A 301 Redirect, also known as a Legacy URL Redirect, is a type of HTTP status code that signals a permanent redirect from one URL to another, meaning all users who try to visit an old URL will be automatically sent to a new URL. A 301 redirect passes all search engine optimization (SEO) ranking power from the old URL to the new URL, and is most commonly used when a page has been moved or removed from a website.
If a user attempts to visit a URL that has a 301 redirect, then they will automatically be redirected to the new page. Most users may not even notice, however, they may see that the URL string at the top of their browser no longer matches what they typed in.
There are two main benefits to setting up a 301 redirect:
- To help prevent users from encountering a dead page or a 404 error (which is the HTTP status code for a page that no longer exists).
- To prevent you from losing the positive SEO value that was attributed to a URL for a page that you no longer need.
How to Set up a 301 Redirect
Depending on which website platform you are using, you will want to follow the steps below to set up a 301 redirect on your website.
When to Use a 301 Redirect
Below are some examples of situations where you would want to set up a 301 redirect.
1. Changing a Page Title
Whenever you change the title of a page on your website, then the URL string for the page will also change. For example, if you have a page titled "Contact Us", then your website's URL string for that page would look like mywebsite.com/contact-us.
However, if you change the page's title from "Contact Us" to "Contact Our Team", then the page's URL string would become mywebsite.com/contact-our-team. Any user who follows a link for mywebsite.com/contact-us will instead receive a 404 error because that URL string no longer exists.
To prevent this, you would want to set up a 301 redirect that directs the URL string /contact-us to /contact-our-team.
2. Recreating a Piece of Content
If you decide to rebuild an existing piece of content on an entirely new page, then you will want to set up a redirect from the old page URL to the new one.
3. Consolidating Several Pieces of Content
If you have consolidated more than one separate pages of content onto one page, then you will want to hold on to the search engine visibility that these old pages might have achieved.
Once you have created the new consolidated page, then you should set up a 301 redirect from each of the old pages to the single new page.
4. Migrating Content From One Domain to Another
If you're moving your website from one domain to another, it is important that you set up a 301 redirect for every page on your website.
Things to Keep in Mind
1. Always Set up 301 Redirects Before Deleting a Page
In instances where you will be moving content to a new page, you will want to set up the 301 redirect before removing the old page. This will ensure that you do not lose any valuable SEO data. Otherwise, if the URL string turns up a 404 error - even for a brief amount of time - your page's SEO value will plummet.
2. Make Sure Redirects Point to Relevant Pages
When setting up 301 redirects, try and make sure that the "destination" page is similar or relevant to the content from the old page. For example, if you redirect a "Contact Us" page to your "Blog" page, then users will get confused and may leave your site.
If the old page's content is not similar or relevant to any other page on your site - or if you are unsure - you can always redirect it back to your Home page.
3. Submit your Sitemap to Search Engines
After making big changes to your website's structure - such as changing pages or setting up redirects - you will want to submit your website's sitemap to search engines through tools like Google Search Console. This will ensure that search engines have crawled the most recent, up-to-date iteration of your website structure, which can help improve your SEO.