Redirects in SEO

What Is a Redirect?

A redirect is an HTTP code is a way to automatically sending users and search engine bots from the URL they requested to another one, without them leaving the site. Ideally, redirecting happens without the user noticing anything. As such, they are an essential piece of SEO since they can be used to direct traffic away from broken links (for example) to the new or more relevant page.

Types of Redirects

Redirects can be permanent or temporary. Essentially, there are five different redirection codes and each of them has its own uses: 301, 302, 303, 307, and 308. When it comes to SEO, the ones you should really care and know about are 301 (permanent redirect) and 302 (temporary redirect).

301 Redirect vs 302 Redirect

The 301 permanent redirect code takes the client (visitor or bot) to a different URL where the page they are looking for has been moved. This way, all traffic to the old URL is funneled to the new one. It is most commonly used when a website has been migrated to a new address, or when merging websites to ensure traffic is redirected from outdated pages to new and more relevant ones. The main reason why 301 is the most popular redirection among SEOs is pretty straightforward:  The new page “inherits” the link equity, authority, and rankings from the old one. It may take some time for the search engines to understand that a page has moved to a new URL, but once they do, the new URL shouldn’t lose much performance compared to its predecessor. Note, however, that the old URL will stop getting crawled or indexed, becoming essentially invisible. 302 is a temporary redirection status code. It works similarly to 301 with one major difference: the relocation of the page is temporary. This means that both pages still exist and can be indexed. A temporary redirect is most often used to redirect traffic to a new page while the old one is under maintenance, or when there is reason to keep both pages indexable. While it is a less common type of redirect than 301 in terms of search engine optimization, it does have its uses.

Why Are Redirects Good for Your SEO?

SEO is all about website traffic and using redirects helps you send users and search engine crawler bots to the right pages, conserve your SEO when moving a website, and improve user experience. Say you’ve owned a website for a couple of years and its doing good. If you decide to migrate it at one point (for whatever reason) you’re not going to want to start from scratch again, right? Redirects let you tell search engines that it’s the same site, only in a new location. 404 errors are bad for user experience, and they aren’t doing your traffic any favors either. Redirecting visitors from a broken page to a new one solves the issue – instead of taking them to an error page, they end up on a different URL where they can find the content they were looking for.

Best Practices to Keep in Mind

  • Be aware of the cons of redirects
Just because you can use redirect, doesn’t mean they are always the best option. For all the value they can bring you, they do have their shortcomings. First of all, they can add load time, hindering your UX. Secondly, since search engines see each URL as a separate page, using too many redirects can eat up your crawl budget, which would be much better spent on new and unique pages. 
  • Redirect to a relevant URL
It’s important to ensure the page you are redirecting to resembles the old one’s content and intent as closely as possible. Otherwise, you can confuse your users, resulting in a bounce-back, and Google may even recognize this, resulting in a soft 404 error. So use redirects carefully.
  • Avoid redirect chains
A chained redirect occurs when one URL is being redirected to another, which also has a redirect leading to a third page, and so on. As you might presume, redirect chains can hurt both user experience (due to slower loading) and waste your crawl budget.

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