In the world of search engine optimization, redirects play a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity and usability of a website.
Implementing redirects for SEO can greatly impact your website’s search engine ranking, as well as the overall user experience.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the different types of HTTP redirects SEO, and provide you with SEO redirect best practices to ensure your website is optimized for both search engines and users.
As SEO experts, we can assure you that understanding redirects and implementing them correctly is essential for the long-term success of your website.
A properly executed redirect will not only ensure that users are directed to the correct content, but also preserve the valuable “link juice” that search engines use to determine a page’s relevance and authority.
To put it simply, redirects are a way to point users and search engines from an old URL to a new one, and they come in several types, each with its own implications for SEO.
In this guide, we’ll delve into server-side and client-side redirects, explore various HTTP status codes, and discuss the best practices for implementing redirects on your website.
For those in a hurry, here’s a TLDR: Redirects are essential for maintaining a website’s usability and SEO, and it’s important to understand the differences between the various types of redirects, as well as the best practices for implementing them. Key points to remember include using the correct redirect type based on the situation, avoiding unnecessary redirects, and regularly cleaning up your redirect configurations.
As you read through this guide, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how redirects work, the impact they have on your website’s SEO, and the best practices to follow when implementing them.
So, let’s dive in with our guide to redirects and how they can help improve your website’s search engine ranking and user experience.
Table of Contents
- What is a redirect?
- Why should you use redirects?
- When should you use redirects for SEO?
- What types of redirects are there?
- Server-side redirects
- 301 redirect: Moved permanently
- 302 redirect: Found (HTTP 1.1) / Moved temporarily (HTTP 1.0)
- 303 redirect: See Other
- 307 redirect: Temporarily Redirect
- 308 redirect: Permanent Redirect
- Client-side redirects
- What is the difference between server-side and client-side redirects?
- Avoid redirects whenever you can
- Redirect to a relevant alternative URL
- Avoid chained redirects
- Redirect to the preferred version of your website URL
- Use a 302 redirect for inactive campaign URLs
- Use 301 redirect for campaign URLs that will never be used again
- Clean up your redirects
- IP canonicalization
- How do you set up redirections?
- How to set up HTML redirections using .htaccess
- How to set up HTML redirections using YAML
- How to set up HTML redirections using Nginx
- How to set up HTML redirections using PHP
- How to set up HTML redirections using ASP and ASP.NET
- How to set up HTML redirections using meta tags
- How to identify critical redirect issues?
- Frequently Asked Questions about redirections
- What is the impact of redirects on site speed?
- Do redirects affect my search engine rankings?
- Are client-side redirects bad for SEO?
- How long does it take for search engines to recognize a 301 redirect?
- Can I undo a 301 redirect?
- How do I find and fix broken redirects on my website?
- Is it better to use a 301 or 302 redirect for temporary URL changes?
What is a redirect?
Redirects are essential for ensuring a seamless user experience and preserving the search engine ranking of a website when the content is moved, updated, or deleted.
When a person visits a website or a search engine attempts to crawl it, they request a specific URL. If that URL has been changed or the content is no longer available at the original location, a redirect can be set up to point the user or search engine crawler to the new location of the content.
This helps maintain the website’s usability and prevents broken links, which can negatively impact the user experience and search engine ranking.
From a user’s perspective, a well-implemented redirect is typically seamless and almost invisible. When a user clicks on a link or enters a URL in the address bar, they are automatically taken to the new destination without any noticeable delay or interruption.
This creates a smooth browsing experience and prevents users from encountering frustrating “404 Not Found” errors or other issues caused by broken links.
From a search engine’s perspective, redirects are crucial for maintaining the integrity of the website’s indexing and search engine ranking.
When a search engine crawler encounters a redirect, it understands that the content has been moved and updates its index accordingly.
By doing so, the search engine can continue to provide accurate search results to users and ensure that the website maintains its ranking and visibility in search results.
Why should you use redirects?
Redirects serve a variety of purposes for both website owners and users. Implementing redirects correctly can lead to improved user experience, better search engine rankings, and a more efficient management of your website’s content. Here are some of the primary reasons why you should use redirects:
- Maintain a seamless user experience: Redirects help ensure that users can easily access the content they are looking for, even if the URL has changed. By automatically directing users to the correct destination, you prevent them from encountering frustrating error pages or dead ends, which could cause them to leave your site and not return.
