What is a 301 redirect and why is it important?

January 08, 2014

Have you ever typed a URL into your web browser and had it bump you off to a different URL?  Well, that is a redirect.  The “301” is a status code that indicates that it is a permanent change.  So a 301 redirect is a way of automatically and permanently redirecting visitors and search engines from one URL to another.  You should use a 301 redirect every time you move or rename a page on your website. Similarly, if you move pages (or the entire website) to a different domain name, you can use 301 redirects to let everyone know where the pages have gone.

301 Redirects Help Your Website Visitors

Visitors may follow a link from an external website, or have a page on your website bookmarked. If this page has moved, the 301 redirect will automatically take them to the new page. Without the 301 redirect they will just see an unhelpful “page not found” message. This is likely to make them leave your site immediately (known as a bounce).

301 Redirects Help Your Search Engine Optimisation

Any search engine ranking that the old page has will be passed onto the new page if the 301 redirect has been setup correctly. The search engines will realise that your page has moved, but it might take a few days for the links in the search engine results to update. In the meantime, visitors can still click on these old links, but the 301 redirect will helpfully take them to the appropriate page.

If you use Google Webmaster Tools and have seen “Not found” messages in the URL Errors section this could well be because you have moved or renamed a page and do not have a 301 redirect in place to let Google know.

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