Today I will be sharing some insight into how to use http 301 redirects to correct SEO issues on your website.
This article was inspired by recent confirmation from Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes that 301 or 302 redirects will not negatively affect your PageRank or page authority.
30x redirects don’t lose PageRank anymore.
— Gary Illyes (@methode) July 26, 2016
Some were skeptical about whether or not 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary) redirects caused a loss in page authority, but this recent confirmation should erase any doubt.
Here is an overview of the points I will cover in this article:
- Finding Broken Links
- What Are .htaccess Redirects?
- Basic Format of a Redirect
- Using WordPress Plugins
- Re-purposing Old Content
- The Often Overlooked but Important 301 Redirect
301 redirects are an almost essential resource for webmasters or site owners for several reasons.
First and foremost, they help you to capture lost traffic that may be pointed at old, miss-typed or miss-spelled content.
Second, they allow you to move your content from one location (URL address) to the another for whatever reason you might have such as migrating old content to a new page or re-purposing and republishing an out-dated article.
Finding Broken Links & Missed Opportunities
The first step in using 301 redirects is to identify the correct pages or posts that may be giving 404 not found errors. The best way to do this is by looking at your Google Analytics to view any strange patterns or old, under-performing pages and Google Search Console which will show 404 errors under “Crawl Errors.”
Once you find a broken link or 404 error you can setup a redirect to point visitors to a new page or your homepage instead.
What Are .htaccess Redirects?
Htaccess is a special file at the root of your public web server that provides instructions to Apache mod-rewrite to accomplish URL re-writing tasks. One of the primary uses for htaccess files is directing traffic through 301 and other redirect types.
The .htaccess file can sometimes be hidden if you’re using a web based file manager. You’ll want to find the settings icon and check the box next to “Show hidden files.”
When using WordPress you will notice there is a default .htaccess file that contains rules for directing visitors to the correct permalink settings. Any changes you make should be placed below the WordPress section of your file.
Using your htaccess file can be overwhelming at first, especially if you need to do advanced domain redirects or custom rules using regex which are essentially conditional commands.
Basic Format of a 301 Redirect
If RewriteEngine On is already present at the top of your file you do not need to include it again.
The first address is the relative path of the old or broken address and the second (separated by a space) is the updated full URL destination.
You can place as many redirects as you like on a new line in your .htaccess file.
Using a WordPress Plugin
If you’re not exactly comfortable with FTP or editing htaccess rules in a text file, there are popular plugins available that can manage and monitor these redirects through an admin interface.
The most widely used plugin is called “Redirection” and is a simple tool to setup redirections from one address to another and has the added bonus of logging hits to those redirects.
Redirecting & Re-purposing Old Content
One of the best uses of a 301 redirect for SEO purposes is to update old content or blog posts on your site that are not performing well or have out-dated information.
You can publish a new post with the updated content and create a 301 redirect. While you could just update the old post content on it’s old address. This allows for a new page to be indexed with a more recent date.
The Often Overlooked but Important 301 Redirect
One of the most important use cases for 301 redirects is directing non HTTPS traffic to the correct secure version of your website. If you have an SSL certificate you could potentially have 2 versions of your website indexed on Google, which can lead to duplicate content concerns.
The 301 redirect solution for this problem is to use the following:
Once you start using 301 redirects you’ll wonder how you got by without them. If you have any questions about any of these points or something more advanced feel free to respond in the comments below.