Redirection on websites is like helping lost visitors find their way to the desired location.
Imagine this; you shifted your website to a different URL. In this scenario, how will you tell your visitors that you’ve already moved?
Some of your frequent visitors might have seen an update or prior intimidation about it. But a majority of them won’t know it at all.
This is where redirects, especially a 301 redirect, come in handy! Whenever a visitor enters the old URL, they’ll automatically be forwarded to the changed one.
If you want to know all about the 301 redirects and how to use them, here’s a complete beginner’s guide on 301 redirects.
What is 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect is an HTTP signal code that permanently redirects one URL to another.
There’s a multitude of reasons to use a 301 redirect. The most common reason for which websites use it is when they move their website to a new URL or when a page has been removed.
So, whenever someone types in an old URL, they are immediately redirected to the new URL, which has the content they were looking for.
Along with the content, a 301 also redirects forwards the same ranking power that the old URL had in the first place.
Speaking of 301 redirect SEO, it communicates with the search engine to lets it know about your changes.
It tells the search engines that the content that was previously here has now been moved to another location. However, there has been no other change on it, so its position on the SERP must be the same.
In short, a 301 redirect will not mess up your ranking or SEO performance.
Another thing about a 301 redirect is that it allows you to avoid 404 error pages. Whenever you delete a page, typing the URL will take the user to a 404 page. Instead, a 301 redirect takes the user to the new location.
The redirection process with a 301 is so fast that a user can’t really notice it if they don’t look at the changed URL. Even if the user has bookmarked the old URL, after a 301 redirect, the bookmark will be updated to the latest URL.
Creating a 301 redirect is extremely simple. You don’t need any coding knowledge, and you can use WordPress Plugins to do the job for you (more on this later).
For now, let’s see a few scenarios or situations where you need to add a 301 redirect:
When to Implement 301 Redirects?
#1. After Changing a URL
There are a few cases where a URL needs to be changed because of improper optimization or just making changes to the page hierarchy.
Usually, whenever you change your URL, only some CMS automatically add redirection to it. So, check the URLs after updating them and see if there’s already a 301 redirect in use.
#2. After Creating a New Website
Nowadays, most servers open a site without the www before the domain name. If that is not the case, you need to add the variations of your domain URL like these:
Use 301 redirects to ensure all of them lead to the same page.
#3. After Adding an SSL Certificate
SSL Certificates are necessary; without one, your website may become a victim of infringement or third-party breaches. Adding an SSL certificate and an HTTPS connection will make your website safer.
So, if your website URL is changing from http://domain.com to https://domain.com, you need to add a 301 redirect.
#4. Recreating a Page
You may encounter a few occasions where you must recreate an entire page with a newer theme or a changed layout. If so, you need to redirect the old page URL to the new one to maintain the SEO performance.
#5. Moving from One Domain to Another or Merging Domains
Suppose you’ve changed a domain or have two domains that you want to merge; redirecting pages with a 301 is a must. Your content and SEO efforts can be passed on without needing to do it all again.
If you’re using 301 redirects for any of the above cases, you should also have some understanding of the effects of 301 redirect SEO on your pages.
What Are the Effects of 301 Redirect on SEO?
When discussing 301 redirect SEO, you need to remember that anything you read about SEO is information derived from experiences and results of performing certain actions.
In reality, Google will never reveal anything about its algorithms and how different things affect SEO.
If you go back a few years, tests and experiences of several users showed that using a 301 redirect could cause some loss in ranking power.
To be specific, the drop in page rankings was hinted at around 10% in this video by Google Search Central.
Google being Google, obviously did not give any exact numbers to keep their algorithm secrets, but most people believe this figure to be accurate.
Fortunately, this was a few years ago and has not been the case since. You can use 301 redirects without losing any SEO performance on your web pages.
You only need to remember to set the 301 redirects correctly and not create multiple hops. Whenever there are 4 or 5 hops between URLs, the bots will stop following them, and your page won’t be scanned. Hence, it results in poor SEO.
Multiple redirects also tend to slow down the loading speeds, which is also an important SEO ranking factor.
So, feel free to use 301 redirects. Just use them correctly and without creating redirect chains.
How to do a 301 redirect – Step by Step Guide
You can go about adding 301 redirects with different methods for different cases. We’ll discuss how to add a 301 redirect for general use and affiliate links.
For both, we’ll show you how to do it on the WordPress CMS, as it is the most popular solution for many web developers.
For General Use
Ideally, you should redirect a page via your server to have the fastest and the most reliable redirection. The only problem with this method is that it requires a deep understanding of the software stack your servers use.
For example, Apache, Nginx, IIS, or some other platform, you will need to learn and understand the approach to add a 301 redirect.
So, our recommendation would be just to use a plugin on WordPress.
For this tutorial, we’ll be using the Redirection plugin by John Godley. It’s free to use and has an easy UI for beginners. Here are the steps to add a 301 redirect:
Step 1: Download the Plugin
From your WordPress menu, navigate to the Plugins section and click on Add New.
Search for ‘Redirection’ on the search bar.
Once the results show up, select the following plugin result and click on Install.
Once the installation is done, click on Activate.