- Preserve search engine rankings: When the content on your website is moved or updated, search engines need to know about the changes in order to update their index and continue ranking your site appropriately. Redirects communicate these changes to search engines, allowing them to update their index and maintain your website’s visibility in search results.
- Consolidate link equity: Backlinks are an important factor in search engine ranking algorithms. When a URL is changed, any backlinks pointing to the original URL could potentially be lost, negatively impacting your site’s ranking. Redirects help preserve this valuable “link equity” by directing the search engines and users to the new URL, ensuring that the value of those backlinks is not lost.
- Manage website migrations and redesigns: Redirects are essential when migrating your website to a new domain or redesigning your site’s structure. By setting up redirects from the old URLs to the new ones, you ensure that users and search engines can still access your content, and that your search engine rankings are not negatively affected by the changes.
- Handle deleted or expired content: If content is removed from your website, it’s important to direct users and search engines to a relevant alternative page or resource. Redirects can be used to point visitors to a related piece of content or to a custom 404 page, providing a better user experience and preventing search engines from indexing non-existent pages.
When should you use redirects for SEO?
Using redirects appropriately is essential for effective search engine optimization. Here are some scenarios when you should use redirects for SEO purposes:
- URL changes: If you need to change the URL of a page due to a website redesign, content update, or any other reason, a redirect should be implemented to guide users and search engines to the new URL. This helps maintain the user experience and ensures that search engines can update their index accordingly.
- Merging content: If you have multiple pages with similar content that you want to consolidate into a single page, redirects can be used to guide users and search engines to the new, combined page. This helps prevent duplicate content issues and ensures that the consolidated page benefits from the link equity of the original pages.
- Removing content: When content is removed from your website, it’s important to direct users and search engines to a relevant alternative page or resource. A redirect can help ensure that visitors are not faced with a dead-end or error page, and that search engines know to remove the original page from their index.
- Website migration: If you’re migrating your website to a new domain or changing the site structure, redirects should be used to ensure that users and search engines can still access your content. This helps preserve your site’s search engine rankings and prevents users from encountering broken links or error pages.
- Canonicalization: Websites often have multiple versions of the same content, such as different URLs for the desktop and mobile versions, or variations with and without the “www” subdomain. Redirects can be used to guide users and search engines to the preferred version of the content, ensuring a consistent experience and helping to prevent duplicate content issues.
- Managing expired promotions or campaigns: If you have temporary promotions or campaign-specific URLs that are no longer active, you can use redirects to guide users to a relevant alternative page or a general overview of your products or services.
By using redirects in these scenarios, you can ensure a smooth user experience, maintain your website’s search engine rankings, and efficiently manage your website’s content. It’s important to choose the appropriate type of redirect for each situation, as this can have a significant impact on your site’s SEO performance.
What types of redirects are there?
There are several types of redirects, each with its own specific use cases and implications for SEO. The table below provides an overview of the most common redirect types:
|Redirect Type||HTTP Status Code||Description||SEO Implications|
|301||Moved Permanently||Indicates that the resource has been permanently moved||Preserves link equity|
|302||Found (HTTP 1.1) / Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.0)||Resource temporarily moved||May not pass link equity|
|303||See Other||Suggests another URL for the requested resource||Rarely used in SEO|
|307||Temporary Redirect||Indicates a temporary redirect, similar to 302||May not pass link equity|
|308||Permanent Redirect||Similar to 301, but with stricter semantics||Preserves link equity|
In the following sections, we’ll delve into each of these redirect types, discuss their roles in SEO, and provide guidance on when to use them.
Server-side redirects are executed on the web server, meaning they are processed before the requested content is sent to the user’s browser. They are generally faster and more reliable than client-side redirects, making them the preferred method for SEO purposes. Here’s an overview of the most common server-side redirect types:
301 redirect: Moved permanently
A 301 redirect is used to indicate that a resource has been permanently moved to a new URL. This is the most common type of redirect used for SEO purposes.
The role of the 301 redirect in SEO
The 301 redirect plays a crucial role in SEO, as it helps preserve the link equity associated with the original URL. When a 301 redirect is in place, search engines understand that the original URL has been permanently replaced and update their index accordingly. This helps maintain your site’s search engine rankings and ensures that any backlinks to the original URL continue to contribute to the new URL’s authority.
302 redirect: Found (HTTP 1.1) / Moved temporarily (HTTP 1.0)
A 302 redirect is used to indicate that a resource has been temporarily moved to a new URL. This type of redirect is less common in SEO contexts, as it does not guarantee that link equity will be passed to the new URL.
