301 Redirects: What it Means For Website Development

301 redirects. What are they? What is a 301? Is it a stylish brand of sturdy denim pants?  Or is it an area code in Maryland?  Yes, both are true. In this article though, we are talking about a 301 redirect on a website.

Have you ever moved to a new house and changed addresses, but forgot to have your mail forwarded to your new mailing address?  Eventually everything gets to the new address, but for a while, it is difficult if not impossible to continue getting your mail.  To keep your life moving, you need to have your mail forwarded to the new address.  Same thing with websites.  Have you tried to get on a page on the internet, only to get a message that the page is no longer available, or the content has been moved?  This can be a frustrating user experience, and can hurt your SEO and can drain something called “Link juice”. More on that in a minute.

If you do have web pages that you no longer use, you may want to have your website developer create something called 301 redirects on all of the pages that show up in a search as your old website. 

301 redirects Definition

Simply put, a 301 redirect is a permanent redirection of website traffic when a URL gets changed and moved to a separate location. If you have a website named mywebsiteissecondbest.com and you get a new name for your business, and your new refreshed website is located at mywebsite isthebest.com, having a 301 redirect will take users to the new website, even if they were looking for the old one.

There is something called “Link juice” in the SEO business. This refers to the value passed from one website page to another.  This is done through hyperlinks.  A search engine such as Google will view those links as votes of confidence from other websites. These links are saying, in essence, that the content on these pages is valuable and worth linking to. Link juice is beneficial for increasing the SEO of your website, so having a 301 redirect is important. 301 redirects help you keep that link juice that you have built up over time with the old website, and apply it to your new website. If you don’t put 301 redirects on your pages, you can end up with dead ends:  URL’s that don’t connect to anything, and leave your visitors stranded and frustrated.

Not only do 301 redirects get your website visitors sent to the correct location, but it also gets the web crawling bots to the correct pages, so that your website is crawled and cataloged accurately. This step is crucial for optimizing your SEO.

When to use a 301

There are several situations when a 301 redirect is beneficial.  For example, if you are migrating a website away from an existing domain to a new domain as suggested before, or if you are rebranding or refreshing your website, or even if you are changing from a .com to a .org domain.

Perhaps you are moving a page from one website to another.  Maybe you have a blog article that you are putting into a new category, or you are renaming a product. All of these situations would be best handled by including a 301 redirect to ensure a seamless experience for the user.

Just as a bit of trivia, a 301 redirect indicates a permanent change, where a 302 redirect indicates a temporary change. Just in case you were wondering!

When wouldn’t I want to use a 301 redirect?

One situation where you would not want to use a 301 redirect would be if you delete a page from your website permanently.  In that case, you may want to route any future page traffic to a 404 error page, which means the page can’t be found, or  to a 401 error page, which means the page has been intentionally and permanently removed.  A 404 error page is used to let the user know that the content they are searching for can’t be found and has been deleted.  Thai may be a better choice for the end user, rather than have them redirected to your website homepage.

Update your sitemap when you implement 301 redirects

Pro tip:  When you create a 301 redirect, also update the sitemap for your website.  Your sitemap helps search engines know how to navigate and index your pages. 

As you can see, having 301 redirects can be beneficial to having optimal user experience and for keeping your link juice flowing!  If you need a website refresh that includes 301 redirects, give us a call or visit our website. At 212 Creative, LLC, we are standing by ready to help!  Call us! Let’s begin.

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