You may find yourself needing to redirect people that visit one URL to another. There are many reasons why you may choose to redirect a URL, and several different options depending on your use case. What sort of redirection should you be using, and what effect can it have on your SEO strategy?
Purposes of HTTP Redirection
Organizations may choose to register domains that have a similar spelling to their own, or are on other top level domains (like .net or .edu). Our preferred domain is www.husaria-marketing.com for example, but if you visit www.husariamarketing.com you will be redirected here. Larger organizations may choose to register domains that are common misspellings of their own, like www.gogle.com
Moving Pages or Sites
If you’re reading this guide, this likely pertains to you. You may need to change your domain or merge with another website. By using a redirect, you’re able to send people who visit outdated links to the correct page or site.
Not all uses of HTTP redirects are ethical. Unscrupulous agencies and individuals may use redirects to drive traffic to pages that otherwise would not receive it. Typosquatters also use redirects for nefarious purposes. If an organization hasn’t protected themselves by registering similar or misspelled domains, a Typosquatter can register it themselves and redirect visitors to their own target pages.
Types of HTTP Redirects
HTTP Status Code 301: Moved Permanently
The 301 redirect code is designed as a permanent redirect. This is what you should be using in most cases, as it has the greatest effect on SEO. Between 90%-99% of the “link juice” from the redirected site will pass to the new site. This way, if you’ve worked hard in building up a reputable page with strong performance on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you won’t lose your hard work by changing domains or renaming pages. The 301 code is also the best practice when transferring visitors from HTTP to HTTPS.
HTTP Status Code 302: Moved Temporarily (Found)
The 302 redirect code was initially described as “Moved Temporarily” in the HTTP/1.0 specification, and is now described as “Found” in HTTP/1.1. HTTP 302 is still in use to offer compatibility with browsers that do not support HTTP/1.1 but you should not be using this status code.
HTTP Status Codes 303 and 307: See Other and Temporary Redirect
If you need to redirect visitors from one URL to another temporarily, you can use the 303 or 307 redirect codes, supported in HTTP/1.1. HTTP Status Codes 303 and 307 were created as a split from the 302 code, as many browsers were violating the HTTP/1.0 standard with 302. In most cases of temporary redirection, such as during maintenance, you will want to use Status Code 307.
Meta refresh is not an HTTP code run on the server, but rather an action implemented by the page itself. You have likely seen these if you’ve ever visited a site that said it would redirect you in x-seconds. The Meta refresh is not recommended for SEO, as it increases the time it takes to get to the target page, and it does not pass as much trust and rankings to the new page.
Implementing an HTTP Redirect
You can implement a redirect through editing the code of your website or page, or through the use of plugins. In the case of wordpress, you can implement code by following these steps. Alternatively, if you are unable or unwilling to mess with your code, you can use a plugin like Redirection. In either instance, you are able to choose the HTTP Status Code that you want to use for the redirect.
SEO Best Practices
Unless you are doing maintenance on your page or site and need a temporary redirect, the best practice is to use the 301 Status Code. By using the 301 Status Code you are transferring as much of authority and SEO effects of the previous page to the new one. By using the 301 Redirect, you are telling browsers and search engines that the page in question has been moved permanently. This will let search engine bots know that the content that was previously there can be found in a new location, and presumably in an updated version. Search engines will carry the strengths of the older page, like trust and rankings, over to the new one.
It will take some time for search engine bots to identify the code, index the new page, and attribute credit from the previous one to the new one.
In almost all cases of redirection, you will want to use the 301 redirect. The only reason to use other redirects is if you specifically do not want to pass on “link juice” to the new page that you are redirecting to.