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How 301 Redirects Can Improve/Keep Your SEO Rankings

December 29th, 2008 | | Advanced SEO Tips

A 301 redirect is a way of forwarding content that has been moved permanently from one webpage to another automatically. There are many redirect numbers so to speak, and the “301″ is referred to as “moved permanently”.  In laymen’s terms, creating a 301 redirect will prevent you from losing traffic that is still linking to content on an old URL on your site. The 301 redirect will forward or redirect that traffic to the content on the updated URL.  For example, if you have a web page that talks about SEO best practices, and you decide to move that content to a new URL under a new domain, you could create a 301 redirect so that anyone who still has access to the old content whether from a bookmark or cookie, they will be automatically redirected to the new content on the new URL.

301 redirects are important for SEO in several different ways:

  1. Removed pages – Most people implement 301 redirects because they have removed a page from their site, but that page is still being indexed by the search engines; meaning people still can get access to that page. And instead of allowing your users to be served a 404 error page, you can simply implement a 301 redirect and point that removed page to another page on your site.   This will help prevent pissing your users off when they find removed content on your site but also to direct users to a relevant page in regards to their search.   Redirects will also help pass on any pagerank or link juice from your removed page to your new page, so that can help keep your rankings if you have any on that page.
  2. Domain name changes – It happens, you start your blog on petexpert.blogspot.com and you later decide that you want your own URL at petexpert.com.  What do you do with your content that exists on your old URLs? You still have traffic going to those old URLs from referral sites, bookmarks, etc.  But you have this new content on your new URL already.  If you have the same content petexpert.blogspot.com AND petexpert.com the search engines will see that as duplicate content.  To a certain extent, you can be penalized for having duplicate content. To avoid this, create your 301 redirect from your old site, ‘www.petexpert.blogspot.com’ and point it to your new site ‘www.petexpert.com’. This way anyone linking to your old URL will now be automatically taken to your new URL with the same content. Once all traffic has subsided from your old URL, you can remove those pages and prevent them from being indexed. And in turn this will eliminate your duplicate content issues.
  3. Multiple homepage versions – When businesses start up new websites, sometimes the hosting and domain companies will add in the www.petexpert.com/home URL extension.  You may even see www.petexpert.com/index or www.petexpert.com/default.asp.  These different URL’s are technically different web pages, and the search engines again can penalize you for having duplicate content.  I recommend adding a 301 redirect for any homepage extension URL to your main URL at ‘www.petexpert.com’ with no /home or /default extension.  This will tell the search engines to only go to www.petexpert.com and no other page. And the more traffic you can get to your main URL, the higher your organic traffic can be.
  4. WWW versus no WWW – Another issue identical to the one mentioned above is the www versus no www URL.  You may have your main URL be www.petexpert.com but your webpage will also come up as just ‘petexpert.com.  I also recommend redirecting the no www to the www version.  This again tells the search engines to point to only one version of your homepage, not multiple versions which could count as duplicate content.

Now for the technical part, how do you go about implementing a 301 redirect you may ask?  BruceClay.com has a great post on how to properly implement a 301 redirect that I recommend reading.

Again, the point of the redirect is to prevent having any issues with duplicate content as well as making sure you are telling the search engines exactly where to go to index the right page of your site. Also to help users find the right content they are looking for on your site and to pass on any existing page rank from  your removed page to your new page.

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  • http://www.softpact.com marek

    Thank you for this articles dude.
    is very useful :) specialy about multiple home page content.

  • http://www.e-games.com Peter


    Thanks for easy explaning why to 301 redirect and how to do it :) great article.


  • espirates

    Do 301 redirects still get indexed in the search engine, in other words does your own domain url remain indexed forever even though it redirects to new domain ?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Amber

      @espirates, great question! If your domain was originally indexed by the search engines, then yes, it should remain indexed for a while. Then you’re new domain that you have 301 redirected will be indexed. Now the only thing with that is your original could be removed from the index at any time just like any other page of your site. And I think if you have the 301 redirect in place eventually your main domain will be removed from the index, especially if you’re using canonical tags pointing to your new domain. Any one else have thoughts on this?

  • http://www.wayoutback.com Tim

    Hi Amber

    Excellent article thank you but I’m still not quite clear on one point (not being too technically savvy).

    The company I work for is Australian based and we started with a .com.au address but a few years later bought the .com as well.

    At the moment they are pretty much mirror sites (alias I think) with the old .com.au seemingly getting all the kudos with rankings (checking on Alexa) and back links even though many of the back links coming from .com links in reviews and posts and I really want .com to be the hero.

    The trouble is that both rank very highly on organic searches for our key word set and I’m really worried doing a 301 redirect will adversely affect rankings. Also someone also mentioned that if we did a 301 redirect to the .com address then it could have quite a negative affect on organic searches made within Australia.

    Would I be best just to leave alone or do you think it will all come out in the wash??

    Many thanks

  • http://jon-berg.biz Jon

    You recommend redirecting to www. I suppose this is difference in taste. Why not just throw in some other random characters infront of the domain name you also have to type in, theworldwideweb.example.com. (I am being sarcastic).

  • http://islandwoo.com jeff

    Hi, i started creating vanity urls “http://example.com/august” and have now 301 redirected to more detailed search friendly “http://example.com/unique-free-august-nyc-events”. I have many links linking to the old “/august” url, let’s say 100 links. Does this affect inbound link count to the new url? Will google still give me credit for these 100 links for the new url?? Thanks for your help!

  • Louie

    Great article!

    Just a Q — you recommended taking down the old site after traffic to it has subsided, but won’t these leave a lot of referral links from other site dead? Is it reasonable to keep redirects forever?

  • http://www.gudkainternational.com gudka

    But i have seen at many places that webmasters are using non www redirects. you are right technically that having different urls of a website can make it as a duplicate content site and it would also divide the link juice of your homepage to another url of the homepage. so when first time i have heard about it i had changed but when i observed that my homepage Page Rank is dividing due to it i again changed it in a single homepage url as www.

  • http://www.kooldesignmaker.com/static-website-design static website design

    Having a different url is gonna divide everything of your website like traffic, link juice, Page Rank and also it is considered as a duplicate website from Google that’s not good from any perspective.