301 Redirect

What Is A 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is either the best thing when moving your website or the worst. I'm going to explain why in this post.

First, if you move your website to another server or domain, you're going to have set up 301 redirects. (Or get your friendly neighborhood web developer to do it for you).

Think of a 301 redirect as a change of address post card you can fill out when you move from one place to another. By filling it out, you're telling the post office "Hey, my mail comes here, but I need it to go to this place now!"

301 redirect

301s work much the same way. There's a specific way to tell the search engines when you're moving your site that while you were once HERE, now you're going THERE. If you don't put them in place, it's the same as having no web site out there on the internet. In other words, you're putting new URLs (pages, posts) on the internet in place of old, or existing ones.

These redirects are commands that are set up in a file on your web hosting server called the .htaccess file. If you are not familiar with playing around with code, DO NOT edit or alter this file. You most certainly can shut your entire site down if you screw this up. Again, get your friendly neighborhood web dev hero to do this for you.

What items on your site get 301 redirects?

All of the content (text, videos, pdf, images) that you want to be on the new domain or new version of your website. When you're switching domains or servers, it's a good time to do some house cleaning and content inventory to clean out items that are no longer useful or relevant.

And don't forget pages like your privacy policy, FAQs, about us, etc. They're all good pages!

But here's the thing about 301s - there's a right way and a wrong way SEO-wise to put them in place. Let's go over these.

The Right Way To Put A 301 Redirect Into Place

Let's say you have 30 pages you want to redirect. The best SEO practice is do individual, page by page 301 redirects from one existing page to a new one. For example, let's say you have a web page about tiny purple widgets. You definitely want this page to show up on the new site or server, whatever. So, you will do 30 individual 301 redirect commands.

The SEO advantage of this is that you pass the great majority of the Google love you have on the old page to pass to the new page via the 301 redirect. This way, you don't have to start all over in the great search engines ranking game.

301-redirect_250

There are multiple web hosting platforms that have specific coding language. The following examples are fairly typical. If you are in doubt what platform you are using, GET YOUR WEB DEV EXPERT TO DO THIS FOR YOU!!!

Single file (page) redirect command example:

[cc lang=”htaccess”] RewriteEngine On
Redirect 301 /oldfile.html http://www.yoursite.com/file/newFile.html
[/cc]

Where you see "oldfile" and "yoursite.com" please substitute your own unique URLs to make this work, umkay?

Redirect an old domain to a new one:

[cc lang=”htaccess”] Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^domain.com [nc] rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.domain.com/$1 [r=301,nc] [/cc]

Again, substitute your specific domain names in the command above where appropriate and necessary.

The Wrong Way To Put A 301 Redirect Into Place

Just as there's a right way, there's also a wrong way. It's also frickin' lazy.

Simply take every URL that's the old version and send every damn one of them to the new home page. That is LAZY.

What's more, you lose the Google love on those old pages, because how much does a home page need? Your product and service pages are the money making pages, and they are the ones that you should care about converting prospects into customers!

So don't be lazy, umkay?

Some Other 301 Redirect Information

Let's say you have a domain that's been under a Google penalty, and no matter what you do, you just can't gain any rankings back, so you decide to create a new domain with a fresh, updated look.

If this is the case DO NOT USE THE 301 REDIRECT!

Why? Because the penalty from the old domain will flow right into the new domain via the 301 redirect. This is a case where you really would have to start all over again.

I saw this in action one time. I was doing some contract SEO work for a digital marketing agency. We were developing a new site for a client, with a new domain name. The agency had a minion do a domain name search, and the person found what was thought to be the perfect domain name, albeit at a rather steep price. The domain was bought, the site was developed and launched.

And went nowhere at all for two weeks. No traffic, nothing. Everything had been done right; nothing was out of place. Finally someone got the bright idea to go into the Wayback Machine and see what the domain had been in another life.

The domain had been one of the spammiest of spam websites ever. Super bad. Horrible. Keyword stuffing. Evil links. Gibberish text.

Needless to say, the client was way less than pleased. The moral of the story is, before you plunk down payment for a domain name, take a few minutes and see what it was in another web site life. You might be glad you did!

To sum up, redirects are necessary and good, if you take the time to painfully map old URLs to new ones. Don't lose the Google love you fought so hard to get. Don't be lazy and send all of the old pages to the main page because you just ran out of time.

Want to know more about redirects, keyword research, troubleshooting SEO issues and algorithmic penalties? Learn how to do your own SEO with Invenio.

Alternatively, we now offer SEO training online for our basics course.

Until we meet again, stay safely between the ditches!

All the very best to you,

Nancy McDonald

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of http://www.anyware.co.nz/

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