Getting Technical with SEO: Redirected Websites and 301s

For many webmasters, the technical side of SEO is one of the most dreaded digital activities.

You can’t really be blamed you if you feel the same way. However, ignoring it poses a risky proposition. Take the example of 301 redirects.

They may seem like a minor issue but can have a profound impact on your position in SERP.

First off, they shield you from various ranking-curbing issues. Secondly, they bring significant traffic gains, transfer link juice, and preserve the site’s domain authority.

On top of all that, 301 redirects facilitate content migrations and site renaming/rebranding. Both users and search engines can find and make sense of your website/pages faster. Your redirected websites and pages get a new lease of life.

All in all, 301 redirects are a great way to make your SEO game spot-on.

So, executing them is an essential SEO skill for 2020 and beyond. Here is a guide on how to go about acquiring and honing it.

Getting Technical with SEO Redirected Websites and 301s

Permanently Moved

301 redirects are harbingers of shifts in website structure and other important changes.

In a nutshell, they represent a redirect from one webpage (URL) to another. They contain a status code of a 3XX class. The situations when we rely on them are when pages are permanently moved from their internet location.

With a 301 redirect, visitors or search engines are taken to a page other than the original destination they selected/typed. This occurs without users having to type the new URL.

Such a basic definition is rather straightforward, but it’s worth hammering one point home.

You should never use meta refresh and 302 redirects for permanent changes. 302 redirects are reserved for temporary moves only. When it comes to meta refresh redirects, Google advises against their use.

The lesson to draw at this point is clear. Check whether you have the wrong types of redirects on your site. Get ready to learn how to put 301 codes instead of them.

From Theory to Practice

Carrying out the redirection process in practice is fairly simple.

Perhaps the most common method is editing .htaccess file in the site’s root folder. You place a few strings of code that are used for 301 redirects.

They should look like this: Redirect 301 /

Naturally, you need to exchange “yourwebsite” with the domain you wish. Then, you go on to save the file and upload it to your site.

Pay attention to the placement and order of code. The latter aspect is particularly important for executing redirect chains. This term pertains to series of two or more redirects.

If you don’t have a .htaccess file, it’s high time to correct that. You can create it in no time via Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac OS).

Just bear in mind that only Apache servers are compatible with .htaccess. Check with your host whether you’re using that type. There are some other caveats and exceptions to be aware of.

For instance, redirecting URL to non-URL requires a different codebase.

In case WordPress powers your site, the process is a breeze. Instead of editing the .htaccess file, you just need to download the right plugin. There’s no shortage of them available in the WP ecosystem.

The SEO Outlook

The tricky part is related to understanding how redirects fit the technical SEO picture.

It’s been proven you can use this technical tool to boost organic traffic. This is because redirects affect Google PageRank, an algorithm that evaluates pages and websites. It takes into account factors such as quantity and quality of links.

Of course, there are around 200 other signals in existence, but they’re far from created equal. PageRank holds more weight than most of them.

Unfortunately, as of 2016, Google no longer keeps public records. Thus, we have no way of knowing our exact PageRank score. Yet, we’re not operating in the dark.

There is a proven positive correlation between the volume of traffic page gets and its ranking. Solid proof comes in the form of Google’s official statement. The company denied 301 redirects lead to any PageRank dissipation.

In other words, the redirected page retains all of the SEO juice that the original page had. Nothing gets “lost in translation.”

This consistency in spite of change is precisely why redirects are integral to winsome SEO strategies.

Avoiding the Technical Pitfalls

Alas, there are various technical issues that could hamper your redirection efforts.

For starters, once you do the redirect, it causes irreversible change. Swapping redirects doesn’t get you back to the place of former organic glory.

First, you should confirm that HTTP versions of the site point to HTTPS. The reason is simple: Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal.

Other benefits you can reap are heightened security and an SSL certificate.

So, go to your webpage and inspect the URL bar. Change https:// to http:// and press enter. If you end up back to https:// location, then a proper 301 redirect is in place. 

Just in case, see if all pages and subdomains return the same result. Conducting a site-wide SEO audit for good measure is a good idea here. Ahref’s Site Audit is one of the tools designed for this purpose.

It produces actionable reports that display various issues you need to address.

A Matter of Sitemap

Next off, you need to examine your sitemap.

After all, Google does the same when figuring out which pages to crawl and index. When it encounters pages with 301 status codes, it crawls and re-crawls them.

This redundant back-and-forth can hurt your SEO prospects.

That’s why you need to take a proactive approach and navigate to your sitemap. There, pull all your URLs and identify pages with 301 status codes.

You can utilize free HTTP status code checkers to do this easily. General SEO tools, such as the aforementioned Ahref’s Site Audit also do the trick.

The next step after filtering is doing away with pages that have status code denotation. Once that is sorted out, put final redirect URLs in their place.

Redirect Chains

Search engines and browsers are capable of following the tracks that structural changes leave. Still, it’s possible to minimize the risk by taking a few precautions.

Rule number one is to keep the chain of redirects as short as possible. In addition, you can try redirecting to a final destination to ward off any confusion.

It would be even better to avoid redirect chains altogether.  They impede smooth user experience and weigh site performance down. So, replace the redirect chain with a single redirect.

If that isn’t feasible, show extra vigilance.

For instance, pay attention to the pitfall called the redirect loop. It emerges when a URL in the chain leads to another URL in the chain. This simple error creates an infinite loop of redirects.

