A 301 redirect is as important as updating your address when you move to a new home and you want to make sure all of your important mail gets forwarded. If your marketing plan includes updating your blog title, a company name change or rebranding, a new URL is a necessity. Setting up a 301 redirect is like an automatic transfer to your new URL, a key part of any successful redesign.
What is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect is a line of code you can place in either an htaccess file, or by means of a WordPress plugin. It basically tells Google and other web crawlers that an old page is no longer valid and you would like the search engine to acknowledge the new page at its new address. This will pass the “link juice” and the old page’s ranking power to the new page on your website.
Depending on your CMS and web host, there are a number of ways to implement the change but the most basic and full proof way is using the htaccess file. This is one of the first things search engines see as they get ready to crawl over your website. Think of it as a road map for search engines.
As, you may have guessed, the importance of 301 redirects for SEO is quite large. Without redirects from an old page to new, Google will not understand that this is the replacement page and not give it its due respects. If there are backlinks pointing to an old page, the power of those links would also be a total loss without a 301.
Situations that warrant 301 redirects.
There are many times a redirect is the proper course of action to recoup any loss of page power.
• Changing domain names
• Adding an SSL certificate
• Letting Google know which url you want shown in results (www vs non www)
• Eliminating duplicate content
Whatever the case may be, telling Google were to go is extremely important.
We recently asked a Colorado Springs SEO company about the importance of 301 redirects on SEO and here is what they had to say…
“301 redirects sound scary but utilizing this feature is important if you want to keep your rankings whenever you move a website. There will always be a loss of traffic, but this should be temporary as your site becomes re-indexed in Google. It is a simple way to tell go what your intentions are. In essence SEO is all about telling Google, in as many ways as possible what your website is all about. This is the direct route to ranking well.”
Redesigning your site is a big step and in order to make the most of your updates, improving your search rankings are vital. What happens if your clients cannot find you? Or worse, there are similar websites out there and visitors cannot find your new site? This is where the 301 redirect comes in!
One of the most common avoidable mistakes is forgetting to set a redirect up in the first place. There are numerous examples out there of companies taking the time and expense of setting up a new site but forgetting to create a 301 redirect. Then, because of duplicated pages, visitors receive a 404 error. Sales and ranking plummet while you reengage your client base causing you to lose more than just web traffic!
Also, what happens if your older website site pages have not been set up with a proper 301 redirect? This can cause a choppy delayed transfer and can provide a disjointed client experience. Unity and an effortless transition are part of a great client experience and makes for repeat visitors.
Improve and Steamline
Getting traffic to your site drives growth so a quick fix and effective strategy for keeping traffic coming to your site is reducing clutter. Developing your brand is more than an improved keyword search. A website with disorganized content is not going to rank very high on any search engine. Make sure the site pages are in appropriate categories that make sense and are simple to follow. Streamline your content before you set up your 301 redirect.
A complicated or wordy directory and subdirectory will drop your site ranking no matter how effective your 301 redirect is. Keeping things unified along with an effective URL means your redesign will remain search engine friendly. Avoid any symbols that search engines are incapable of interpreting. If Google can’t figure it out, neither will your visitors.
Planning for your site switch is as important as the way a redirect captures your online traffic. It pays to start backwards by doing a reverse redirect and building potential links back to your old site address. That way all the search possibilities end up on your new site by mapping all possible external links.
It is not just the internal pages that need the transfer of content to your new improved site. Establish your brand dominance and be sure and purchase variations on your name. For example if your company has Yourname.com, you may consider Yurname or Yername to direct traffic.
There are critics of the way that search engines have calculated the search rankings using a 301 redirect. For example, some sites have reported examples of a 15% drop in online traffic. But Google has stated that the 301 redirect page ranking only dips on a temporary basis. This drop is something that should be taken into account whenever you are looking to make a URL decision. Anticipating these kinds of challenges is the best way to get the most out of your site evolution.
The Final Touches
Once you have created streamlined and updated your content the 301 redirect should be done page by page. It may sound like extra work but well worth the effort. If your entire site is moved in one large transfer there is the possibility of a fall in rankings. Also, by doing a page to page set up, any duplication that could create errors is dramatically reduced.
While this may seem complex, a 301 redirect will capture traffic no matter what URL is typed. Casting the widest net possible is the key to increasing your increasing brand awareness and an easy win for any marketing plan. In addition, it can be an opportunity to reach out to returning visitors and loyal customers to let them know of your new site content updates.
Most importantly, be sure and notify search engines of your changes. Submit your new site map along with your old one to search engines. This will help the search engines scan your content changes and the 301 redirects you have created. Once that has been reviewed it will be easy for you to monitor any service changes and status updates.
As the saying goes “the more things change the more things stay the same”. With an effective 301 redirect, your unique content will be the same no matter the location.