Can Redirects Have an Effect on SEO
What Are Redirects?
Before answering the question ‘can redirects have an effect on SEO?’ we should look at what redirects are.
There are various techniques for directing users and search engines from one URL to another. One common method is using 301 redirects, which is a way to inform browsers that a certain page has permanently moved to a new location. This type of redirect is useful in several scenarios such as when you change your website’s domain, the structure of the website, or simply want to move a specific page.
Now, the question is, how does implementing 301 redirects impact SEO? The good news is that properly executed 301 redirects can actually have a positive impact on your website’s search engine optimization. It helps to maintain link equity and avoid any potential loss of link juice, thereby ensuring that the new URL is properly indexed and retains the same search engine ranking as the original URL.
What are 301 Redirects?
A 301 redirect is a protocol that tells the browser to access content from a different URL instead of the one that was initially requested. It is a way of redirecting web users and search engines from one URL to another. When a user attempts to access a specific URL and lands on a different page, it’s because they’re encountering a HTTP redirect.
301 redirects are a common occurrence on the internet and are used for various reasons. For example, when a website changes its domain, a 301 redirect can send users to the new domain. Similarly, if a page’s URL is changed, a 301 redirect can prevent users who have bookmarked the old URL from encountering a 404 error. Additionally, when a page is deleted, a 301 redirect can help direct users to other useful parts of the website.
The “301” code in a 301 redirect is significant as it informs browsers and search engines that the redirection is permanent. This means that the old URL is no longer in service and should be forgotten. For users, a 301 redirect gives them an opportunity to update their bookmarks and links to the new URL.
From an SEO perspective, 301 redirects play a crucial role. Search engines use domain and URL information to rank websites. By implementing a 301 redirect, you’re telling search engines to pass on the ranking of the old URL to the new URL. Implementing a 301 redirect in WordPress is relatively straightforward, but it’s essential to understand how it can impact SEO before making changes to the sites .htaccess file.
So, Do 301 Redirects Effect SEO?
Going back to our question, ‘can redirects have an effect on SEO?’, let’s specifically answer for 301 redirects. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the impact of 301 redirects on SEO, as in the past, implementing them could lead to a decrease in a page’s ranking.
The details of search engine algorithms are not publicly available, but we know some of the ranking signals. Google ranks pages using the PageRank algorithm and until 6 or 7 years ago, it was possible to check PageRank scores for any page, it’s now not possible.
Because a correlation was noticed between 301 redirects and decreasing PageRank scores by some, it was believed that implementing 301 redirects could decrease PageRank by as much as 15%. This led to a drop in search engine rankings. The issue was compounded with chain redirects, with each URL in the chain affecting PageRank even more. Although the correlation between PageRank and rankings isn’t public, Google updated its algorithm so that 301 redirects no longer negatively impact PageRank. Google’s official stance confirms that they don’t impact SEO, but they must be set up correctly.
Could 301 Redirects Actually Improve Your SEO?
Now we know that there seems to be no negative effect to using 301 redirects (unless used in the wrong way), we should look at how they can be used to help your SEO.
To use a 301 redirect to boost your website’s SEO, you could:
- Identify pages that receive traffic but have a low ranking or pages that have been removed for whatever reason and are now generating 404 errors.
- Implement a 301 redirect from these pages to a higher-ranking page related to the content of the original page. This helps to pass on the original page’s ranking and authority to the new page.
- Make sure the redirects are set up correctly to avoid any technical issues that could harm your website’s ranking.
- Monitor your website’s ranking and traffic to ensure that the 301 redirects are having the desired effect.
Remember that while a well-implemented 301 redirect can boost your website’s SEO, it is only one factor among many that can impact your website’s ranking.
How Could 301 Redirects Have a Negative Impact on Your SEO?
As mentioned above, 301 redirects don’t have a negative effect on your SEO unless used in the wrong way, so what wouldn’t you use a 301 redirect for?
You should not use a 301 redirect for:
Redirecting users to a different URL than what the search engines see.
If you only need to redirect for a short time, use a 302 redirect instead.
To prevent search engines from accessing or crawling a page, use a robots.txt file or a noindex tag instead.
Redirecting to irrelevant or spammy pages:
This can harm your website’s reputation and search engine ranking.
Too many redirects can slow down your website, leading to a poor user experience and potentially affecting your search engine rankings.
Both examples of positive and negative use of 310 redirects give you an overview of what to consider when using them. As we always state, SEO is a complex holistic beast, so your use of 301 redirects is only a small part of the whole when it comes to rankings.
What About Other Redirects?
Having got to the bottom of 301 redirects, you may have heard of other types of redirects and will be wondering what effects they may also have on your SEO.
There are several types of redirects, including:
These are temporary redirects, typically used when a page is under maintenance or undergoing updates. 302 redirects do not pass link equity and do not affect SEO. There’s no set time for how long a 302 redirect should be in place before changing to a permanent 301 redirect or removing it. It depends on the reason for the temporary redirect and the desired outcome. Once the reason for the temporary redirect is resolved, it’s best practice to update the redirect to a permanent 301 redirect or remove it if it’s no longer necessary.
Meta refresh redirects:
These are HTML-based redirects, which are slow and do not pass link equity. Meta refresh redirects are not recommended for SEO.
These are like 302 redirects but are specific to HTTP 1.1. Like 302 redirects, they do not pass link equity and do not affect SEO.
Canonical tags are used to specify the preferred version of a URL for search engines. They do not redirect users, but they do tell search engines which version of a page to index. Canonical tags can help with duplicate content issues, but do not pass link equity.
That word of warning – 301 redirects can have a positive effect as part of your SEO, but they must be setup correctly. Set them up incorrectly and you could be causing more damage.
Could We Help with Redirects?
If you’re unsure what might be holding your SEO back, we’d always recommend that you start with a full website SEO audit.
A full audit will uncover any problems you might have with your website, and discovering what redirects need to be put in place will be a part of the audit.
If you’ve already considered an audit, want to move forwards and you’d like to discuss social:definition carrying out a detailed full website SEO audit, please get in contact with us using the details you’ll find anywhere on our website or using the form on this page. We’ll arrange a suitable time to have an initial Zoom call, go through costings and our SEO audit checklist so that you know what exactly we’ll be doing for you to create the detailed report, and if you are happy to go ahead, we’ll gather some additional information from you to get things started and ask for you to come back to us with some further information and access to accounts where required.
If you’re still unsure that a full website SEO audit is the way to move forwards, why not hop across to our introductory website audit page. When there, just add your domain details, email address and telephone number and we’ll run a 25-page website SEO audit free for your website. You’ll receive an email (usually within 30 minutes) with an overview of how these first 25 pages fair.