The role of the 302 redirect in SEO
While a 302 redirect can be useful in certain situations, such as temporary promotions or A/B testing, it is generally not recommended for long-term SEO purposes. This is because search engines may not pass the full link equity from the original URL to the new URL, potentially resulting in a loss of search engine rankings. If a URL change is intended to be permanent, it is better to use a 301 redirect.
303 redirect: See Other
A 303 redirect is used to suggest another URL for the requested resource, typically in response to a form submission. This type of redirect is rarely used in SEO contexts.
The role of the 303 redirect in SEO
The 303 redirect has limited applications in SEO, as it is primarily used to prevent duplicate form submissions and guide users to a new URL after submitting a form. It is not intended for use in situations where content has been moved or updated and should not be used as a substitute for 301 or 302 redirects.
307 redirect: Temporarily Redirect
A 307 redirect is similar to a 302 redirect, indicating that a resource has been temporarily moved to a new URL. The key difference between the two is that a 307 redirect maintains the original request method, whereas a 302 redirect may change the request method (e.g., from POST to GET).
The role of the 307 redirect in SEO
Like the 302 redirect, a 307 redirect is generally not recommended for long-term SEO purposes, as it may not pass the full link equity from the original URL to the new URL. A 307 redirect can be useful in specific situations, such as temporary URL changes, but it should not be used in place of a 301 redirect for permanent changes.
If you use it like a 301 we'll treat it as such.
— John Mueller (official) · #StaplerLife (@JohnMu) May 10, 2018
307 redirect used as an internal redirect in case of HSTS
A 307 redirect can also be used as an internal redirect when implementing HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS). HSTS is a security feature that ensures that a website is always accessed over a secure HTTPS connection. When HSTS is in place, browsers automatically perform an internal 307 redirect from the HTTP version of a URL to the HTTPS version, preventing insecure connections. Google though, says it treats 308 redirects the same as 301 redirects, but most SEOs still use 301 redirects.
308 redirect: Permanent Redirect
A 308 redirect is similar to a 301 redirect, indicating that a resource has been permanently moved to a new URL. The primary difference between the two is that a 308 redirect maintains the original request
Client-side redirects are executed within the user’s browser, rather than on the web server. While they can be useful in certain situations, they are generally less reliable and slower than server-side redirects, making them less ideal for SEO purposes. Here’s an overview of the most common client-side redirect types:
Meta refresh redirect
A meta refresh redirect is a form of client-side redirect that is implemented using an HTML
<meta> tag with a
http-equiv attribute set to “refresh”. The
content attribute specifies the delay (in seconds) before the user’s browser is redirected to the new URL. For example:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5; url=https://example.com/new-url">
This code would cause the browser to redirect to “https://example.com/new-url” after a 5-second delay. Meta refresh redirects are often used for countdown timers, splash pages, or timed advertisements, but they are generally not recommended for SEO purposes.
Google understands it and will typically treat it the same as a 301 redirect. However, when asked about meta redirects with delays on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller said, “If you want it treated like a redirect, it makes sense to have it act like a redirect.”
We don't have any guidelines on the delay number, but if you want it treated like a redirect, it makes sense to have it act like a redirect (and keep the delay minimal). The same goes for JS-based redirects.
— John Mueller (official) · #StaplerLife (@JohnMu) March 2, 2018
The primary disadvantage of meta refresh redirects is that they can be slow, as the user must wait for the specified delay before being redirected. Additionally, search engines may not always interpret them correctly, potentially resulting in a loss of link equity and decreased search engine rankings.
location object or using the
replace() method of the
window object. For example:
window.location.href = "https://example.com/new-url";
It is recommended to use server-side redirects whenever possible to ensure the best SEO performance and user experience.
What is the difference between server-side and client-side redirects?
Both server-side and client-side redirects serve the same purpose of directing users and search engines to a different URL. However, they differ in how they are executed and their overall impact on SEO and user experience. Here is an overview of the key differences between server-side and client-side redirects:
- Execution location: Server-side redirects are processed on the web server before the requested content is sent to the user’s browser. In contrast, client-side redirects are executed within the user’s browser after the initial page content has been loaded.
- Speed and reliability: Server-side redirects are generally faster and more reliable than client-side redirects, as they are processed before the page content is sent to the browser. Client-side redirects, on the other hand, may introduce additional delays due to the time it takes for the browser to load and execute the relevant code.
