Redirects for SEO: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

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Dec 12, 2022  . 14 min read
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What are URL redirects in SEO & how to use them correctly - TypeStack
What are URL redirects in SEO & how to use them correctly - TypeStack
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It can be very frustrating to click on any particular link and have a 404 error message pop up on your screen, right? Well, redirects are here to avoid this. A redirect takes place when a particular person clicks on a specific website link and automatically gets sent to a totally different page.

This happens when the original page has been deleted, and a redirect is set up to send visitors and search engine crawlers to the other relevant page. This saves your users from viewing that annoying 404 error message on their screens.

Redirects are an integral part of search engine optimisation (SEO). In this article, we will talk about SEO redirects in depth and have a better understanding of them towards the end.

Let’s begin with the basics.

What are redirects?

Every page that exists on the internet has an address. It is known as Uniform Resource Locator, popularly known as URL. There are reasons why content moves from one URL to another. That’s when redirects come into play.

What a redirect does is that it automatically diverts users and search engine crawlers from one URL to another URL. The new URL doesn’t have to be the address of a different page on the same website.

Redirects that take you to another website are referred to as cross-domain redirects.

Let’s have a look at the different types of redirects in detail.

Using Redirects

To understand how redirects work, you first need to apprehend the uses of redirects. First and foremost, redirects significantly benefit users and search engines when content is shifted or becomes inaccessible.

Redirects aid in delivering a positive user experience to visitors. A web admin can create a redirect link to ensure visitors always arrive at the information they want rather than having them land on an error page and independently discover other relevant content.

Redirects relieve search engine crawlers of the burden of analysing and interpreting broken internal links and URLs. Instead, the engine may conserve crawl money by seeing live content and correctly indexing it.

Redirects are necessary when:

  • You change a web page's URL (from URL A to URL B), redirects are necessary.
  • You shift from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Your website is transferred to a new domain
  • Two or more web pages are combined
  • A page that is visited or has backlinks leading to it is deleted
  • Your website undergoes development, and the structure is altered
  • You want to avoid duplicate content on non-www or trailing-slash URLs

What are the different types of redirects?

Broadly speaking, redirects are divided into two categories:

  • Server-side redirects
  • Client-side redirects

Server-side redirects

Server-side redirects are the types of redirects that are performed directly on the server. As a result, a fraction of the content is being sent to the browser, in HTTP status headers. This helps the browsers know where they have to go and will follow the lead. The HTTP status headers have a code for what type of server-side redirect it is, and the new location the browser should redirect you to.

In other words, the server decides where the users or the search engine crawlers be redirected to, when a certain page is requested.

The different types of server-side redirects are:

301 redirect

A 301 redirect is a type of redirect that indicates to the search engines that the original source of the requested page has been permanently deleted. It automatically redirects the users to the new and fully-functional URL.

301 redirects are the most used and one of the best ways for implementing redirects on any website.

302 redirect

A 302 redirect is a type of redirect that indicates to the search engine crawlers that the original source of the requested page has been temporarily moved. It automatically redirects the users to the new page.

Unlike in the 301 redirects, in 302 redirects search engines keep the old URL indexed. But, if you leave the 302 redirects for a significant amount of time, the search engine would start to consider it as a 301 redirect and index the new URL in place of the original source.

303 redirect

A 303 redirect is a temporary form of redirect and redirects the users to a similar type of page that was requested by them. This type of redirect is generally used to prevent resubmissions when any user clicks the back button in their browser.

303 redirects are not used for SEO purposes. However, if you do use them, search engines tend to treat them as either a 301 or 302 redirect.

307 redirect

Very similar to a 302 redirect in nature, a 307 redirect is a type of redirect that retains the HTTP method (GET, POST) of the original page that was requested when it is performing the redirect.

308 redirect

A 308 redirect is a type of redirect that indicates that the original requested resource has been entirely moved to a new URL given by the location headers. As the browser redirects users to the new URL, search engines update their links to the resource.

Client-side redirects

Client-side redirects are the results of certain code that runs in the browser, and redirects the browser, also known as the client, to another IRL. In order for it to run the code, it needs to be sent to the browser first. Hence, it is a much slower solution. So, you should prevent client-side redirects as much as possible.

