The Ultimate Guide to URL Redirects   

URL redirects move users and search engines from a requested URL to a destination URL. Website owners often set up redirects for broken pages, pages that have been moved, and pages that contain duplicate content.

This way, search engines and users can access the most current or relevant information. This prevents SEO issues and benefits the user experience, helping websites improve their rankings.

This article will explore HTTP redirects, which are the most common type, and when to use them.

How do HTTP redirects work?

Your browser looks up and requests the old URL. The server displays the webpage for the target one automatically. HTTP redirects are seamless from the user’s viewpoint. They are also known as server-side redirects in technical terms because the server performs them before the site loads. It receives the request and responds with a 3xx HTTP code.

The browser perceives the code as an instruction. It shows that the URL requested is no longer at its previous location, is on a new page, and where the new page is.

Most common 3xx redirects

The most common types of 3xx redirects and their meaning include redirect 301 and 308 (moved permanently) and redirect 302, 303, and 307 (redirected temporarily). Permanent redirects are used when the website owner or manager does not plan to display the old page anymore – they combine duplicate pages or delete a page. The search engine understands that the URL should be removed from the results and a new one displayed instead.

As the name suggests, temporary redirects are for redirecting a page for a brief period, like during website maintenance. The search engine stores the old URL for longer than it would a permanent redirect.

Now, let’s explore the most common redirects.

301 redirect

301 is the most suitable way of transmitting the essence of a link if you need to redirect a page. It passes considerable page authority, which reflects on search engine ranking. With each redirect, that authority becomes less and less, so one shouldn’t go overboard with them.

A 301 would be suitable if you have duplicate pages on your site and one is outdated. You can delete that one and place a redirect to the other one.

302 redirect

302 redirect is equally common, but it indicates a page has been moved temporarily. It’s used when a page is under maintenance or if you want to test a new page design before it goes live.

You should only use this type of redirect if the original page will come back at some point or you plan to set up a new one.

Other redirects

301 and 302 are the only necessary redirects as far as server-side ones go. Others exist, but they are far rarer. These include 303, 307, 308, meta refresh, and JavaScript redirects.

When a page is not available, 303 redirects send users to another relevant one. Usually, this happens when the user has submitted a form that cannot be submitted again. Not unlike 302, 307 redirects channel server requests for the webpage in a different way. They are worse for SEO than 302, though.

308 is the same as 301. JavaScript and meta refresh redirects can harm SEO as well. They occur on the client side. When they do, the search engine typically doesn’t index your pages correctly. This can damage your search engine rankings.

It’s better to opt for 301 over JavaScript redirects. While they are treated similarly, you could be pushing your luck with the latter.

Common reasons to use redirects

  • You delete a page
  • You move the URL of a webpage
  • You add category tags or parent pages that affect URLs
  • You’re performing maintenance on a webpage
  • You move your site from HTTP to HTTPS
  • You move your website to a new domain
  • You merge two or more duplicate web pages

You can also apply a redirect to a group of URLs. It’s possible to reroute your whole domain (ex. to another domain.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve learned about the different types of redirects and which to use in your specific situation. This article clarified the difference between permanent and temporary redirects. While most users can’t tell the difference between them, they are critical for search engine ranking.

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