If you have spent any amount of time on the internet, you have experienced a redirect. You click on one URL and wind up on a different URL. If you noticed that it occurred you probably clicked back or typed in your original URL again, only to be taken once again to the different one. So, what happened? Actually, this process can be a pretty powerful piece of SEO when used correctly. And how is it used correctly? We’re so glad you asked!
What is a redirect and why is it important?
A redirect is basically URL forwarding. It is the process used to send a user from the URL they requested, to a different one. It can also direct search engines. There are several different kinds of redirects, and they should be used appropriately in different situations for SEO.
This HTTP status code is used for a page’s permanent move to a new URL or location.
For example, you would set http://widget.com as your preferred domain and set a 301 redirect for www.widget.com/index.html.
Most of the benefits, or ranking power, from one URL will transfer to the other, such as historic records, inbound links, and trust records. This is considered to be the best way to employ redirects on a website.
This is a temporary redirect. It is used very often because a 301 redirect is typically considered to be the better choice. A 302 redirect tells the browser that the URL has been temporarily changed.
For instance, let’s say that http://www.widget.com is having technical issues. You can use a 302 redirect to http://www3.widget.com while the first site is being repaired.
There is some advantage to using the temporary 302 redirect – it does not pass any of the ranking power of the original URL. This means that when the 301 redirect is removed the original URL will have retained its credibility and reputation (to a degree) and will be able to regain its previous search engine ranking much faster and easier.
A 307 redirect is just like a 302 – except more efficient. While a 301 is still the best bet to use in the majority of cases, this redirect will work well if there really is content that has been temporarily moved but the search engines must have already identified the server as 1.1 compatible. It can be nearly impossible to determine if that has happened so a 302 would work in that case (provided the move really is temporary).
Meta refreshes are generally discouraged as an SEO practice because they are slow, do not pass on ranking power, and have pretty poor usability. They are not executed on the server level, but instead on the page level. The most common meta refresh are the redirects that have a five second countdown and text directing the user that if they are not redirected to click a link.
Simple ways to write redirects
There are several ways to write redirects. You can do a code level edit:
- Prepare the new domain and all associated files.
- Redirect the URL using a META command.
- Use an htaccess file.
- Upload the file and test it.
You can also use a URL redirection service. They may charge a fee, but the time saved (and aggravation if you don’t know coding) makes it well worth the cost.
If you are working on a site, check to see if they have a plugin. For instance, if you're using WordPress, you can use this easy plugin without code knowledge: https://wordpress.org/plugins/redirection/
Finally, marketing automation software like HubSpot often has built-in features for this as well.
If you are going to use a redirect, do your homework to make sure you are using the right one and find the best method for implementing it.
June 22, 2015