- SEO implications: Server-side redirects are typically preferred for SEO purposes, as they are more reliable and better understood by search engines. Search engines may not always execute or interpret client-side redirects correctly, potentially resulting in issues with crawling, indexing, and link equity.
- Use cases: Server-side redirects are commonly used for permanent URL changes, website migrations, and canonicalization. Client-side redirects are more commonly used for dynamic web applications, user-specific content, or temporary URL changes.
As you can see, it is generally recommended to use server-side redirects whenever possible to ensure the best SEO performance and user experience.
While redirects are sometimes necessary for maintaining a website, it’s essential to follow best practices to ensure a positive user experience and optimal SEO performance. Here are some of the key best practices for redirections:
Avoid redirects whenever you can
Minimizing the use of redirects can help improve site speed and user experience. Instead of relying on redirects, consider updating internal and external links to point directly to the correct URLs whenever possible.
Redirect to a relevant alternative URL
When a redirect is necessary, make sure to direct users to a relevant alternative URL. This helps maintain user engagement and ensures search engines understand the relationship between the old and new URLs, preserving link equity.
Avoid chained redirects
A single 301 redirect slightly affects page load time, often unnoticed by users. Yet, Google takes it into account, as the extra step for the spider to crawl the new page adds milliseconds to load time.
Imagine having a redirect from page A to page B, and then you create page C, adding another redirect on top of the existing one. This creates two redirects from page A for the bot to follow. Is this bad? Yes.
Chained redirects (multiple consecutive redirects) can significantly slow down page load times and may cause issues with search engine crawling and indexing.
So, is there a limit on the number of redirects for a website? No, but there’s a maximum number of redirects per page. Google suggests not exceeding two in a row. Five or six would be too many, making the spider stop visiting the site. This redirect chain causes delays for users, leading to lost interest, and the spider follows suit, resulting in the page losing authority.
Matt Cutts explains this clearly in an older yet still relevant video:
We strongly advise ALWAYS redirecting to the newest page. No matter the effort, it’s the best way to keep load time low and avoid losing authority.
Redirect to the preferred version of your website URL
There are several factors to consider when determining the preferred version of your website URL:
To www or not to www
Choose whether to use a “www” subdomain or not, and ensure all variations of your website URL redirect to the preferred version.
HTTPS or not
Redirect all HTTP traffic to HTTPS for improved security and SEO performance, as search engines prioritize secure websites.
To slash or not to slash
Decide whether to include a trailing slash at the end of your URLs and consistently apply this choice throughout your website.
Use lowercase URLs, as some servers are case-sensitive, which can cause issues with crawling and indexing.
Encourage external websites to link to the preferred version of your URLs to maximize link equity and avoid unnecessary redirects.
Use a 302 redirect for inactive campaign URLs
For temporary or inactive marketing campaign URLs, use a 302 redirect to ensure that search engines don’t transfer link equity away from the primary page.
Use 301 redirect for campaign URLs that will never be used again
For permanent URL changes or campaign URLs that have been retired, use a 301 redirect to transfer link equity to the new URL.
Clean up your redirects
Periodically review and clean up your redirects, removing any that are no longer necessary to improve site performance and user experience.
Ensure that your website’s IP address redirects to the preferred version of your website URL, as search engines may treat the IP address and the domain name as separate entities, potentially leading to duplicate content issues.
How do you set up redirections?
Setting up redirections can be done in various ways, depending on your website’s server environment and your technical expertise. While some methods require editing server configuration files or writing code, others may be more accessible to non-technical users. If you find the process too challenging, you can always use our dedicated and free redirect generator tool that helps generate the appropriate redirection code for different methods.
How to set up HTML redirections using .htaccess
For websites hosted on an Apache server, you can set up redirects using the
.htaccess file. To create a 301 redirect, add the following code:
Redirect 301 /old-url /new-url
/new-url with the respective paths for your website.
How to set up HTML redirections using YAML
In a Jekyll-based static site, you can use YAML front matter to create redirects. In the new destination page’s Markdown file, add the following code:
/old-url with the path you want to redirect from.
How to set up HTML redirections using Nginx
For websites hosted on an Nginx server, edit the Nginx configuration file to set up redirects. To create a 301 redirect, add the following code:
rewrite ^/old-url$ /new-url permanent;
/new-url with the respective paths for your website.
