301 Redirection Guide – How to Redirect Your Website Properly?

A domain or page URL change in a site has multiple ramifications in terms of SEO and web traffic. For starters, previous visitors will no longer find your new domain or new URL, and your domain authority is bound to take a hit. Here is where a 301 redirect comes in, which ensures that visitors and search engines find your new URL, and that the ranking power of your previous URL is passed onto the new URL.

In this 301 redirection guide, we will clarify what a 301 redirection is, when and how should you be using one, the pros and cons of a 301 redirect, and what are the potential mistakes to avoid while using a 301 redirect, so that you don’t lose out on SEO benefits and visitor traffic.

What Is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirection is essentially a permanent instruction that redirects visitors from one URL to another. This means that even though the URL of your site has changed, a visitor can still access the new URL by using the original URL they know.

To better understand how a 301 redirect works, imagine the following scenario: Let’s say your domain URL has always been “greatestURL.com”, but at some point, you’ve decided to rebrand yourself to “bestURL.com”.

Now, your old-time visitors, and even search engines, may not know about this change yet, so they still access your old URL, but as they enter it into their browsers, they’re being directed to your new URL, i.e. “bestURL.com”.

This is possible thanks to the 301 redirect, which ensures that your domain authority from inbound links to “greatestURL.com” is passed onto your new domain.

Why Use 301 Redirection?

A 301 redirect is an important tool that allows you to maintain the SEO work that you’ve put into your site. There are two common scenarios that may require you to use 301 redirection, namely:

1. Renaming Your Business

If you decide one day that your business needs a fresh start, and you want to rebrand yourself by renaming your domain, you can end up having to build up your search engine rankings from scratch, and you may confuse or downright lose your previous customers or visitors. With a 301 redirect, you can build on the authority of your previous domain and retain your previous customers.

2. Changes in the URL of a Page

You can apply a 301 redirect to lead traffic from a previous page URL of your site to another URL. You may have to do this for a variety of reasons, e.g. you’ve created a better version of that page, the old URL does not work anymore, etc. In all these cases, a 301 redirect creates a better user experience, and seamlessly leads traffic from the old page to your new page.

As a permanent redirect, the 301 redirect preserves the SEO value of your old page/site, retains your organic traffic and previous search rankings, and signals to search engines to start indexing your new URL instead of the old one.

Another great use of a 301 redirect would be to redirect traffic from pages with duplicate content to the page with the highest rank, thus, informing search engines to index that particular page, and potentially avoid penalization.

Pros & Cons of 301 Redirection

Here’s the advantages that you can enjoy when you’re using a 301 redirect properly, and some disadvantages that you should take notice of when setting up a 301 redirect.

Pros of 301 Redirect

  • Prevents bad user experiences when visitors access your old URLs – e.g. instead of being hit with a 404 error, your visitors are seamlessly lead to your new URL;
  • Retains your organic website traffic;
  • Retains your SEO authority – Google will automatically start indexing your new URL and your backlink profile will also be transferred to the new URL;

Cons of 301 Redirect

  • Bad backlink profile issues – before you redirect your entire domain, make sure to check that there aren’t many low-quality links pointing to your domain as these can hurt your SEO instead of helping it;
  • Redirection to irrelevant pages are treated by Google as a soft 404, which means that the new URL won’t benefit from the SEO authority of the previous URL;
  • Time considerations – passing your SEO authority onto your new domain takes some time, and although search engines do pick up on your new domain, and start indexing it, the whole process does not happen overnight.

How to Use a 301 Redirect on WordPress?

As with most things in WordPress, a plugin is the easiest way to get the job done. Indeed, using a redirection plugin like the Redirection WordPress plugin, you can simplify setting up a 301 redirection.

Search, install, and activate the plugin in your WordPress dashboard, then follow the steps below:

  1. Go to Tools > Redirection;
  2. Complete the “Source URL” field with your old URL, then
  3. Add your new URL to the “Target URL” field, and
  4. Press “Add redirect” button.

wordpress 301 redirect

How to 301 Redirect Pages on Apache

On Apache web server you can make a 301 redirect by adding a line of code to the .htaccess file, which is located in the root folder of your website. If you don’t have a .htaccess file, you can create one and upload it via FTP. You can also ask your hosting provider to do it for you. Most reliable hosts will help you with this.

Remember, that you can only use the .htaccess redirect, if the mod_rewrite in enabled on you Apache server.