This is nothing short of a trap that confuses both users and Googlebot. The former usually receive “the page isn’t working” or a similar prompt.

What you need to do once more is apply the proper SEO tool. The goal is to sift through URLs and find errors such as “exceeded maximum number of redirects.” Some platforms show them as redirect loop errors in internal reports.

Broken and 404 Redirects

Next on the most wanted list are broken redirects.

They take uses and search engines to pages that are practically dead. This means neither can actually get to the desired destination.

To banish these ghosts of the internet from existence, you can audit your URLs. Use an HTTP status code checker to do this in batches and see if any errors sprout up. Upon completing this task, you have two options before you.

Either eliminate the in-links to the redirected URL or resurrect the dead page. Both solutions will prevent this issue from affecting your ranking or impeding crawling.

Reinstating though makes sense only if you deleted a page by accident.

Along similar lines, use these techniques to deal with 404-page redirects. Yes, “page not found” messages have a purpose in cases like URL mistypes, but more often than not, 404 status codes spell bad news.

Crawlable (and clickable) 404 pages are a waste of time. On the other hand, 404 pages that contain backlinks squander the SEO juice they hold.

Therefore, do yourself a favor and search for 404-page errors.

Putting Proper Traffic Lights

Redirected pages shouldn’t get any organic traffic, as they aren’t subject to Google indexing.

When they are, it’s because the search engine hasn’t picked up on a 301 redirect. To tackle the problem, employ the URL batch analysis tool again. Google Search Console and Google Analytics fit the bill as well.

Your main objective is to weed out all 3XX pages that receive visits. Take a closer look at page-level traffic and let the tool single out errors.

Do remember Google doesn’t instantly recognize 301 redirects. It takes some time for the crawl process to kick in. So, refrain from reacting prematurely.

You can, however, accelerate crawling via Google Search Console’s URL Inspection Tool. You just have to intimate the option called “Request Indexing.”

Mix an SEO Cocktail

Following all of the steps above propels you toward the Organic Promised Land.

You can finally focus on making the most of 301 redirects to elevate your ranking. The first approach to consider is the cocktail technique.

It revolves around merging two related pages on your website. You rely on the logic that page amalgams are more than the sum of their parts. Indeed, the cocktail technique works miracles when you have two pages with average performance, valuable backlinks, and a unifying topic.

Implementing a 301 redirect consolidates authority and bolsters content quality and value.

Keyword cannibalization may also reveal opportunities to throw an SEO cocktail party. This issue involves situations when two pages compete for the same keywords.

The amount of resource investment in the cocktail tactic is relatively low. You just have to identify the best elements of two pages, rewrite content, and then merge them into one.

Then, you delete the old page and add it to your new page. Lastly, you publish it and do a 301 redirect, reusing the same URL.

An alternative strategy would be to redirect both old pages and opt for a completely new URL.

Merger Method

The merger method is another smart way to capitalize on redirects.

The first stage entails buying a potentially lucrative website/business in your industry. The second one requires you to merge it with your site with the help of 301 redirects.

This doesn’t imply you should just redirect all pages to your homepage. You’re much better off embracing a page-by-page approach. You re-home and redirect content to safely transport link juice.

This tactic yields impressive benefits when the content possesses quality and topic relevance.

However, when you have pages with little traffic and unrated topics, re-homing isn’t overly useful. In fact, it’s more prudent to delete and redirect. If you can’t find a suitable new location, you have one last resort, redirecting pages to your homepage. It’s your last resort because Google might treat these redirects as soft 404 instances.

Finally, notice mergers help you direct web traffic from other pieces of digital real estate you own. Perhaps you bought a domain name that is similar to your own to capture more traffic.

The list of 301 redirect use cases goes on.

Keep on Rocking with Redirected Websites and Pages

301 redirects account for all permanent web moves.

They help algorithms and people understand how your digital presence evolves over time. They drive more traffic your way and extract more value from it. You can carry out endeavors such as content migrations without running into risks.

However, the ultimate trick is to do redirections strategically and do them right.

You can start by getting familiar with ways 301 redirects impact your ranking in SERP. Then, brace yourself to do some house cleaning.

Examine the pages for existing problems with your redirects. Keep your eyes peeled for various technical errors that stifle the smooth flow of traffic. Go over your sitemap with a fine-tooth comb.

Find a suitable new home for redirected websites and pages, as well as refurbished content. Maintain your website authority and protect that link juice.  

If you require assistance, with your strategy don’t hesitate to schedule a digital marketing review. We can help you overshadow competition on the big organic stage. 

Owner and Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Hall, and his team specialize in creating brand awareness / traffic and lead generation / marketing funnel and conversion optimization, while utilizing the appropriate marketing channels available within your industry. With diverse clients throughout the world, Jason's team is well connected within many industries to assist with your marketing strategies. With no long term contracts and various levels of service, Jason's team will increase the quality of your online traffic, leads, and sales.

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About the author...

Located in the heart of the Emerald Coast - Destin, FL, founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Hall, and his team specialize in creating brand awareness / traffic and lead generation / marketing funnel and conversion optimization / and PR campaigns, while utilizing the appropriate marketing channels available within your industry.

With diverse clients throughout the world, Jason's team is well connected within many industries to assist with your marketing strategies. With no long term contracts and various levels of service, Jason's team will increase the quality of your online traffic, leads, and sales.

Jason Hall

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