How to set up HTML redirections using PHP
In a PHP file, you can create a redirect by adding the following code at the beginning of the file:
header("Location: /new-url", true, 301);
/new-url with the path you want to redirect to.
How to set up HTML redirections using ASP and ASP.NET
For ASP.NET websites, you can create a redirect using the following code in your old URL’s page:
<%@ Language="C#" %>
<% Response.Redirect("/new-url", true); %>
/new-url with the path you want to redirect to.
To create a client-side redirect using HTML meta tags, add the following code within the
<head> section of your HTML file:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=/new-url">
/new-url with the path you want to redirect to.
<head> section of your HTML file:
window.location.href = "/new-url";
/new-url with the path you want to redirect to.
Remember, if you find these methods too difficult or time-consuming, you can always use our dedicated redirect generator to generate the appropriate code for your preferred redirection method.
How to identify critical redirect issues?
Identifying critical redirect issues is essential for maintaining optimal website performance and ensuring the best user experience. Issues such as broken links, redirect loops, and improper redirections can negatively impact your website’s SEO and user satisfaction.
To help you efficiently identify and resolve these issues, our team has developed a powerful and free redirect analyis tool that allows you to check status codes, response headers, and redirect chains.
This advanced redirect analysis tool simplifies the process of detecting redirect issues by providing you with valuable insights, such as:
- Status codes: Quickly determine the HTTP status codes for your URLs, identifying any broken links (404 Not Found), server errors (5xx), or improper redirections.
- Response headers: Examine the response headers to ensure that your redirects are set up correctly and using the appropriate status codes (e.g., 301 Moved Permanently for permanent redirects).
- Redirect chains: Analyze the entire chain of redirects for each URL, helping you identify and eliminate unnecessary chained redirects, which can hurt your website’s performance and SEO.
To use the redirect analysis tool, follow these simple steps:
- Access the tool on our website and enter the URL(s) you wish to analyze.
- Click the “Analyze” button to initiate the analysis.
- Review the results, which will display information on the status codes, response headers, and redirect chains for the analyzed URL.
By leveraging this powerful tool, you can quickly identify critical redirect issues, resolve them, and improve your website’s overall performance, user experience, and search engine optimization. Regularly monitoring your website’s redirections can help you maintain a healthy site structure and stay ahead of potential issues before they negatively impact your site’s performance.
Effectively implementing redirects is an essential aspect of SEO and website performance. From understanding server-side and client-side redirects to identifying critical redirect issues, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of how redirects work and how they impact your site’s SEO. If not done correctly, redirects can negatively affect your website’s load time, user experience, and ultimately, your search engine rankings.
However, we understand that technical SEO, including redirects, can be complex and time-consuming. If you need assistance identifying redirect or other technical SEO issues on your website, we’re here to help. Or, if you’re looking for support with SEO, content marketing, or paid media, our team of experts is just a click away.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us through our contact form below. We’re committed to helping you optimize your website’s performance, enhance your online visibility, and achieve your digital marketing goals. Remember, a well-optimized website is key to your online success, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions about redirections
What is the impact of redirects on site speed?
Redirects can slow down site speed, as they require additional HTTP requests and server processing. Minimizing the use of redirects and following best practices can help maintain optimal site speed and user experience.
Do redirects affect my search engine rankings?
Yes, redirects can impact your search engine rankings. Properly implemented 301 redirects help preserve link equity, while improper or excessive redirects can lead to reduced rankings or crawling and indexing issues.
Are client-side redirects bad for SEO?
How long does it take for search engines to recognize a 301 redirect?
The time it takes for search engines to recognize and process a 301 redirect can vary. It typically takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on factors such as crawl rate and the number of pages affected by the redirect.
Can I undo a 301 redirect?
While it’s possible to undo a 301 redirect by removing the redirect rule and pointing the URL back to its original destination, search engines may take some time to recognize the change and revert the link equity transfer.
How do I find and fix broken redirects on my website?
To find and fix broken redirects, you can use a redirect analysis tool to check status codes, response headers, and redirect chains. The tool helps identify issues such as broken links, improper redirections, and redirect chains. Once identified, you can fix these issues by updating the relevant redirect rules or removing unnecessary redirects.
Is it better to use a 301 or 302 redirect for temporary URL changes?
For temporary URL changes, it’s better to use a 302 redirect, as it informs search engines that the change is temporary and they should not transfer link equity to the new URL. Using a 301 redirect for temporary changes may result in the permanent transfer of link equity, which may not be desirable.