When you make a search on the internet, the search engine results take you to an address, also known as the URL. When a search takes you to a different URL than the one you requested, that is a redirect. The redirect can have similar information or more information on what you were initially looking for and is meant to give you similar results to what you are looking for.
URL redirects can affect SEO; knowing how they work is important. This article will discuss everything you need to know about redirects: types of redirects, how they work, how to fix redirect chains, when to use them, and redirect best practices.
How Do Redirects Work
Often set up for broken pages or duplicate content, redirects send search engines from one URL to another. A URL redirect can be set up by coding .htaccess or applying meta tags to pages to direct them to the new URL.
A URL redirect is also known as URL forwarding, and the different types are discussed below.
Types of Redirects
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1) 301 Redirects (Moved Permanently)
A 301 redirect means that there is a permanent redirect in search results. These redirects automatically send users to a new URL each time they search for the old one because the information has been permanently moved to the new one.
A 301 redirect can be a solution to old, broken, or irrelevant pages and is good for SEO as it gives your clients updated results with useful information.
2) 302 Redirects
Also known as a temporary redirect, the 302 redirect is an excellent option when you are unsure which type of redirect to use. 302 redirects are useful when your original URL needs some work or has insufficient information. For instance, if you are maintaining your page, your users still need to get results when they search. Additionally, Google crawlers can see that you temporarily redirected your page and keep crawling your page. While no link juice will be passed to the new URL, at least your page will still be crawled and indexed.
To a user, a 302 redirect is not different from a 301 redirect, as they both redirect the page to a new one. However, the 302 redirect signals a temporary redirect to search engine crawlers.
4) Meta Refresh Redirects
A meta refresh redirect is a client-side redirect that tells the search engine that a page is unavailable and instructs the search engine to go to a new destination after a while. Meta-redirects are used to avoid confusing users when they are redirected to a new page by letting them know that a page has been redirected.
Meta refreshes suggest that the user navigate to a new page after a given period, or does so automatically. However, there are a lot of downsides that come with meta redirects, including a possible reset of the user search, where users are automatically taken to a new page. This can potentially lead to user confusion.
All these redirects have an effect on SEO performance.
How Redirects Affect SEO
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Redirects can pass authority from one page to another, ensuring they rank well. The temporary redirects, too, pass on some link authority, but not as much as permanent redirects would. As long as you are not using unnecessary redirects, there is a higher chance of positively benefiting from redirects. Furthermore, using a redirect is better than leaving a 404.
Here’s how each redirect discussed earlier typically impacts SEO:
1. 301 Redirect:
- SEO Impact: A 301 redirect is considered the best option for SEO when permanently moving a webpage or URL. It transfers most of the SEO value, including rankings, backlinks, and traffic, from the old URL to the new one. Search engines recognize the permanent nature of the redirect and update their indexes accordingly.
- User Experience: Users are automatically redirected to the new URL, ensuring a seamless experience without encountering broken links or error pages.
2. 302 Redirect:
- SEO Impact: A 302 redirect is generally interpreted as a temporary redirect by search engines. While it preserves the original URL’s ranking signals, it doesn’t transfer the same level of SEO value to the redirected URL. Search engines may still display the original URL in search results. If the redirect is meant to be permanent, using a 301 redirect is recommended for optimal SEO.
- User Experience: Users are redirected temporarily, which may result in a slightly disrupted experience if they were expecting to access the original URL.
3. 307 Redirect:
- SEO Impact: A 307 redirect, like a 302 redirect, is typically regarded as a temporary redirect. It maintains the original URL’s ranking signals but doesn’t transfer the same level of SEO value to the redirected URL. Using a 301 redirect is preferable for permanent moves to preserve SEO value.
- User Experience: Users experience a temporary redirection, preserving their original HTTP method, which can be beneficial in specific scenarios.
4. Meta Refresh Redirect:
- SEO Impact: Meta refresh redirects are less SEO-friendly compared to server-side redirects. Search engines may not pass the same amount of SEO value to the redirected page, potentially affecting rankings and visibility. It is generally recommended to use server-side redirects (301 or 302) instead for SEO purposes.
- User Experience: Meta refresh redirects can disrupt the user experience, especially if the redirection occurs too quickly. Users may not have sufficient time to interact with the page before being redirected.
In summary, for optimal SEO impact, it is generally recommended to use 301 redirects for permanent moves and 302 redirects for temporary moves. Server-side redirects provide better control over SEO value transfer and maintain a smoother user experience. Meta refresh redirects should be used sparingly, as they have limitations and are less favorable for SEO.
As we have seen, bad redirecting practices can affect your page’s ranks, leading to traffic loss. Your page can lose credibility if you redirect to another page that lacks credibility.
When you use a redirect to a page with another redirect, you create a redirect chain. Redirect chains can reduce your page authority and lead to a loss of link authority.
So, how do you fix redirect chains?
How to Fix Redirect Chains
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The best way to deal with a redirect chain is to ensure it redirects to a final URL. If you have a URL(a) redirecting to URL(b), you should not have URL(b) redirecting to another URL.
Ensure there is only one 301 redirect in the redirect chain. You can do this by skipping the other redirect links and linking to the final in the chain. The other redirect pages will be left out of the new redirect path.