Step 2: Go to the Plugin Page
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, you’ll have to optimize it depending on your needs.
To go to the plugin page, navigate to the Tools section and click on Redirection.
After going to the plugin page, complete the first-time setup and finish the installation.
Step 3: Add the URL Details for a 301 Redirect
The final step is adding a 301 redirect to a URL. For that, click the Add New button on the top left of the plugin page to open the redirection pop-up. It will look something like this:
Here, you need to add 3 main things:
- The Source URL
- HTTP Code for Redirection (301 redirect)
- Target URL
If you’re not an expert, we suggest you don’t change any other options or fields in the pop-up.
If you can’t see the HTTP code option, just click on the gear icon beside the Add Redirect button. Although, the HTTP code will be set to a 301 redirect by default.
Once you’ve entered all the fields correctly, just click on Add Redirect to finish the redirection.
Now that you know how to add a 301 redirect for general use, let’s move on to adding the same for affiliate redirection.
For Affiliate Redirection
For affiliate redirection, we’ll be using the plugin ThirstyAffiliates.
ThirstyAffiliates is an excellent tool for managing all your affiliate links. For now, we’ll be focussing on the 301 redirections using the lite version of this plugin which is free to use.
To begin with, go ahead and follow the same procedure as above to download and install the plugin. Type ThirstyAffiliates in the search bar, install, and activate it.
Next, all you need to do is navigate to the ThirstyAffiliates section, which can be accessed on the menu. After entering the plugin page, you can follow the below steps to add an affiliate link with 301 redirections.
Step 1: Open the New Link Pop-Up and Fill Up the Basic Details
First, click the New Affiliate Link button to open up the pop-up.
Now, add the title for the affiliate link and the destination URL, which is your Affiliate link page.
After filling these two fields, you can also add an image if you want to.
Step 2: Select the Link Settings
To add the redirection details, you need to scroll down until you can see the Link Options section on the right sidebar.
Here, you can select the options you want for how your link would act. For our concerned objective, you must select Global (301) from the Redirect Type option.
Once done, scroll back up, and click the save link button to finish the procedure.
There you go, now you know how to add a 301 redirect for general use and affiliate redirection!
It’s also worth mentioning that you could always use a 301 redirect checker to ensure the redirection is accurate and works.
This is only to audit any issues or mistakes you might have made with the options or the URLs.
How to Check Redirection?
Using Geekflare URL Redirection Checker, you can check if your site status is ok or if there’s some error.
To use Geekflare’s redirection tool, just enter your website’s domain name and click on ‘Run Test.’
The tool will load your site redirection status in seconds.
Things to Avoid While Implementing 301 Redirects
Since we’ve covered everything there is to know about 301 redirects and how to use them, it’s also essential to understand what you shouldn’t do.
301 Redirects can have a negative impact on SEO if you’re not careful. So, ensure you avoid the following mistakes:
#1. Creating Redirect Chains
As mentioned earlier, redirect chains are terrible for your SEO.
If you have multiple 301 redirects chained together, you could lose your SEO performance as the Google bots stop following redirects after 5 jumps.
The exact way that this affects the performance is by slowing down the loading speeds. Google and your visitors will have to wait for longer times to reach the destination URL, which might increase your website’s overall bounce rate.
#2. Adding 301 Redirects to Outdated or Unrelated Content
If you add a 301 redirect to an outdated content page, you’re not really solving the visitor’s query in the best way possible. Worse is when you’re redirecting to a completely unrelated page where the content is not what the visitor is looking for.
This can easily be figured out by the Google bots, which will decrease your ranking due to irrelevant content, and your visitors won’t exactly be happy with it either.
#3. Adding Unnecessary Redirects
Adding unnecessary redirects will beef up the .htaccess file. As a result, each time your website is loaded, all redirects will be checked to see if the typed URL needs to be redirected elsewhere.
This long, annoying loading time will just slow your website down for no good reason.
Make sure you don’t make these mistakes and use 301 redirects more judicially, only when absolutely needed, and you won’t have any problems.
What is the basic difference between 301 and 302?
Both 301 and 302 and 300-series HTTP codes or redirects send the visitor from one URL to another. The only real difference between the two is that a 301 redirect is a permanent redirection and 302 redirects are temporary.
A 301 redirect instructs the Google bots and forwards the visitors from one URL to another. Whereas the Canonical Tag suggests that a page or the URL has multiple versions. The difference here is that a canonical tag ensures that only the original page is indexed by the search engine.
There are a total of 5 redirect types:
1. 301 Redirect – Permanent redirection from one URL to another
2. 302 Redirect – Temporary redirection from one URL to another
3. 303 Redirect – Temporary, one-time-only redirection to another URL for requesting a Unified Resource Identifier or a common gateway interface
4. 307 Redirect – Temporary redirection for the same purpose as 303 redirect
5. 308 Redirect – Permanent redirection for the same purpose as 307 redirect
For the most part, the only 2 redirects that most users will need to be familiar with are 301 and 302 redirects. The rest are all primarily for web developers.
We have explained all you need to understand about 301 redirects.
So, if you’re planning on changing URLs or shifting your content to another website, you know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do!
You may also look at implementing HTTP to HTTPS redirect in WordPress.