If you’ve ever changed your mailing address from one location to another, you already know how important it is to redirect all the mail that goes out to your old address!
It’s the same with website URL changes. Missing out on the traffic that goes to your old website URL could be disastrous for your brand and disappoint your customers.
Imagine you’ve got an eCommerce store selling Christmas trees, and you’ve recently moved your website address to another URL. If all the traffic goes to the old website address and clients get a 404 error code, you would miss out on potential sales which can be especially devastating for a seasonal product like this!
A 301 redirect is the equivalent of a mail redirect service for website URLs. It’s the best kind of redirect when you’re moving your website address permanently, unlike the 302 or 511 redirects that are more useful for temporary URL relocations.
If you’ve been planning on getting a better understanding of 301 redirects, you’ve come to the right place. Find out what they are, why you should use them, and how you can implement them as a source of traffic for your site.
So, if you’re ready, let’s begin!
What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect instruction that leads website traffic to your desired URL. It’s an http status code that’s easily interpreted and implemented by search engines, so it’s probably the most SEO friendly way of changing a website URL.
The great thing about 301 redirect is that it helps carry forward all the link weighting and ranking authority your old URL would’ve gathered over time to the new URL, so you won’t lose the previous SEO efforts you might’ve put in to enhance your search rankings.
A 301 redirect is an all-inclusive redirect instruction to search engines that indicates that the website URL, along with all of its content, has moved permanently to another location on the internet. The important word here is permanent.
Why Use a 301 Redirect?
Here are a few situations in which you may want to use a 301 redirect:
- If you’ve reorganized or overhauled your website and changed its location permanently.
- If your content is expiring and you wish to redirect users to a new location.
- If you’re merging or have merged two websites into one new website URL.
- If you’ve changed your CMS for your website or you’re migrating your site to WordPress.
All of the above scenarios require that you redirect incoming website traffic to a new location, the right location, so your website visitors can get to you.
Another solid reason to use 301 redirects is that they preserve up to 90-99% of your search ranking power. This means that any social shares, backlinks, and references that helped your old URL get a better ranking will get transferred to the new URL ranking.
A 301 redirect is also a status code instruction that’s easily understood by Google, which supports the process of indexing the new website and all of its new pages faster and more efficiently. Other redirects may not be as easily crawled or interpreted by search engines and that’s why 301’s are probably the best to use.
How to Use/Create a 301 Redirect
It might take some time for search engines to detect that you’ve implemented a 301 redirect and changed your website URL location. That’s why we advise you implement it at the right time so you don’t miss out on any incoming traffic. You must also make sure you implement a 301 redirect instruction accurately to prevent any technical glitches.
There are a few ways to implement a 301 redirect:
1. Include the 301 redirect instruction in the old URL page headers.
If the page is in PHP, Java, or other programming languages, including the 301 redirect instruction in the headers of each page will lead to a successful implementation. This will redirect the incoming traffic to the new website location you include in the status code instruction.
You’ll need to enter the destination URL in the response headers of each page of your old URL. This way, if anyone was to enter the URL address of a specific page from your old website, they’d be automatically redirected to the new online URL.
2. Access your server, more specifically the Apache Configuration file, by getting htaccess into the file.
You can do this by accessing a command called “Allow Override” within the Apache Config File. Once you’re in the root folder, you can make edits to the code using a UNIX style text editor.
For a successful implementation, you’ll need to open your FTP and log in to your website server or hosting admin panel. Try to then work your way into the htaccess file in your root folders. Usually, the htaccess file is a hidden file, so make sure you enable your browser to view hidden files in order to see it.
The instruction codes you’d use under this method would be the following:
- Redirect A Single Page:
2. Redirect An Entire Domain:
Your server reads your 301 redirect code instruction line by line, so it’s best to put a blank line at the end of your code to indicate the closure of your instruction. As a last resort, if you can’t access the “htaccess” file, you can always call your hosting provider to seek help.
3. Use WordPress 301 redirect plugins.
There are several plugins that make it easy to implement 301 redirects, particularly if you’re using WordPress. We recommend you use Yoast’s WordPress plugin to set up redirects. It’s a safe way to go as it’s used, tested, and trusted by several developers.
Some other plugins you could use are:
This is an ‘easy redirect manager’ that helps you create both 301, and 302 redirects easily.
It’s an open-source tool that works like a charm.
A simple to use, comprehensive redirection plugin that helps you keep track of all 404 errors, tie up loose ends in your site, and set up 301 redirects with ease.
It’s always good to spend some time testing your website once you’re done with setting up the redirect. You’ll want to make sure the redirect instruction is working smoothly!
Get some people to visit your website soon after implementing it. Ensure it’s working well and that it can handle large website traffic volumes to create an efficient and smooth customer journey.
301 Redirects Are the Way to Go
It’s no surprise that 301 redirects are the best way of setting up permanent redirects to a new website URL. They’ve been used for ages and are trusted by the online marketing and developer community in the marketplace. They’re a safe choice!
Let us know how your first 301 redirect went, and make sure to reach out to the PapaSquad if you need any help!