redirects and seo

Redirects & SEO: The How, What and Why

If have clicked on to a URL and been swiftly moved to another page without warning then chances are you have probably been redirected by the site. So maybe you’re wondering how this works or you’re working on fixing a problem with a site. Perhaps you’ve heard of redirecting as a technical SEO term but you’re not sure whether it’s the right method to use? Here we’ll cover what redirects are, when & how to use them and how they impact your SEO.

What is a Redirect?

A redirect is a method of sending users and search engines to a different URL from the one originally requested. From time to time, redirects are also called ‘forwarding’ as the process forwards a URL to another URL. The most common types of redirects are 301s & 302s which serve slightly different purposes which we go into more detail later. If you’re not sure if a redirect has been used, there are useful tools and plug-ins such as redirect path on chrome which you can use to determine whether a page has been redirected and which type has been used.

Redirect Path on Chrome

 

When do you need to use a Redirect? 

When you’re using a redirect you’re sending both users & search engine crawlers to a new URL (opposed to a canonical where only search engines are moved) and so neither will see the original page. Therefore it is very important that if you’re using one, it needs to be for the right reason!

The most common reasons to use a redirect will be:

  • To move away from a broken URL
  • To move away from a deleted page
  • Moving pages to a new URL after a migration or making a new page
  • A temporary move away from a webpage that is under construction

How do you use a Redirect?

When you’re looking to use a redirect, it’s best to first look at your CMS (Content Management System) as most modern systems will offer a basic support for configuring them. This can be as simple as locating the page you would like to redirect and placing the targeted URL in the correct box (including the full URL). This method works well for moving individual pages one at a time when needed, such as for one broken page or swapping over a new page. However CMS’s can be unreliable at times so this does mean that if your CMS breaks, the redirect will too.

It’s often more advisable to set up URL redirects on your web servers although this is less accessible and requires a bit more technical know-how – which is why businesses hire digital marketing agencies. With this method you can also redirect pages on a much greater scale using regular expressions to match the intended section such as redirecting an entire blog or broken category.

What is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect often includes the add on ‘moved permanently’ to its title which gives a bit of a clue to what the function does. A 301 redirect moves both users & search engines from the unwanted URL A to the intended URL B permanently. This type of redirect includes moving almost all of the page authority from the original URL A across to the new URL B which is key when considering search engines. 301s are the most common redirects because they are used to solve the majority of issues such as broken pages or to carry over pages after a migration.

What is a 302 Redirect? 

A 302 redirect is a little different to a 301 as it redirects users from the unwanted URL A to the intended URL B, however it’s telling search engines that this move is temporary. 302s are rarely used in SEO as they serve a specific purpose to redirect for a short period of time or either fix an original page or test a new page. Since 302 redirects are seen as temporary to search engines, they also don’t carry over page authority to the new URL.

How do redirects affect SEO?

Usually you’ll see that redirects are used for SEO purposes whether that is to improve user experience, a temporary movement of a page under construction or to remove unwanted pages. In these instances, the correct use of redirects will have a positive impact on SEO as the value of the page will be pointing towards the intended target. Redirects will negatively impact SEO when used incorrectly such as where URL A should not be directed to URL B because URL A might be an important page that shouldn’t be moved or because URL B is broken. As well as that you can incorrectly use the wrong type of redirect such as using a 302 redirect for a permanent change which will not pass through the link value.  

Another important consideration to redirects is to avoid a ‘redirect chain’ where you are redirecting to a page that is also being redirected. This is confusing to search engines and most will not pass on link value or will stop redirecting entirely 3 or 4 redirects into the chain. This emphasises the importance to ensure the destination URL is always correct.

What other kinds Redirects are there?

There are certainly other kinds of redirects that you may encounter:

  • A 303 redirect is used for handling form submissions to ensure visitors can’t re-submit a form when clicking the back button.
  • A 307 redirect works the same as a 302 except it only works on HTTP 1.1. Since it is very difficult to confirm that a search engine has identified the page as HTTP 1.1 compatible, it’s easier just to use a 302 redirect.
  • A Meta Refresh is a page level redirect commonly associated with a count down to the redirect. This is not usually recommended for SEO as they do not always pass on value and are generally quite slow.

In summary, redirects can be very useful in fixing problems with your site and can be very beneficial to SEO. When considering using redirects, it’s best practice locate which issue you have with your site & match it to the appropriate redirect. Then using either the CMS or web server you can apply the correct unwanted page and forward it to the correct intended page.

If you want to learn more about redirects, search engines or you have any digital marketing queries on the tip of your tongue take a look at our blog or sign up to our newsletter for the latest updates about SEO and the digital marketing industry. Alternatively get in touch with us and speak to our wonderful team of experts.