There are two different types of client-side redirects:

Meta refresh redirect

A meta refresh redirect instructs the browser to send the user to another page after a predetermined amount of time. Google is aware of it and normally treats it similarly to a 301 redirect.

Google doesn't advise utilising them in any case because they might be confusing for users and aren't supported by all browsers. Instead, Google advises utilising a server-side 301 redirect.

JavaScript redirect

As the name suggests, a JavaScript (popularly known as JS redirect) redirect instructs the browser to send the user to another URL. Some individuals think that because search engines must render the page in order to view the redirect, JS redirects are problematic for them.

Although this is true, Google typically doesn't have a problem with it because pages these days are rendered so quickly. (However, problems with other search engines are still conceivable.) Overall, it's still preferable to use a 3XX redirect, but if you have no other choice, a JS redirect is usually fine.

Now that we know about the different types of redirects, it is time that we address some of the most asked questions regarding the most common redirect, the 301 redirect.

Can I have too many 301 redirects?

Technically there is no limit to how many 301 redirects you can have on a website. You can have as many as one hundred thousand redirects without being penalised. However, it is essential to know that having too many 301 redirects will put unnecessary load on the server and reduce the speed of your website.

If you want to have a larger number of redirects on your website, you should implement them in smaller numbers, rather than implementing a huge number at a particular time. You can also reduce the number of rules. As fewer rules equal a better-performing server and an increased load speed.

Now, let’s move onto the next question.

How long should you keep a 301 redirect?

The answer to this question is simple and direct. You should keep a 301 redirect for at least one year. Google takes time to ensure that the changes being made are permanent.

So, if you remove a 301 redirect within a year, Google may not get the chance to crawl that particular URL to determine whether the website has been moved permanently or not.

Now that we have answered the two most asked questions regarding 301 redirects, we will also address one of the most basic asked questions about redirects.

Do redirects hurt SEO?

Generally speaking, redirects are not bad for SEO at all, but only if you use them correctly. Just like anything, improper utilization of them is going to harm your SEO and may lead to a significant loss in traffic.

If you are making changes to your URLs, redirecting pages is an integral element to have. No one likes to put in the effort to make an excellent website, for it to only pop up the 404 error message when users click on it, right?

With that being said, it is important to know when you should build a redirect.

Typical SEO Errors When Using Redirects

You are familiar with redirects, how they operate, and when and how best to use them. So, let us look at Common SEO Mistakes When Implementing Redirects.

1. Everything is redirecting to Your Homepage

You can do more harm than good if you redirect every page to your homepage to rank for competitive terms. According to John Mueller from Google, search crawlers will raise an alert if several pages are redirected to your homepage. Google won't pick up all those helpful signals you accumulated on the previous URLs as the content's value is diminished.

2. Never-Ending Redirect Loops

A redirect loop is easily avoided by testing each new redirect. In case of a redirect loop, the redirect will continue to take the user back to page 1 and will most likely be stopped by your browser, which detects the loop. Because the crawler has no idea what's happening, you'll almost certainly have the pages deindexed. If these pages generate a lot of traffic to your site, you'll make a significant loss.

3. Redirecting to a Non-Relevant URL

The subject relevancy of a redirect is crucial for SEO purposes. Always redirect traffic to the closest, most relevant alternative to the original page. If Google does not grasp the connection between the two pages, it may not pass the link authority between the two, decreasing the redirect's positive SEO impact.

4. Configuring Redirect Chains

This is a common occurrence. You develop a newer version of a page and drive traffic to the old one. But then you make another version, configure another redirection, and so on. What was once a single redirect becomes a chain of three, four, or more redirects over time. It has little impact on your consumers. However, it severely impacts your SEO. The search engine's crawler may stop following the chain after two redirects, never reaching the most recent page.

5. Increasing Redirect delay

Another disadvantage of having too many redirects is an increased delay, which can negatively impact user experience. Each redirect represents a server request that must be handled. This could result in a longer page load time for a user on slower connections. Similarly, many redirections may result in the "too many redirects error," preventing the user from getting to the end of the route.

