Have you ever moved to a new house and used a mail forwarding service to ensure that all your mail is sent to your new address? Well, a 301 redirect is the same as your mail forwarding service, but for your website.
In the same way that you are redirecting mail from one home address to another, a 301 redirect will redirect web traffic from one URL to another.
Why would you need to use a 301 redirect?
An obvious example would be if you moved your site to a new domain and didn’t want to lose the traffic that you had already built up going to your old domain.
You can use a 301 to redirect traffic from every page on your old domain to the corresponding new page on your new domain, preventing any loss of link juice.
If you were a follower of my blog back in the olden days when it was called Little Roz Moments, you may remember that this post was previously published on there (LittleRozMoments.com).
When I decided to make the move to RoseannaSunley.com, I copied all my previous posts and re-published them here.
The problem was that I created lots of links to this post on my previous blog when it was under the old domain.
To avoid losing any link juice, I used a 301 redirect to ensure that traffic going to the old domain would end up here.
Want to give it a go?
The URL for my old webiste https://littlerozmoments.com/
Click that link and keep an eye on your URL bar. You’ll notice that the URL will change and you’ll be re-directed to https://roseannasunley.com by a 301 that I had previously set-up.
Pretty handy, huh?
If I hadn’t set up that 301 re-direct, then you would have landed on a ‘404 Page Not Found’ page and I could have lost valuable traffic to this website.
Another reason to use a 301 redirect, and probably a more common example, would be if you changed the permalink of a post or page on your website or made changes to your permalink structure.
If visitors were to go to the old permalink address, they would probably encounter a 404 Page Not Found. But by using a 301 redirect, they would be redirected to the new permalink address without even noticing. Therefore, improving your user experience.
When to use 301 redirects
It’s important to note 301 redirects are permanent redirections.
You may also come across 302 redirects. These are temporary redirections.
You would use a 302 redirection if your content had just been temporarily moved. For example, if your site was under maintenance.
A 301 redirect should only be used when you are truly migrating from one page to another and you’re never going to migrate back again.
How not to use 301 redirects
Google will happily follow a 301 redirect. After all, they want to ensure that the user ends up in the right place and finds what they are looking for.
However, there is a limit to how many 301 redirects Google will follow consecutively. Please see the image below.
If you want to get from Page A to Page B, the ideal solution would be to set up a 301 redirect from Page A to Page B.
However, if you start at Page A, then redirect to Page C, then redirect to Page D, then redirect to Page E, then redirect to Page B…Google will eventually stop following that redirect.
To have multiple 301 redirects strung together is very bad practice, so make sure you keep tabs on your redirects and website structure.
How to set up a 301 redirect in WordPress
The easiest way to set up redirects in WordPress is to use a plugin.
If you use the Yoast SEO plugin (and I highly recommend that you have the free version installed as a minimum) and have upgraded to the premium version, then you have access to 301 redirects as an additional feature.
Alternatively, you can install a number of other plugins from the WordPress repository that will assist you in creating redirections simply and easily.
The free plugin that I use is called Redirection, and you simply enter your old URL address combined with the new URL address, and the plugin does the rest for you.
It really is as simple as that!
TIP: Check your 404 errors and redirect your traffic
I highly recommend that you regularly check your Google Search Console for 404 errors.
A 404 error occurs when someone has tried to access a page on your website that either no longer exists or has been moved. (The ‘Page Not Found’ errors)
Once you have your website set up with Google Search Console, it will be able to show you each time a user lands on a 404 Page Not Found and the URL that they were trying to access.
You can then set up a 301 redirect from the URL address that created the 404 error, to the correct URL address for the page that the user tried to access.
This helps ensure that future users will be directed straight to the relevant page, bypassing the 404 page and avoiding people leaving your site altogether.
I hope this post has helped give you an insight into 301 redirects.
They are a very useful tool to help ensure that you don’t miss out on any traffic and that your user gets to their desired place.
If you have any questions, please pop them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
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