You may have heard about the importance of 301 redirects for your website, but do you know why? Or perhaps you’re just wondering what the heck they are? If that’s the case, you’ll enjoy this week’s Tuesday Tidbit! Let’s dive in.
Defining 301 redirects
According to Moz, a redirect is “a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested.” A “301” redirect means that the redirect is permanent. 301 is just a code that the web uses to know how to handle/classify the redirect. For instance, maybe you’ve seen a broken page where it says 404 error? That’s another web code that just means the page is missing or can’t be found.
Example of when to use a 301 redirect
Anyway, real life examples are the easiest ways to understand these kinds of things! So, let’s say your website has a page for every event you have. As time goes on, you decide to delete some of the old event pages.
Now, Jane is on her friend’s website, and the friend had recommended your event and linked to that page that you’ve deleted. So, when Jane clicks the link to go to that page on your site, she gets your site’s error page.
(Quick side note - what does your site’s error page look like? If you don’t know, just type in a page on your URL you know doesn’t exist, like /kittens).
Now, Jane’s on your error page and thinks “oh crap, okay this is broken, never mind then, I’ll just go back.” She’ll click the back button and you’ll have lost that connection, or she’ll have to search around on your site for the event she was looking for. That’s a poor website experience for her!
How to implement a 301 redirect
What you should have done is implement a 301 redirect for the page you were deleting. Instead of landing on that broken link page, you could have told the web to put anyone who tries to access that page on your main events page. That way, Jane wouldn’t have been so lost – she’d be right there on your list of events and able to find what she’s looking for.
301 redirects work the same way for Jane as they do for the web and for Google. When the page just disappears, that’s confusing for search engines. If there’s a 301 redirect in place, the search engine follows that when it crawls your website and doesn’t become confused.
In addition, 301 redirects are helpful for SEO purposes. Any links across the web that point to a page on your site are, in a nutshell, up votes for your site. If there are links on the web that are linking to a page that no longer exists on your site, you’re losing those up votes! If you redirect that missing page, however, you still get the benefits of those links.
What should you do now?
Find your site’s broken pages easily by opening Google Search Console and going to Crawl > Crawl Errors.
To implement 301 redirects, make a spreadsheet with one column that has the old broken link and one column with where that link should go instead on your site. Send the spreadsheet to your developer.