6. Using the incorrect type of redirect

A redirect is an excellent method for moving traffic from an old URL to a new one. There are also numerous types of redirects to choose from. It's crucial to pick the right one, especially if you want to maximize your SEO value. By resolving website difficulties, your company will avoid dealing with first-call resolution. For instance, A 302 redirect does not have the same authority as a 301 redirect; using it instead of a 301 can result in decreased visibility, authority, and traffic.

Recommendations for SEO Redirects

It is essential to understand the relationship between SEO and redirects. Knowing how to redirect a URL to another URL is necessary to optimise your SEO strategy and up your game. You can follow the understated recommendation for SEO redirects:

Redirect to an Appropriate Alternate URL

Always redirect to the most appropriate alternative to the original URL to maintain topic relevance. When someone clicks a link to a page offering fragrances, they want to go through the products, they would not want (or expect) to be led to a page selling "books." For example, if the business no longer offers fragrances, it would be okay to refer to a bath and body category.

Redirect Chains and Loops should be avoided

In the most basic sense, a redirect chain occurs when more than one redirect exists between the original and final URL, frequently due to website migrations. These are irrelevant and should be avoided. Assume you wish to redirect from A to C, but C also redirects to A. This should be avoided since the redirect is faulty and will not send users or search engines to the target.

Internal Redirects Should Be Avoided

When you change the URL of a page, it's easy to forget to go back and update internal links to go to the new address, especially if redirects have been set up. These redirects are pointless, considering that you have complete control over repointing internal links. Use redirects to avoid duplicate URLs between www and non-www, HTTP and HTTPS protocols, URLs with and without a trailing slash (/) and URLs in upper and lower case.

It’s a common question “are redirects bad for seo?” or “does redirects hurt SEO?”

Redirects are not harmful to SEO but must be implemented appropriately. A poor implementation might result in everything from a loss of PageRank to a loss of visitors. Not redirecting your page will eventually cause a bad user experience and impact your page rankings. Thus, redirects are good for SEO at times.

You can follow these recommendations for redirection and enhance your SEO strategy in your favour.

Steps to redirect a domain to another URL

Most web admins have several options for setting up a redirect. Here are the steps for three basic options. Follow these steps to learn how to redirect a domain to another URL.

Create a Redirect in cPanel

Scroll down to the Domains area after logging into your cPanel account. Locate and click the Redirects icon.

  • How to set up redirects in cPanel- Permanent (301) or Temporary (302) are the options in the Type dropdown menu (302). Make your choice.
  • Create a redirect in cPanel - Choose the domain you want to redirect in the following dropdown menu. If you want the change to apply to all your domains, select All Public Domains; otherwise, select the relevant one from the menu.
  • Enter the page you want to redirect to and the page you want it to go to. Because the root domain name is already provided in the dropdown menu, you will enter the last part of the URL in the first box. However, in the second field, give the whole URL to where you want it to redirect.
  • In cPanel, install a permanent redirect.

Create a WordPress Redirect

Using a plugin is the simplest approach to setting up a redirect in WordPress. Redirection is a frequent solution for this.

  • If this is your first time adding plugins to WordPress, go to the Plugins menu on the left side of the screen. Click Add New, and then search for the plugin you want.
  • WordPress redirection plugins- click Install Now, followed by Activate. Each plugin will come with its own set of instructions about utilizing it. Find Redirection in your Installed Plugins list, click Settings, and then follow the setup steps.
  • Once configured, Redirection will be available under Tools. Then, in the top-right menu, select Redirects and enter the information for the URL you want to redirect and the new URL you want it to refer to. WordPress redirections plugin. Then click the Add Redirect button.

Conclusion

There is a lot of work that goes into creating and managing a website that works for you and is loved by your audience. To achieve this, you need to be aware of the ever-changing algorithms of Google.

But, when it comes to redirects, all you need to know is that using redirects is going to benefit your SEO. Through this article, we hope you have a better understanding of redirects, the different types, and how you can use them for your website.

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