Having only one redirected URL makes it easier for your website visitors to navigate your content.
How to Reduce Redirects
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Multiple redirects reduce SEO rankings; the longer the chains, the less traffic becomes. There are ways of reducing redirects that have proven useful over time. These include;
- Avoid linking to pages that already have a redirect link on them. Ensure you only redirect users to a final URL.
- Scan your site for old URLs, especially those that lead to pages you already deleted.
- Plugins are notorious for having redirects. Therefore, have as few plugins on your page as possible.
- Install extensions that alert you of any redirections or plugins that may have redirect links on them. An extension like Redirect Path can help you identify any 404 errors and any other loose ends.
- Check your redirect path and ensure it is clean.
- Check for, and get rid of any redirect loop, as they have no final destination URL.
- Get rid of any conflicting redirects.
While reducing redirects is a great way of keeping your rankings in good standing, there are instances where you need to use redirects.
When to Use Redirects
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There are cases where it is advisable to use a redirect link. Additionally, redirect links can be good for your SEO.
When you have deleted a page with similar information elsewhere, it is only fair to redirect your website visitors to the new page. Just ensure the page you are redirecting to does not have another redirect link.
You can use a redirect link when combining information from several pages into one page. For instance, if you have different pages that talk about different aspects of a topic, you can redirect the pages to one page with all that information.
If you removed a page that existed before and you want to send your users to a new page, you can use a redirect link.
When merging two websites, you can redirect both websites to the new URL.
Causes for “Redirect Error”
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A redirect error means that the redirect you set up is not working, and bots can not access the destination URL. Furthermore, a redirect error can lead to reduced ranking when left unattended or when it does not link to the target URL.
To avoid wasting your crawl budget, you can watch out for these causes of redirect errors.
a) Too Many Redirects
The Google bots cannot get to the final redirected page if the redirect chain is too long. A redirect chain occurs when the server side redirects a page to a new URL, with the final redirect target being more than two URLs away. Once you have more than one redirect, you need to take care of it by skipping straight to the final URL.
b) Redirect Loops
A redirect loop is when the URL is redirected to a page that redirects the user back to the previous page. This leads to a redirect error, as this can be an endless cycle. To avoid this, redirect to one URL each time.
c) Wrong URL
If the structure of the URL is wrong, the link will be broken, and you can not create redirects using such a link. This can be costly to website owners, especially when they need to redirect an entire domain to a particular URL. You can use an HTTP response codeto check whether a specific HTTP request has been successfully answered.
Redirect Best Practices
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You can follow some redirect rules to avoid getting your entire site in trouble for redirecting wrongly. Here are some things you can do for successful redirection.
- Fix redirect chains and loops
- Create a redirection plan
- Don’t redirect all 404 broken URLs to the homepage
- Always redirect to close-match content
- Use WordPress plugins to understand the redirection path
- Avoid linking to pages with redirects
- Set a canonical URL
- Redirect to another domain
- Redirect HTTP to HTTPS
- Redirect non-www to www
- Redirect to avoid duplicate content
- Remove a word from the URL
- Get rid of bad or broken URLs
- Avoid redirect chains
- Keep a record of new URLs created to avoid redirect chains
- Avoid redirect loops
Frequently Asked Questions About Redirects
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i) What does a bad URL redirect mean?
A bad URL redirect is when a site redirects to a broken link. The link may be inaccessible or non-existent in the first place. Such redirects can reduce your credibility, and search engine bots pick up such discrepancies, which may harm your Google indexing.
A bad redirect may be a result of your server being overloaded or in need of maintenance. If you have Apache servers, you need to ensure each redirect goes through an htaccess file.
ii) Do redirects pass page authority?
Permanent redirects are considered one of the best ways to pass link page authority. While a page may not pass page ranking through a redirect, some credibility may be passed depending on the user’s experience.
iii) Are redirects bad for SEO?
Depending on how they are used, redirects are not bad for SEO. If the user avoids using redirect chains and focuses on having one final URL every time, then the page ranking can even be improved.
iv) What are the 4 types of redirecting?
There are four major types of URLs;
- 301- Permanent redirects
- 302- Found
- 307- Temporary
- Meta Refresh Redirect
Other examples of redirects may not be considered redirects because they do not lead to the desired results by the user. These redirects include;
- 410- Content deleted
- 451- Content unavailable for legal reasons.
v) How do you redirect a URL?
There are a few ways to redirect a URL. First, you can find a web host who offers redirection services if you are using web hosting services. Furthermore, the services can walk you through the process to help you redirect your pages.
If you want to redirect pages on your own, you can do it with a little bit of coding and tweaking website settings. One of the methods you can use is the meta-command which allows you to copy a webpage code and use it in the new URL. Another method is to code a .htaccess 301 direct and create the redirect all by yourself.
vi) What happens when you redirect a URL?
When you redirect a URL, the page will be available in another URL so that when a user attempts to find the original URL, they are taken to a new destination URL.
Redirects can work for or against a website owner, depending on how they are used. Search engine spiders can detect good and bad use of links, especially redirects. For instance, when a bot detects a long chain of redirects, it will stop crawling. Therefore, it is time to put the redirects to good use to improve your SEO rankings.
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