301 Redirect: What it Is (and When to Use it)

301 redirectFinally thinking of ditching that old domain? If so, hold up! Setting up a 301 redirect is crucial before moving your website to a new domain, and not redirecting can completely derail your SEO.

So, why does your 301 redirect matter so much?

Without it, it’s just another new website to search engines. You’d be starting from scratch with no domain authority or SERP positioning. Worst of all is that you’ll be stuck with hundreds of broken inbound links from your previous domain.

And broken links mean bad backlinks.

You can’t get anything past search engines. Content may be king, but links are just as important for ranking.

If not redirecting sounds like an SEO nightmare, you’re right. Read on to learn more and get tips on how to use 301 redirects to boost your SEO!

What Exactly Is A 301 Redirect?

It’s important to note that 301 redirects are not the same as domain name forwarding. If you host your domain name with a registrar, you can easily forward to another name from your account dashboard. However, if you want to redirect your entire website, and keep that

If you host your domain name with a registrar, you can easily forward to another name from your account dashboard. However, if you want to redirect your entire website, and keep that precious link juice, then you need to input a permanent redirect command.

In short, a 301 redirect is a computer command that directs visitors from one website to another. When you set up your redirect, it creates an HTTP status code called “301 moved permanently.” Therefore, when your visitors can visit your old website and be instantly redirected to your new one without hassle.

Convenience is great, but the best part is that you don’t lose the hard-earned SEO work you put into your original website. A 301 command redirects all of your inbound links, so you don’t lose your footing in SERPS.

Now that you now what redirect to use, let’s explore which ones to avoid.

Don’t Use 302 Redirects For Permanent Moves

301 redirect isn’t the only redirect command, but it’s the one you want if you’re serious about SEO. Only set up a 302 “temporary” redirect if your website is undergoing maintenance for a short period of time. However, it’s important to note that 302 redirects will suck the SEO juice from your inbound links, so use this option sparingly.

Another redirect option you may run into is meta refresh. However, this is not a good option for preserving your SEO. Instead of instantly redirecting your visitors, they are instead greeted with a blank page with a message stating they’ll be redirected in a few seconds.

Website visitors are a tough crowd, and you’re lucky if they give you 15 seconds to impress. You don’t want to waste their precious time waiting for your website to load, so avoid meta fresh and temporary redirects as much as possible.

How To Redirect Your Website The Right Way

Here’s an interesting factoid: did you know that http://webconfs.com is a totally different website than http://www.webconfs.com? Well, at least to search engines, that is. And that’s all that matters.

One of the most common SEO mistakes people make is not setting up a 301 redirect between their www and non-www addresses.

Therefore, the first thing you need to decide is which URL is going to be your primary website.

Once you have your primary site, you can set up your redirects. But how you set up your redirects depends on your coding environment and server.

There are the main redirect methods you can use:

  • IIS Redirect
  • ColdFusion
  • PHP
  • ASP
  • ASP .NET
  • Java
  • CGI Pearl
  • Ruby on Rails

You can also set up a htaccess redirect if you’re using an Apache web server. Htaccess is a configuration file you can create to redirect your website and domain name. Just place it in your root directory with the proper rewrite code.

You can also take the easy way out:

If you use a cloud website platform (like WordPress.com, for example), then simply bypass all the coding stuff and redirect your entire website through an extra fee.

Once you’re finished, you’ll need to test your 301 redirect code with a search engine friendly redirect tool. If something’s not quite right, there may be a problem with the code. To make sure you’re doing it correctly, follow this helpful website redirection tutorial.

Make Redirects Apart of Your Marketing Strategy

Redirects preserve your link juice, but it doesn’t end there.

Make sure to perform a full SEO audit to ensure all your old inbound links are redirecting to their new domain. The last thing you want is to accidently confuse your visitors with broken links and 404 error pages.

You can also think of redirects as a branding opportunity.

Consider the marketing advantages of buying multiple, similar domains that point to your primary website. For example, if you find .org, .net, and .info versions of your domain, buy them up and input your redirects. You should also perform SEO keyword research to discover any relevant domains worth using.

Buying multiple domains may help with your local marketing. For example, if your consulting firm is located in South Beach, you may want to purchase relevant “south beach consulting” domains to catch more customers.

However, to make sure that search engines only index your primary website, you will need to input a canonical attribute into your website code. Otherwise, you’ll get dinged for duplicate content!

Of course, you should always have a backup of your website, directories, and files. Before and after you redirect, check your whois information to make sure all your content information is correct. This is what people will use to inquire if your domain is for sale.

You can’t take any chances with website makeovers!

Moving is evitable, even on the web. But in the hustle and bustle of switching domains, you can’t afford to lose any of your SEO data. You worked hard for that, so make sure you have a 301 redirect up and running before moving day.