A 301 redirect may mean nothing to regular users, however to SEO’s and search engine bots they are vital in ensuring traffic and authority is passed over from an old URL (page) to a new equivalent URL.
Why redirects matter to users…
That isn’t to say redirects are not important for users. A user could be searching Google for a particular product and find one of your site’s redundant product pages. If a product no longer exists or has been moved, clicking this could return a result that leaves users at a dead-end (a 404 error), risking losing that customer.
Help Google serve its users while keeping earned authority and traffic…
To ensure the search results are as accurate as can be, redirects are primarily in place to inform search engines where to find a new URL, should a URL change or a page no longer exists.
There are different types of redirects…
302 redirects are temporary redirects, unlike 301 redirects they do not carry over the earned authority to the new URL. 301 redirects are classed as permanent redirects from one URL to another; this can be from http to https or from a page that has been removed through to a new equivalent page or amended URL.
For example –
- http://www.domain.com to https://www.domain.com (when moving to a secure domain)
- https://www.domain.com to https://domain.com (when changing from www. to non-www.)
- https://domain.com/product to https://domain.com/product-upgrade (should a particular product replace a new product)
Ensuring that the redirects are correct will assist both users and search engine crawl bots. Sometimes a product may come back into stock, therefore we would recommend the page remains as is.
Permanent 301 redirects ensure that any previous SEO value or weight (links or traffic) a page has earned has been passed onto the new URL. This ensures SEO efforts are not lost passing over earned authority and traffic through to the new page/URL.
Recently we worked on a client which had moved its entire website to a new platform, which subsequently gave the new site friendlier URLs. However, the redirect strategy that was implemented was en-masse and all of the URLs were pointed to the homepage.
John Mueller stated back in August of 2018
“redirecting everything to just the homepage is a really bad practice.” “Because we lose all of the signals that are associated with the old content if you’re just saying well the homepage replaces all of these lower-level pages”
Poorly implemented redirects…
The impact that this had on the client was significant and all of the keywords and pages which they were historically ranking for had dropped – which subsequently meant the organic traffic also dropped (see Google Analytics below).
The visibility in Searchmetrics was aligned with this –
Recovering lost authority…
The first step which we needed to undertake was to grab all of the historic URLs and make sure that these were all mapped correctly to the new and relevant URL.
This did take time and depended on the Wayback machine as there was no previous crawl data for the site.
We then reviewed the traffic and the landing pages and prioritised the pages and redirects to implement.
The results were almost instant and once applied correctly, visibility tool started to show the increase –
Obviously, there is still more work to be undertaken with this client in order to recover their performance but the first step of ensuring all of their redirects are correct and the authority is retained has been a major part of this recovery.
When looking for move sites or change large amounts of URLs make sure the right time is spent in mapping out the URL’s to stop any major loss in performance.