Marketers Need to Know the SEO Effects of 301 Redirects
As marketing professionals, it’s necessary to understand the technical side of websites and the internet. Understanding how 301 redirects and SEO work together is essential if you’re in charge of directing web marketing for any company.
So how do redirects work?
Remember the last time you clicked on a broken link and saw the dreaded 404 or “Page not found” error? This usually occurs when a page has been moved to another URL and there is NO 301 redirect in place (or worse, it’s been deleted).
When a webpage is moved to another location, a permanent 301 redirect is needed in order to direct the old link to a new page. Otherwise, your customers and potential customers will not be able to find the information they were trying to locate. This can tarnish the overall user experience of your site leave a scratch on brand reputation.
How it affects SEO
Permanent 301 redirects are important for SEO because they help retain the SEO status of the old page. For example, let’s say you have a page on your website that has a high SERP (search engine results page) ranking for an important term in your industry segment, such as “Los Angeles Digital Marketing Consultants.” If you move that page and do not set up a 301 redirect, you lose any SEO status the old page once had. Which may in turn mean having to start from scratch to rank for that term once again. And no one has time for that! We’ve often been the ones to clean up severe losses in traffic and revenue due to this very topic.
However, when set up properly, the search engines will be able to determine that the old page has changed location and that the content can be found at the new URL. The search engines will then carry any link weighting from the original page to the new page.
- Be patient when working with 301 redirects. It can take some time for search engines to discover the 301, process the information and credit the new page with the old page’s ranking and other factors. The time it takes all depends how often the spiders crawl your site pages. Make sure your team or your IT team have webmaster tools setup to monitor crawl errors and 404 errors.
- Be cautious of other forms of redirection, such as 302s and meta-refreshes (these are temporary and not permanent). These do not work as well as 301 redirects in terms of SEO. The only time you’d actually want to use these, is if you purposefully do not want to pass on the SEO info from the old page to the new page. A 302 redirect may be appropriate for vanity urls or holiday landing pages, temporarily redirecting them during the off-season or campaign pause.
- If you’re moving sites completely and not just changing a couple of pages, you should expect 301 redirects to take even longer to be recognized by search engines. You’ll want to monitor webmaster tools accounts closely from launch and the first four weeks, dependent on traffic to your site. You’ll want to check it regularly thought as a best practice.
- Also, pay attention to whether or not you have control over your domain both with and without the “www” after the “http://”. It’s best to set one to redirect to the other. Otherwise, you won’t see any statistics on people accessing the site from the alternative version. There are many free tools you can use to check for this on the web such as this one.
No need to feel overwhelmed with this concept. There are tons of other resources that can help you get a solid understanding of 301 redirects and SEO:
Check out this in-depth video by Google’s Matt Cutts on permanent 301 redirects.
Moz also has a great article on 301 redirects and SEO.
HubSpot offers tips on how to avoid SEO pitfalls with 301 redirects in this post as well.
If you have any questions about 301 redirects and SEO that you can’t find the answer to in these resources, we’re always here to help. Give us a call at (818) 806-3868 or shoot us an email anytime.