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What Are 301 Redirects And How Do They Impact My Website's Rankings?

Using 301 Redirects on your website.jpg

If your company is ready to plan your next website redesign, this is a great time to consider what features and functions will help you get better Search Engine Result Page (SERP) rankings, traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. Achieving page-one SERP rankings for the most likely search terms pertinent to your business and products carries many advantages, but the most important is that if your page is not on page one of the SERPs for relevant search terms, it has less than a five percent chance of ever being seen by search engine users at all.

There are several reasons a company might need to redirect web traffic from one URL to another: Changing domains and implementing Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security, for example. When you implement SSL, your website URL will change from HTTP to HTTPS, which search engines see as a complete change of address, so it's important that you change your address correctly, just like you must when you move your offices. Unfortunately, changing your URL is a little more complicated than filing a notice with the post office.

Filing A Change Of Address With Search Engines

Changing your site's URL involves a lot of details, like correctly updating the site's HTML, and most businesses seek professional help to make these changes, because getting these myriad tedious details wrong can be a costly mistake. The most basic thing to understand and get right is the way in which your site indicates to search engines that something has changed. There are two primary types of redirects: 301 permanent redirect, and 302 temporary redirect. The 302 temporary redirect is easier to set up, but it is also less secure (it leaves an opening for spoofers to divert traffic from your real site, and onto an impostor site), and it doesn't send the same critical information to search engines: This site has moved, lock, stock, and barrel. Using a properly implemented 301 permanent redirect passes 90-99 percent of the original site's ranking power to the new page.

How Correctly Using 301 Redirects Will Help

The algorithm used by Google (and similar algorithms used by other search engines) to establish SERP rankings looks at, among other things, a site's page-load speed, the originality of their content, and site security when it determines that site's specific ranking. When you use a properly implemented 301 redirect, you address all three of these factors.

  • Page-Load Speed – If your site move uses a bunch of temporary redirects from your old content to the new, users will experience a delay in page loading. In some cases, they may be bounced from one old URL to another, before arriving at your new URL, or they may be bounced from an internal page on your old site to the home page of your new site, depending on how the redirects were set up. The correct way is to use a 301 redirect from every page on your old site, directly to its counterpart page on your new site.
  • Original Content – Search engines penalize websites for publishing content that is duplicated elsewhere on the web. Even if both instances are your own content and pages, you can be penalized. Part of implementing 301 redirects should be establishing the new site (in HTML terms) as the official, or canonical, version, so that search engines are notified that this is not a duplicate instance, it's a change of address for that content.
  • Site Security – Google and other search engines now use site security as a criterion for determining SERP ranking, as well. If your site has a SSL certificate, and you've correctly implemented it, you'll receive a bump in SERP rankings. If your site leaves security gaps, like 302 redirects, which hackers and spoofers can use to hijack or corrupt data transfer between you and your customers, or by misdirecting them to an entirely different site, your SERP rankings will be lowered.

Take Full Advantage Of Your Next Website Redesign

If a website redesign is in your near-future business plans, take the time to consider all the advantages you can gain by including improved SEO, page performance, and security features in your next design. Good design and content will help your page achieve those critical page one SERP rankings so you'll be the ones people turn to first when they search for products or services in your market.

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Website Design, Website Redesign, SEO
Nicole Gosz

Article by Nicole Gosz