“So what is a 301 redirect?” is a question we’re asked quite often. Redirecting a webpage basically means that the URL from one page, points to another. The initial page never loads. The webpage listed in the redirect is loaded instead.

The difference between a 301 and a 302 redirect

There’s two different redirects:

  • 301 redirects (which tell a search engine that the change is permanent)
  • 302 redirects (telling that the change is for limited time only, and the redirect page will be available again in time)

What does a 301 redirect do?

Redirects are mainly used to send visitor to the right page, in case a page doesn’t exist anymore, or its URL or domain has changed. For instance, if your original page’s URL is: “www.yoursite.com/mwah” and you want to change it to: “www.yoursite.com/WOOHOO” or “www.yoursite.CA/mwah”, you need a redirect.

Why are 301 redirects important?

Here’s why:

  • Better user experience: visitors land on the right page automatically. No need for “click here to go to where you actually wanted to go in the first place”-messages.
  • Keep accumulated authority. Once a page doesn’t exist anymore, all the links pointing to it are deemed irrelevant. All those social media campaigns, link building activities, and Facebook Likes will be thrown out of the door. Using a 301 redirect will keep the link juice flowing to your new pages.
  • More content for search spiders. They only crawl a limited amount of pages, so no time is wasted on irrelevant pages.

When do I use a 301 redirect?

SEO professionals often use 301 redirects, when:

  • A company launches a new website to replace an older one
  • URLs have been rewritten to include important search phrases
  • Multiple websites have been consolidated (e.g. when a new website replaces multiple websites in different languages)
  • Webpages with authority are to be (or have been) deleted from the website
  • A website migrates to a new domain (TIP: check our migration SEO checklist! Or risk going down, like ToysRUs)
  • Temporary (campaign or booster) websites are bound to go off-line

Is a redirect the same as a canonical tag?

In a way, yes. A canonical tag serves to tell a search engine to disregard one subdomain and redirect it to another. It acts as a redirect. And what is a canonical tag? Well, many websites have a www and a non-www version, such as:

  • http://www.mysite.com, and
  • http://mysite.com

Search engines see this as two different websites. As they’re exactly the same, search engines will pick and choose which site they’ll show. It pays to redirect one site to the other, so one site will be visible and gain all the authority from both sites, pushing it up in the search results. Do you use 301 or 302 redirects? What are your experiences?

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