Author: Maddy Osman
Websites are not static entities. As they grow and change, you need to make sure users can still access your website.
Every time you change an existing page’s URL on your website, you need to consider other websites that are linking to that page or a user who may have bookmarked it, for example. If you don’t redirect the traffic from the old page to the new page, you could lose potential customers or views because users won’t land in the right place.
With 301 redirects, you can point traffic to the right location. This is because 301 redirects tell web browsers that the website address (URL) has moved, as well as the content’s new location.
Redirects can come in handy for many occasions, such as if your small business website expands or if you want to reconfigure your blog. Plus, a 301 redirect can help you retain your URL’s SEO value, if you restructure your website.
Read on to learn more about:
The basics of 301 redirects
A 301 redirect is an internet status code used to permanently redirect a URL to another URL. Status codes help webmasters understand if an HTTP request worked (or not).
The number “301” refers to a specific HTTP status code. Other standard codes include 302 for temporary redirects, 500 for server errors, and 404 for web pages that can’t be found.
A 301 redirect tells the browser that the page it’s looking for has a different location and where to find it. It consists of two fields: the old URL and the new URL.
Not only do 301 redirects tell users where to find your website—they also tell search engines where your pages live. This code helps search engines keep their indexes updated, and indexability is vital for SEO.
When you need a 301 redirect
Any time you make changes to a URL, you need to redirect traffic. That includes when you:
Change domain names
Upgrade from HTTP to HTTPS
Move a web page
Update website structure
On the surface level, it may seem like you don’t need to redirect traffic if you run a thorough social media and email campaign regarding your domain name change. But, customers may have your old website bookmarked, and won’t necessarily check to see if those links are updated.
It’s your responsibility to make sure those old links take your customers to the right places. It’s a bad look for your brand if your consumers reach a 404 error page instead of your website. Moreover, you don’t want to lose that traffic or potential sale.
The same goes if you update any internal links on your website. If your About Us page has links to pages you’ve moved, it doesn’t instill faith in your company if those links are broken.
301 redirects and SEO
You may wonder what happens with your SEO when you redirect a page. The answer has changed over the years, but in 2016, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed that redirects don’t harm PageRank.
This means that the link equity of the old page should transfer over to the new page.
When you use 301 redirects, be patient as search engines update their indexes. Properly set up your redirects to make it straightforward for search engines to rank your pages.
Mistakes to avoid with 301 redirects
Though simple to set up, improperly using 301 redirects can lead to errors that can hurt your SEO. Here are some to mistakes to avoid:
Not timing redirects correctly
Don’t set up a redirect before the new URL is ready. You wouldn’t want users to navigate from a functioning website to a website that’s still under construction, or that doesn’t make sense for the content they clicked on.
The opposite is true as well. Don’t move domains without ensuring that 301 redirects are set up. In that case, you’d be splitting your traffic between your old website and new website, which will confuse website users and search engine crawlers.
To put this in context, consider this example:
When Toys “R” Us shelled out $5.1 million for toys.com in 2010, the company made the mistake of not using a 301 redirect first. So, the SEO for toys.com suffered because Google treated it as a brand new domain.
Creating a redirect chain
A redirect chain is when you redirect a link, then redirect that link again. In essence, you’re giving a browser directions to go to another link that will provide it with a new set of directions. This can slow page load time and confuse search engines.
Keep your redirects clear and concise. If you do a major overhaul on a website that you recently updated, look out for any unnecessary chains.
As a best practice, compare potential redirects with existing redirects to make sure you’re not unintentionally creating a chain. Wix prevents this automatically when uploading redirects in bulk by catching loops before you’re able to set the redirect.
Failing to verify whether a redirect works
It never hurts to manually verify that a 301 redirect works and goes to the right place. You can edit your redirects on Wix and view them live to make sure they’re set up correctly.
Forgetting anchor text and backlinks
If you run a popular blog with many backlinks, for example, think about the way those backlinks are configured. Those links and anchor text need to remain relevant. For example, if your blog “10 Tips to Grow Your Website’s Following” is now being redirected to “5 Ways to Write a Great Blog,” users might be confused and annoyed.
Techniques to boost traffic using 301 redirects
More than just a tool to point users and search engines to the right destination, 301 redirects can also help you actively increase your traffic in a variety of scenarios.
Fixing keyword cannibalization
If you have multiple pages trying to rank for the same keyword (referred to as keyword cannibalization), you can use 301 redirects to prevent potential competition between pages on your website.
The 2019 Diversity algorithm update was an effort to declutter search engine results so that a single domain wouldn’t appear more than twice in top-ranking results. Because of this (and future anticipated updates along the same lines) it’s better to try to rank for multiple different keywords than to try to corner the market on one keyword.
Merging related pages
When you notice two similar pages with high bounce rates (the majority of people leaving your website before visiting a second page) or moderate traffic that could be higher, you can use a 301 redirect to consolidate those pages and improve your analytics.
Acquiring a similar company
Merging with another business is a step that could expedite your growth. When you absorb another website, you can redirect their traffic to yours, which can enhance your site authority and views.
Making your website easier for crawlers
A 301 redirect can help smooth out any badly formatted paths in your URLs so you’re not confusing search engines with overly-complicated URLs. Poorly formatted paths involve adding categories and dates to URLs in addition to the content’s primary keyword and a relevant subdirectory (such as /blog) if applicable.
This may become relevant as your site, and your page count, grows. Consider a URL such as choosechicago.com/blog/top-chicago-attractions compared to choosechicago.com/blog/11/2020/top-chicago-attractions—it’s easier for search engine to make sense of the first example.
How to setup a redirect on Wix
A single 301 redirect is simple to configure. All you need is the old URL and the new URL. Wix makes it easy to do the rest.
Go to your dashboard and click SEO Tools. Next, click the URL Redirect Manager.
That page will list your redirects and is also where you can create new redirects. Click the + New Redirect button.
From there, you can add the old URL and the new URL. Hit Save & Close, and you’re done.
If you have multiple URLs to change, you can select Group Redirect. This way, instead of changing the path for each page, you can do it all at once. This can help you save time when redirecting product pages, old landing pages, and other groups of pages, for example.
You can import redirect links in bulk via spreadsheet as well. This will help you map out and upload redirects quickly. Watch this video for a step-by-step tutorial for group redirects.
If you change website URLs, you can redirect one domain to another domain. For example, the-blogsmith.com redirects to theblogsmith.com. You might also set up a redirect if you change your brand name and buy a new domain, or if you want to use both the .com and .net versions of your URL.
To set up the corresponding redirects, connect your second domain to Wix. From there, you can redirect the second domain to the primary domain on Wix.
Direct users and search engines with 301 redirects
A 301 redirect can help you maintain your SEO when you move URLs. To get even more out of your 301 redirects, you can merge similar pages with competing content or absorb a company and its content.
Maddy Osman - Founder, the blogsmith Maddy Osman is the bestselling author of Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style, and one of Semrush and BuzzSumo's Top 100 Content Marketers. She's also a digital native with a decade-long devotion to creating engaging content and the founder of The Blogsmith content agency. Twitter | Linkedin