Definition of a 301 Redirect
A 301 redirect is a specific set of coded instructions that routes you from one URL to the other. Technically referred to as an HTTP status code, they are used to signal that there has been a change from one URL to another. They should be used in any situation where you delete a page, change a URL, or move a page’s information to a new location. Using them prevents broken links, which also improves the usability of your website.
Picture this scenario. A user types in an old URL of your business so that they can visit your website, but your URL has changed. If you don’t have a 301 redirect set up, they will be unable to connect with you and will get an error. If you do have a 301 redirect set up, it will move the user to the new location. Sometimes the 301 redirect is seen by the user, but most of the time the user will be redirected without noticing, but realize they are at a different URL than they typed in.
For example, if an individual hasn’t been to a website in a while, they might not know its address has changed. Instead of having to look for it, which can be time-consuming, the 301 redirect will take them there automatically. Search engines may keep both the old URL and the new URL in the search results for a period of time. If clicked on, the old URL will take the user to the new URL via the 301 redirect. Eventually, the old URL will disappear from the results.
Another important role that the 301 redirect plays is helping to keep search engine indexes up-to-date. When someone is searching for a specific website or topic, it saves them the trouble of clicking on an invalid URL. The 301 redirect will inform the search engines that the URL has changed allowing users a more efficient experience. This also helps to clear the clutter from search engine searches, leaving only good URLs in the results.
There are a couple different types of 301 redirects. A permanent redirect is for when the URL is changing for good and should reflect that in search engine results. This will allow for a better search experience and help users learn the new website URL.
A temporary redirect is used when the URL will not change, but the page users will see for a short amount of time is different. For example, if a website is temporarily unavailable, maybe for upgrades or other website improvements. In this circumstance, the search engine will keep the old (still valid) URL in its results.
A 301 redirect can be applied by the owner of the website by inserting a code into the web server itself or by using a plugin if the host offers one. It’s a good idea to get someone knowledgeable to apply a 301 redirect if it’s not a skill the website owner has. For a website owner or creator, a 301 redirect is extremely beneficial if they have lots of hits each month and don’t want to lose or inconvenience their audience.
A 301 redirect is like a mail forwarder. The website still exists, but it’s at a new address and the 301 redirect will take anyone who goes to the old URL there.
301 Redirect Definition Sources:
Categorized in: Digital Marketing Glossary
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