The internet is an ample space fitting billions of websites and webpages, making it rather difficult to find the one you need. But the other challenge arises for businesses who struggle to lead customers and audiences to their websites. URL redirects are the best solution to both of these issues.
URL redirects are certainly one of the most effective yet useful tools to direct traffic to a website. These redirects do an excellent job of forwarding users and search engine crawlers from one website to another. In addition, people generally use URL redirects to merge websites, remove or update content, fix 404 errors, and conduct site migrations.
But despite the utility and benefits of URL redirects, most people have unclear perceptions as to what this tool does. So let’s clear out all these misconceptions with a deep dive into page redirects and get better clarity on the matter.
But First, What Exactly Is a URL Redirect?
People often wonder what is a redirect, and this question springs up more often than one would imagine. Simply put, redirects are more like a medium that senses users from one URL to another. These redirects are an amazing way to boost traffic flow into a website; hence, they are an integral component of digital marketing.
Redirectors can help users get a superior experience, contributing to better result generation. Besides that, redirects can also help move traffic from URLs you don’t want anyone visiting. This will include URLs such as the ones responding with 404 error status codes or even URLs with outdated or changed content.
Redirects are very important in helping one boost their website’s rankings on search engines. This is because search engines leverage existing ranking signals to determine the rank of a given website. These signals include many things, such as the website’s usability, content quality, and mobile-friendliness among many other such signals.
Different Types Of URL Redirects
There are two different types of redirects which include permanent and temporary redirects. Telling the difference between both these types is not always easy, but they are still very important for enhancing the search engine rankings of a website. So let’s take a detailed look at both these redirect types.
These redirects are used for websites that don’t want to display an old page again. This can include deleted pages or a combination of duplicate pages. Permanent redirects will mainly tell search engines that it is okay to get rid of an old URL from search results and start to display the new ones.
Then comes temporary redirects used for redirecting a page for a short time. For instance, suppose you are doing website maintenance; you could use a temporary redirect to message users about telling them to check back after completing the maintenance. You can use a temporary redirect, and Google will usually keep the old URL in its index for longer than it would be the case with a permanent redirect.
It is worth mentioning that redirects play an important role in signaling search engines. Hence you must choose the right redirects to communicate your message about what you want to do with a particular URL.
Are Redirects Important?
Now that you have a better sense of the question of what are redirects, it is time to understand their significance. There are multiple reasons why redirects are so important in today’s digital marketing environment. For starters, these redirects play a very important role in forwarding traffic from one URL to the other, especially when an old URL is no longer functional.
But besides that, URL redirects can also be very helpful in forwarding authority when backlinks point to a moved page. Redirects can also help enhance visitors’ overall user experience since it ensures they don’t end up on duplicated or broken pages. In case someone happens to use redirects effectively, their website will likely lose rankings in search results.
Let’s better understand this with an example. For instance, suppose you delete or move a page with a redirect in place. In this case, visitors will see a 404 error response from the server, further contributing to a bad user experience.
In addition, this will automatically trigger visitors to leave your website and visit a competitor’s website instead. Hence, websites need URL redirects to prevent 404 errors and get visitors to the page they are looking for without any complications.
But When Should You Use URL Redirects?
There are many scenarios where an URL redirect can come in as a handy tool for websites. But in most conventional cases, an URL redirect is necessary when the original URL is visited by visitors frequently, ranked or indexed, linked to and from the website and external sources, or used in other content such as a newsletter.
However, you might not have to use URL redirects that are no longer popular or valuable to visitors. According to experts from Google, a 404 error does not necessarily impact the website’s performance if you are certain the URL should not exist on the website. But these 404 errors can only hurt your website’s performance if you have links redirecting visitors to an error page.
It will then become very important that you implement a redirect and preserve the accumulated rank of the website. But you can even enhance visitors’ experience who arrive at error pages. For instance, you could consider guiding them to a better location or suggest a couple of steps for navigating out of this complication.
What are HTTP Redirects All About?
With a better understanding of how do redirects work, it is time to focus on HTTP redirects. Suppose the visitor’s browser requests an old or redirected URL; then, the server will automatically display the webpage of the new URL. From the visitor’s point of view, HTTP redirects are as simple as they can get.
However, getting into more technicalities can make things a bit more complex. HTTP redirects are server-side redirects since the web server will take care of them before the page loads. It will do so by responding with a 3xx HTTP code after receiving the request for a redirected URL. These 3xx codes are similar to instructions for the web browser since they indicate the requested URL has been redirected and the location to find the new webpage.
Some of the most common types of 3xx codes include the 301 redirect, which means moved permanently; 302 redirects mean redirected temporarily; and the 303 redirect, which means redirected temporarily. Besides that, there are also 307 and 308 redirects which also indicate redirects temporarily.
Best Practices For Implementing Redirects
URL redirects can do wonders for your website as long as you can use them appropriately. A correctly constructed redirect ensures search engines will associate ranking signals of the old URL with the new one. This way, it becomes much easier to keep your rankings, revenue, and traffic intact. Some of the best practices for implementing redirects include;
1. Use 301 Redirects For Potential Duplication Issues
It is always possible for URLs to exist in different formats, which can potentially lead to duplication issues. For instance, you could have versions of the URLs with and without a www., with HTTP and HTTPS, and lastly, with and without trial slashes (/). Using 301 redirects to point to a canonical version of the URL ensures there are no content duplication issues with the URL.
2. Avoid Redirect Loops And Chains
Whenever there is more than one redirect between the original and destination URL, the chances of the redirect chain occurring can increase significantly. This will increase visitors’ time to visit the destination page, further hampering their experience.
For instance, suppose you have three different URLs: A, B, and C. Here, you should avoid creating redirections such as URL A → URL B and URL B → URL C. Instead, you must keep the redirects simple such as URL A → URL C, and URL B → URL C.
Redirect loops also occur when visitors are not able to reach the destination URL due to poor redirect implementation. As a result, these URLs redirect to each other, making the destination URL inaccessible.
3. Fix Issues With Broken Links
Broken links can cause much more damage to your website than you might have imagined. This makes it imperative you fix the issues associated with broken links at the earliest to ensure they do not hamper your website’s performance. You can even use different tools to help you find and correct broken links effectively.
In most cases, updating internal links can be very helpful. This is important since broken links can cause severe damage to the overall SEO performance of a website. In addition, these links can amount to 404 error messages, further impacting the website’s overall SEO performance.
Besides that, you might even have to fix external links since they are an important ranking signal for search engines. In these cases, you might have to change the entire URL to fix this issue for good.
URL redirects can be a potent SEO tool when you use them appropriately. However, you must learn more ways how to redirect a URL to another URL and use these things to your advantage. So, leverage the aforementioned information and use URL redirects to your advantage.
I am 10-year experienced digital marketing expert with experience of managing Local SEO, PPC, and Social media accounts.