When it comes to maintaining an online presence, your website sits front and center as a source of web visibility and incoming traffic. But maintaining a business site is not just about choosing a URL, building your pages, and running a few marketing efforts. If you want to make sure quality traffic is not interrupted or put to waste even if you switch URLs, you will need to get close and personal with 301 redirects.
But first and foremost —- what are 301 redirects? How does it differ from 302 redirects?
And in which ways can you actually use 301 redirects to drive more traffic into your business site?
What are 301 Redirects?
A 301 redirect serves to redirect your site visitors into your permanent URL even after they have clicked on another URL, or an older one which no longer serves your existing site. Take note that that this is a permanent redirection —- thus, you use a 301 redirect only if you are permanently moving to a new URL.
A 301 redirect is also helpful even if you have not changed URLs but want your visitors to still be taken to your site regardless of the way they perform an online search.
Take our website, WebsiteGo as an example. If you type www.websitego.com into Google’s address bar, you will be taken into the website’s home page. Notice, however, that once you are taken into the site itself, the WWW is no longer visible on the address bar; instead, what you’ll see is either websitego.com or https://www.websitego.com. This can mean that a 301 redirect was done for WebsiteGo address bar searches that start with the WWW prefix scheme so that it will still take you to the correct site, regardless.
Other than making sure that searches are pointed back to your site, why is the setting up of 301 redirects crucial?
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest reasons below.
Why Set Up 301 Redirects?
The most important reason for doing 301 redirects is for your site to maintain domain authority. What you want is for your searchers and for the search engines to be sent to your URL so that traffic and ranking are optimized and maintained.
This is hugely important when you have changed or are about to change the name of your site or blog, or if you have purchased a new domain. When a search engine crawls your new domain without a 301 redirect set up from your old domain or URL, it may consider the new URL to be ‘entirely new’ and without inbound links and traffic as of yet. This can negatively impact SEO over time.
The redirect also helps you maintain brand recall. In the WebsiteGo example, the elimination of the WWW scheme once the searcher is taken into the site highlights the brand WebsiteGo very clearly. Furthermore, the visibility of the HTTPS:// prefix (https://www.websitego.com) once the address bar is clicked again highlights the security of the site both on the perception of the search engine crawlers and astute searchers themselves.
This can improve SEO results tremendously.
Another reason why you may have to use a 301 redirect is if you have combined two websites into your single new website and you want to make sure that the inbound links and traffic coming from the old sites are being coursed into the new one.
301 versus 302 Redirects
A common mistake for business owners performing their own 301 redirects is mistakenly doing a 302 redirect instead. Now, how does the 302 redirect differ from the 301 redirect?
You use a 302 redirect if you want to redirect users to a new URL or site temporarily. Let’s say the old page is broken and will have to be fixed. Or, you simply want to experiment with a new page, or your old website is finally getting a design update. Thus, you intend your users to be redirected only for a period of time.
If the intent of the redirection is only for the time being, then 302 redirect is needed.
If, however, there’s a need for a permanent redirection, then you will have to use a 301 redirect.
301 Redirects and Getting More Website Traffic
In a blog by Neil Patel, he says that using 301 redirects properly can lead you to gain a traffic boost.
This is expected because by using this redirect, you are keeping the usual flow of traffic into your new site and also informing Google that the new URL is simply a rebranding or merging of the old one.
Neil Patel also highlights that Google prefers the HTTPS prefix scheme for websites as this gives off a better sense of security instead of simply using HTTP. After all, Google would prefer for website visitors to feel safe and safeguarded every time they use a website.
And for websites not considered by Google to be safe — or those not using HTTPS — a warning actually pops up every time a user accesses the HTTPS version of the URL on the address bar. Since this has the potential to deter users away, traffic could be reduced significantly over a considerable length of time.
301 redirects are extremely helpful in making sure that your site is still found by search engines and search users even after you have moved permanently to a new URL.
From time to time, you may need to update your pages or redesign your website as a whole. And just because you have moved to a new destination doesn’t mean you can no longer take your clients with you. This is the basic principle in using a 301 redirect.
You have the option to perform a 301 redirect on your own or to seek the help of a digital marketer to do the work for you. The important thing is to lead quality traffic to your site, despite changes and improvements you may have made for good.