Using Redirects – SEO Best Practices
Today, this article from SearchEnabler team explains you what is redirection of webpages and why they are used. It also puts forward some of the best practices that should be followed by webmasters when redirecting the webpages.
What is a redirect?
When a user (or a search engine) is forwarded from one URL to another, it is called a redirect. Redirection of webpages is a common thing in websites.
What is the need to redirect webpages?
Redirection of webpages can be done to accomplish a number of reasons, some of which are, as follows:
- Navigate user to correct URL – There is a common problem in the usage of URL by people. Generally, people do not tend to type ‘www’ preceding the URL when using the web browser. However, search engines cannot decipher that the URLs with and without ‘www’ are not different. Search engines consider both URLs as different webpages. Due to this property of search engines, they consider those URLs as duplicate copy of each other (generally referred to as Duplicate Content in SEO terminology). To avoid such types of confusion, webmasters use server level redirect for all URLs with ‘non-www’ structure and forward them to proper URLs with ‘www’ structure.
- To forward user to URL with updated information – There may be some webpages with content which makes sense for a specific period of time. When that time passes away, the content grows irrelevant. Suppose there is a webpage which talks about “Best smartphones of the year”, but the information in it gets irrelevant or obsolete by next year. Therefore, by using redirect, you can forward a user to navigate a user to new URL with updated information.
- Correct landing page – After the increase in website traffic through mobiles and smartphones, webmasters are designing websites specifically for various types of devices. When a user requests for a webpage, the server checks the user’s device type, and then it forwards them to particular webpage which is specifically designed for their device. Also, same can be applied to redirect user to a correct webpage according to his geographic location with correct language.
- Temporary redirection during maintenance period – Webmasters forward visitors to a temporary webpage or URL as they might be carrying out some maintenance tasks in the website.
- Website moved to new domain – When the domain name of a website has been changed, all the webpages with the URL containing old domain name are moved to URLs with new domain name. Every visitor who tries to visit older URLs is redirected to new set of URLs.
- Website Restructure – When a website gets a major overhaul in its structure, webpages with older URLs are redirected to new set of URLs, so that traffic does not drop if users try to navigate to older URLs. If they do not redirect, the users will get 404 (Webpage Not Found) response codes in their web browsers.
How redirects affects search rankings?
Search engines take into account the redirects of the webpages in the search algorithms. They pass almost all the link juice to permanently moved webpages but not to the temporarily moved webpages. This makes it very necessary to be very careful about redirects.
Redirects make a lot of difference when particular website is re-structured or moved to a new domain. Many websites have seen the traffic fall when they moved their websites to new domain due to some mistakes or lack of planning for redirecting the webpages with older URLs to new URLs. Due to those mistakes, search engines cannot find the new webpages at older locations and were not ranking those websites in the search engine results.
Types of Redirects
There are four types of redirection mechanisms which are mostly used, each of which is designed for a specific use. The ‘Response Codes’ mentioned below are meant for web browsers so that they can take a pre-described actions for each of these response codes.
- 301 Permanent Redirection – This type of redirection is done when a page is permanently moved from one URL to another. All or 90-95% of link value (it is a major factor considered for ranking in search engine results) is forwarded from old URL to the new URL. This is the most preferred version of redirect which search engines and SEOs prefer when the webpage is redirected permanently. It is also preferred when a website has been moved from one domain to another. When a major overhaul or restructuring in the website takes place within the same domain name, every webpage in the website is redirected permanently to the new set of URLs.
- 302 Temporary Redirection – This type of redirection is used in rare cases, where the website developers are moving the webpage to different URL for some testing purposes. If a search engine finds this response code, it does not pass any of the link value to the new URL because they are notified by the 302 response code that the webpage is moved temporarily to new URL and it will be restored soon, so there is no point of passing the link juice for a short period of time.
- 307 Temporary Redirection (HTTP 1.1 Only) – This is a newer version of 302 temporary redirection response code which supports HTTP 1.1 web protocol. All major search engines treat this in a very similar way to 302 response code. But prior to this, the search engines should verify the web server to be HTTP 1.1 compliant to be able to use this kind of redirect. There is no perfect way to know if search engines have verified your web server to be HTTP 1.1 compliant, so it is better to use the normal 302 response code for temporary redirection of the webpage.
- Meta Refresh – It is a webpage level redirection while other redirects are carried out at server level. Due to this reason, Meta refresh is slower than the server level redirection mechanisms. Websites use it for automatically refreshing the webpage to show updated information to the user. But this type of refresh is not being used much nowadays due to its sluggish appearance. Even the ranking power is decreased as all of the link value of the URL is not passed.
SEO Best Practices For Using Redirects
- Use temporary redirects only when you are using the new URL for a very short time.
- It is better to use 301 when you are using webpage redirects because it passes most of the ranking power of the older URL to the newer one.
- Use 301 redirects along with canonical tag for forwarding the visitors to the correct (www) version of the URLs. This usually happens when a visitor navigates to a non www URL of a webpage.
- Plan carefully all the webpage and structure mappings, if you plan to move the website to a new domain or plan a massive re-structuring of the webpages within the same domain name.
- After restructuring or moving webpages to a new domain, request your referral websites to update the referral links to newer URLs. That will keep the link value of the webpages intact.
We hope this article would have helped you to be aware of many types of redirects along with their effects on search results and best practices to use them. Stay tuned for the next article in which a few methods and code samples for properly redirecting webpages will be explained. Meanwhile, you can read more about other SEO Best Practices.
1. To implement Re-direct: Redirect Code & Snippets
2. Learn SEO – Duplicate Content and its impact on search results