Last Updated on April 6, 2021
You likely have learned a lot of SEO strategies and hacks over the time that you’ve had your website. It’s imperative to take SEO seriously and learn as much about it as possible so you can rank for your target keywords.
Yet, there are things that you may be doing that can actually take away all the benefits you would be enjoying from your other efforts at SEO. One of the things that can tank your rankings is to not use a redirect or not use it properly.
Knowing how to use redirects is very important and knowing which one to use for the right situation is even more essential. What is a redirect? It is an HTTP code that tells Google where to look for a page or domain when the URL has changed.
Now, truth be told, using a redirect is not always the best option and it should be avoided when possible. In this guide, we will go over how to properly use a redirect so you can maintain your rankings and not ruin your SEO efforts.
Why use a redirect?
Can’t you just delete a page and be done with it? Why should you even use a redirect anyway?
Google has gotten very smart over the last few years, but not that smart. If you delete a URL that has already been crawled and indexed, then Google will still have it in the SERPs. So, that page will still be seen by readers, and then when they click the URL, it will go to a 404 Page Not Found error.
When somebody clicks to your site and finds the 404 error then they will bounce right back to the SERPs and keep searching. There’s no reason to keep looking around your site as they will feel that it is not updated and probably irrelevant.
Why doesn’t Google just send those visitors to the right page? Well, because you didn’t tell Google where to look. When you set up the code on your site, it gives Google a clear direction on how to proceed when the URL doesn’t exist anymore.
Sometimes this move is temporary and sometimes it’s permanent but in either case, you have to do it for the sake of your site’s rankings.
When should you use redirects?
There are several different redirect codes and each of them has a specific purpose. It’s important to know which one to use and when to use it. First, we will cover when to use a redirect and then go over what the diffrent codes are.
You could be moving an entire domain, for example. This is the most complicated of the redirects as it involves all of the pages, posts, and categories that are part of your original site. To move it is like picking up a house and moving it and all of its contents to a new address.
There are a lot of valid reasons for moving a domain but most times it involves moving from the original domain to merge with another already existing one. For instance, you may have bought a new website and think your old one will be competing with it. In this case, a 301 redirect is what is needed if it is a permanent move. All of the SEO juice grown over the years will pass on to the new domain.
You may also use a 301 redirect in the case of it being just one URL to move to another. This is a much easier process as it doesn’t require anything on the hosting end of things. And just as with a domain change, the SEO remains intact when moving it to another URL. this is a good option when you have an eCommerce site with a product that is no longer for sale. You can redirect people looking for this product to another similar one, or even the latest iteration of it.
Then there are times when a form is being filled in and a user wants to hit the back button. Well, when that happens the submission is invalidated so the page has to reflect that the form will have to be resubmitted. If you don’t have a redirect for that, then they will simply go back to the page that they came from.
This is a 303 redirect and is a very specific type that doesn’t require any SEO juice to be passed along.
There are times when the redirect is only temporary. It could be for a product page that is currently unavailable but will be restocked at some point. Or, if there is something new that overturns the old page, then it can be redirected to a new URL. the reason to do this and not a 301 is that it takes time for the SEO juice to flow to the new URL. if you were to try to use a 301 both ways it could end up dropping the SEO and have a hard time recovering.
In this case, you would want to use a 302 redirect, or in some cases a 307 that is also temporary. A 307 redirect is more used for instances in which the movement is within the site and not to a new domain.
Lastly, there is the 308 redirect that also passes on SEO and is used internally on a website. This is usually done when a site adds an SSL certificate as it moves from an HTTP address to HTTPS. This is a permanent move so it won’t be done with a 307.
As you can see, all of these redirects serve very specific purposes. They shouldn’t be used without some time to reflect, however. You should avoid using them as much as possible because it will make things complicated for Google and your site will be affected albeit temporarily.
For instance, many 302 and 307 redirects can be set aside in favor of some other methods that are less disruptive.