The Ins and Outs of 301 Redirects: When Should You Use Them?

Published: July 15, 2021

Author
Emily Gudeman

Categories:

You’ve invested time and money into building a website that generates leads, but you need to make sure your website remains healthy and performs at its best.

Part of maintaining a healthy website is managing your site URLs. What happens when you don’t update a URL with its new location when you change the page title? It gets lost in the abyss that is the Internet, preventing users from getting the answers they seek. That means fewer eyes on your website, which can get in the way of sales.

Fortunately, there’s a way to save your site, keep users engaged, and help them find the content they need–even if a specific website page has moved or needs some serious updates. The solution? 301 redirects.

Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know, including what 301 redirects are, why they’re important, and when you should use them. Let’s get started.

What Are 301 Redirects?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect when a page on your site is removed or moved. It is an HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) response status code that shows the response from the server where the page is hosted to the browsers that requested the URL. 

You can think of it as online mail forwarding. The page the user is looking for no longer exists, but you’re directing them to a new location. Otherwise, they will get a 404 “page not found” error, hurting your SEO and user experience.

301 redirects will make it so that when users are looking for the previous page title, you can point them to the correct and more up-to-date page.

When to use 301 redirects

You should be using 301 redirects on your site when a page does not exist or is no longer relevant. These are also valuable for site rebuilds when the new site has fewer pages.

Here are a few more examples of when to use a 301 redirect:

  • Page Removal. You have an employee’s profile page on your website, but the employee no longer works for you. You’ll delete their profile and create a 301 redirect from their profile to a contact page or up-to-date team page.
  • Merging Two Sites. You’re merging two different websites under one domain. You probably have two very similar pages with different page titles (e.g., “About Us” and “Meet the Team”). You can merge the information onto a single page and use a 301 redirect to streamline the user experience.
  • Expired Information. You’re a small business that built a “COVID response” landing page. Throughout your site, you might have buttons leading users to “more information,” pointing them to your COVID response page. Well, your business is back to normal and no longer needs the page, so you can remove it. By creating a 301 redirect, you guarantee all those “more information” buttons will lead users to the most relevant page on your site.
  • Reorganizing. You’re trying to improve your website SEO by updating your URL structure. You no longer want your pages to have the date in the URL, so you change the backend settings and restructure your URLs. Yet, by doing so, you’re changing the page’s website address. To ensure users can still find your valuable content, it’s best to create a 301 redirect.

How to Create 301 Redirects With WordPress

There are multiple plugins out there that can quickly create 301 redirects. Our plugin recommendations are 301 Redirects or Redirection.

Both of these WordPress plugins serve the same purpose and allow you to manually create 301 redirects on your site. Another great option is the Yoast SEO Premium plugin.

By paying for this premium plugin, you can turn on the “redirect manager,” which automatically creates a 301 redirect any time you move and delete content.

301 Redirect Pro Tips

Now that you understand the importance of 301 redirects, you’re ready to put them into action. Here are a few best practices:

Tip #1: Less is more.

Avoid the redirect chain. A redirect chain is when you create a redirect from page A to page B during your initial website redesign. Then, a few months later, page B is no longer relevant, so you create a redirect from page B to page C.

Finally, you’ve decided to restructure all of your URLs, again redirecting page C to page D. You’ve created a redirect chain. Now, if a user is trying to find page A, they can get redirected three different times, slowing the load speed (which hurts the user experience), or they could get a redirect error and never get to their final destination.

example of a web page displaying an error message when would result in a 301 redirect action

Tip #2: Utilize wildcards.

A wildcard is a mass redirect for a subdomain or parent slug. That means if you are redirecting all the pages under one parent slug to a different page, you can just create one wildcard redirect without having to go into each individual page and redirect.

For example, let’s say you’re redirecting your entire product line of “Candles” to your more specific product line, “Soy Candles.” You can create a wildcard for Candles > Soy Candles.

Example: https://www.example.com/candles/vanilla to https://www.example.com/soy-candles/vanilla

This makes itso that your candle URLs will redirect to your new product line all at once.

Tip #3: Always make a list.

Before starting your new website build or reorganization, make an Excel spreadsheet of all your existing website pages. This will save you time later and make sure that you don’t end up with any 404 errors in the end.

Conclusion

301 redirects can improve your website health, user experience, and SEO. Take the time to add them to your site. It’ll pay off in the long run.

If you’re not sure where to start with your 301 redirects or website maintenance, our website development agency is here to help. Contact BrandCraft today to discuss your marketing and website needs.

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