Posted by Vikram Rathod
December 11, 2013
Many a times we get questions about website redirects as there are some folks who are unaware about the purpose of a redirect. Others don’t understand the technical terms used in blog posts and on other websites that gives information on the redirects. There are some who understand the concept of a redirect, however they remain confused about when to use the various kinds of redirects, viz. 301, 302 and others.
Let’s take some time to see the reasons your website might need to use a redirect followed by which, we will see the various types of redirects.
The meaning is implied in the term itself, which says that one gets redirected to another URL or page while trying to access a specific website or page. The redirect could lead to the same domain or to a different domain.
It is similar to call forwarding. The readers are forwarded to a particular location when you want the visitors to see that content on a different location.
The website redirects are necessary and useful for a number of reasons:
Preserve Link Equity When Pages Move
A well managed website is the one that constantly evolves. There are pages to be added, implementation of blog posts and the content is relocated or removed.
When a particular content of a website is moved to another location, it is important to apply a redirect code so as to divert the traffic to the new location instead of the old one. In most cases, those links will pass SEO authority to the website, which may get lost if the old URL is abandoned completely. The SEO value for the website stays intact by redirecting to the new location efficiently.
If a redirect has not been deployed, a page may get eliminated or expired. These pages will appear as 404 errors in Google Webmaster Tools stating that they are not found. Finding 404 errors on the website, you could utilize the opportunity to recapture a potentially lost traffic. You could still put your content for everyone who has bookmarked the old URL, which is no longer working.
Something that is commonly observed while doing SEO audits is that multiple versions of a page are live on a number of websites on the web.
There are several reasons for this. The most common mistake we have observed is that the sites could be viewed both with the “www” and without it. See below for examples of what I mean:
It is strongly recommended to redirect all the traffic to one particular domain. Google is now very strict on duplicate content, so it needs to be taken seriously. Apart from potential risk of being penalized by Google, this will also deprive your website from earning links on two different faces of your domain, thus washing down the SEO authority across both subdomains of the same website.
Now let’s say that you have two subdomains as mentioned earlier. It would have 6 copies of your homepage that will baffle the Google crawler. This could prove to be very bad for your SEO purposes and also for the user experience, as the visitor may get confused at seeing different URL’s everytime they visit the homepage.
Redirects will be needed more often than not when making major changes to the website. Some major changes to a website include:
*Website relaunch or redesign
*Moving to an entirely new domain
*Merging multiple domains into a single website
There is an argument amongst the web professionals that there are only 2 types of redirects truly, while some say there are 4. Here I have mentioned all the 4 kinds of redirects. It should be kept in mind that the numbers mentioned are the HTTP Status Codes that are associated with specific types of redirects.
A 301 redirect is an indication for the search engines that the page has been moved permanently to another location. If you are looking to pass all the link juice to the replacement page, this is the redirect that is strongly recommended. In fact, the 301 is an efficient redirect for nearly all situations where a redirect is needed, so it has become the most familiar and the most popular one.
The 302 redirect has been used historically to indicate “Moved Temporarily”. As it indicates to the search engines that it is not a permanent redirect, there is no link juice that passes to the temporarily replaced page. 302’s are only needed in rare cases. Users and webmasters do not need to think on how or why it should be employed. If is recommended to get in touch with a webmaster to make sure that the 302 redirect is done properly, in case you think that you need it.
This is an another way of saying that the page has been moved temporarily and is mainly done when a site has undergone some maintaenance or some activity for a small period of time. Practically, it works like a 302 only. If compared, 301’s are always a better option when redirecting traffic to a URL.
This used to be a very common way to redirect in the early days of the web, wherein a page would actually load first before being sent to the new URL. Many webmasters are no longer employing the meta refresh for redirecting the traffic, due to the negative impact on the user’s experience. It may take several seconds to send the visitor to the right destination. 301 is the undisputed leader when it comes to redirecting that helps in sending the visitor to the right page from the beginning.
Website redirects are vital tools in the webmaster’s garage. For the online marketers, it is important for them to understand the basics of how the redirects work and when they are needed. Hopefully, this post will be useful to users with all technical levels starting from low to high who would like to know how to work with redirects.
What did I miss? Are there any other good reasons to use the different types of redirects that you would add?
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