently sends visitors who try to go to one URL to another specified location. Simply put, 301s tell the browsers, “This page doesn’t exist anymore,” and “This information lives here at this new page.” The browser, in return, says, “Got it! I’ll send the visitor to this new page right now.”
How Do 301 Redirects Impact SEO?
First of all, why would you need to use a 301 redirect in the first place? You might need to redirect a page for reasons such as:
- Finding broken URLs
- Moving a page to a new location
- Changing your domain name
- Deleting pages
If you don’t understand how to incorporate 301 redirects, you could easily cause a frustrating user experience and an adverse SEO situation. Let’s say you initially hosted a blog on a subdomain called “http://blog.website.com.” After moving some things around, it’s now hosted in a subfolder called “http://www.website.com/blog.” The original blog has already been indexed by the search engines and may have comments and bookmarks associated with it, so you don’t want to wipe it away completely. If you were to simply delete it, visitors would see a 404 page because that page no longer exists. But, if you reroute them using a 301 redirect, anyone who visits the old URLs will still have access to the information they were looking for, and the search engines will eventually update their index over time.
Long story short, you can make changes while keeping your traffic.
Before Google changed the way PageRank worked back in 2016, a 301 redirect could cause you to lose some value; that amount is uncertain, but around 15% was a widely accepted assumption. Today, Google has changed its algorithms, and 301 redirects don’t have nearly as much negative impact on SEO value as they did a few years ago.
Fixing Existing 301 Redirect Issues
The following are some common FAQs and answers regarding 301 redirects:
Do I need an HTTPS version of my site?
While you don’t necessarily need your site to be secure, your customers will likely be paying attention to this, as will the search engines. Having a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate adds an extra layer of protection for your visitors and can boost you in Google’s rankings.
Can I keep 301 status codes on my sitemap?
The best practice is to get rid of any 301 status codes. Google looks to sitemaps when it’s crawling and indexing to understand what your site is about. If 301 redirect pages still exist in your sitemap, Google might continue to revisit the old pages, which is a waste of crawl budget (the level of attention search engines give your site).
Do I need to fix redirect chains?
Yes. Just like you don’t want visitors seeing 404 errors, you don’t want Google seeing multiple redirects when it’s crawling your site; they damage the user experience and slow things down. The number of redirects you have should ideally be no more than three, but definitely fewer than five.
If you’re looking for a way to optimize your search engine status and make the most of your marketing efforts, Zero Gravity Marketing is here to help. Reach out to us today to get started!