What is a 301 Redirect?

What is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another.

For example: if your previous website was www.elitefreeze.com and you want to permanently change it to www.sfelitefreeze.com, you’d use a 301 redirect from the old website to the new one. Once the 301 redirect was implemented, anyone visiting the only website (www.elitefreeze.com) will be automatically arrive at your new URL (www.sfelitefreeze.com).

A good way to think of a 301 redirect is by comparing it to a “change of address form” at the post office. If you moved and haven’t told everyone yet, you still want to get your mail right? A “change of address form” will have all your mail forwarded from your old address to your new one. A 301 redirect is a web master’s equivalent.

Google it’self highly recommends 301 redirects for the following circumstances:

  • You’ve moved your site to a new domain, and you want to make the transition as seamless as possible.
  • People access your site through several different URLs. If, for example, your home page can be reached in multiple ways – for instance, http://example.com/home, http://home.example.com, or http://www.example.com – it’s a good idea to pick one of those URLs as your preferred (canonical) destination, and use 301 redirects to send traffic from the other URLs to your preferred URL. You can also use Webmaster Tools to set your preferred domain.
  • You’re merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the correct pages.

But how does 301 redirects help business owners, marketers, and web masters? Well, here are two tips for helping your website get found by your customers with 301 redirects.

1. Set up a 301 redirect for both of the http:// and http://www versions of your domain’s url.

This will sound ridiculous but it’s surprisingly true. http:// and http://www are actually considered two different websites and may give different content. Most websites are set-up so that they are one in the same (lead to the same place) but sometimes this isn’t the case. To ensure that all users are properly being redirected, you need to set-up a 301 redirect on both versions of your url.

For example: If you want to have people redirected from http://www.skymarketing.us to http://www.skymarketingco.com, you need to set-up the redirect on http://www.skymarketing.us to http://www.skymarketingco.com and from http://skymarketing.us to http://skymarketingco.com.

This also passes the old website’s authority (in the eyes of search engines) to the new website.

For example: If you don’t have a 301 redirect between http://YourOldWebsite and http://YourNewWebsite, all of the inbound links that point to http://YourOldWebsite won’t pass authority over to http://YourNewWebsite and vice versa.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if the http:// address of your site has 20 links to it and the http://www. address of your site has 30 links to it, search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) will view your business as having two URLS, one with 20 links and the other with 30. By implementing a 301 redirect, search engines will see a single URL attributed to your website with 50 inbound links. This helps you rank higher in search engines.

2. Don’t transfer an old domain to a new one without setting up a 301 redirect first.

If you want to transfer your website to a new domain, set-up a 301 redirect first. You also should keep your old domain active. I know what many people are thinking, “I don’t want to use the old domain, why would I keep it?”. The answer is simple.  Keeping your old domain active but having a 301 redirect on it ensures that you’re transferring all of your old domains authority to the new one.

For example: If your old domain has 50 links to it, this gives that domain authority and helps it rank in search engines. Links aren’t easy to come by and if you have them, you want to keep them. If you transfer to a new domain and get rid of the old one, the links on those 50 websites go no where. They are essentially useless, broken links. Either the websites holding the links will get rid of them, or search engines will disregard them. Either way, they won’t be pointing to your new website (which is what you want). By using a 301 redirect and keeping your old website, those links will still work, users will just arrive at your new domain. The authority your old domain built up transfers along with it as well.

Here is another example, one that is real: Toys R Us bought the website Toys.com in an SEO attempt to rank better for the keyword “toys”. Considering toys is already in the company’s name, old domain name, and that it’s a fortune 500 company that is extremely well known, the company was already ranking pretty good for the word toys. However, Toys R Us forgot to do a 301 redirect between their own domain and their new Toys.com domain which caused the company to lose it’s authority and rank even worst in the search engine rankings.

To sum up our #2, don’t set-up a new domain without setting up a 301 redirect from your old URL to your new one.

By Eric Rothmuller
Chief Strategist
Sky Marketing