To redirect a single page to a new one, add the following code to the .htaccess file:

Redirect 301 /old-page.htm /new-page.htm

How to Setup 301 Redirect on Nginx

On an Nginx server the .htaccess trick does not work. Here, if you want to redirect an old page to a new one, you have to use the following code inside server block:

server {

...

if ( $request_filename ~ old-page/ ) {

rewrite ^ http://www.yourdomain.com/new-page/? permanent;

...

}

How to Use 301 Redirection in PHP Files

You can 301 redirect a PHP page by adding the following code to the beginning of the PHP file:

<?php

header(“HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently”);

header(“Location: http://www.yourdomain.com/new-page.php”);

exit();

?>

How to 301 Redirect ASP Files

To redirect a single .asp page to a new one, add this code to the current file:

<%@ Language=VBScript %>

<%

Response.Status=”301 Moved Permanently”

Response.AddHeader “Location”, “http://yourdomain.com/new-page.asp”

%>

How to Use 301 Redirect in ASP .NET

The code differs a bit for .aspx pages, but the concept is the same. Add the following code to the file you want to redirect:

<script language=”c#” runat=”server”>

private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)

{

Response.Status = “301 Moved Permanently”;

Response.AddHeader(“Location”,”http://yourdomain.com/new-page.aspx”);\

}

</script>

How to Redirect Domain at Registrar (Namecheap)

Maybe you acquired a good domain and want to point it to your main business website, or just want to redirect all your branded domains to your main website without adding it to a hosting account.

Well, there are registrars such as Namecheap, where you can redirect your domains at DNS level. Here you don’t need to use any code, just follow these steps:

  • Login to your Namecheap account
  • From the left sidebar select Domain List and click Manage next to your domain
  • At the Nameservers section choose Namecheap Basic DNS and save changes
  • At the Redirect Domain section add the old and new URL

namecheap 301 redirect domain

Add as many redirects you need.

Other registrars might not work the same, but hope you get the concept.

Forwarding a Domain at GoDaddy

Redirecting a domain registered at GoDaddy is a bit different, but it works basically very similar to the one we mentioned before. In order to redirect or forward your domain at GoDaddy, please follow these steps:

  • Login to your GoDaddy account
  • Select Domains > All Domains
  • Choose a domain name you want to redirect or the Manage button next to the domain
  • Click on the Use My Domain button
  • Click the Connect button under the Connect to an existing site section
  • Select the destination where you want to redirect – here you can select from a wide rang of options such as website builders, social profiles, online stores or you can add a URL directly
  • Click the Next  button
  • Review your redirect settings and click Finish

godaddy domain connect to existing site

godaddy 301 redirect domain

How to Use 301 Redirect on Microsoft Windows Server with IIS

Follow these steps if you can want to 301 redirect a folder or file on a Windows server with IIS:

  • Access the IIS (Internet Service Manager) and select the folder or file you want to redirect
  • Right-click and select a redirection to a URL menu option
  • Add the URL to which you want to redirect
  • Select The exact URL entered above option
  • Select A permanent redirection for this resource option (this is 301 redirect)
  • And finally click Apply

How to Use 301 Redirect on cPanel

For some users, due to lack of experience, it might be difficult adding codes to .htaccess  or other files in order to redirect a page. Well, it is possible to use the Redirects function from cPanel to 301 redirect pages. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Login to your cPanel account at your hosting company
  • Find and access the Redirects page
  • Select the Redirect Type – in this case Permanent (301)
  • Select the domain
  • Add the name of the page you want to redirect
  • In the Redirect to filed add the new URL
  • Choose www. or non-www. redirection – whichever you need
  • Only check Wild Card Redirect if you want to redirect all files within a directory
  • Click Add to save redirection

cpanel 301 redirect

Next, let’s see some of the pitfalls of 301 redirects that you should avoid to prevent ruining your SEO or losing your audience:

Mistakes to Avoid When Using 301 Redirects

When implementing 301 redirects, you may inadvertently make mistakes that are not good practice and that will undermine your SEO efforts. Here are some redirect faux pas to avoid:

1. Redirect chains

A redirect 301 should involve two URLs: your old one and your new URL. A redirect chain happens when more than two URLs are involved in the process, e.g. URL A redirects to URL B, and URL B redirects to URL C. There are also site-wide redirects (e.g. HTTPS to HTTP, www to non-www), which can happen during site migrations or relaunches.

These are bad for a number or reasons: First, unnecessary redirects are associated with a loss in link equity, which means that a chain will decrease the SEO authority that is passed on. Next, a redirect chain will make it more difficult for Google to crawl your pages, and it can also slow down your site.

2. Moving to a new domain before setting up a 301 redirect

Transferring to a new domain will prompt search engines to crawl the new domain, and it will make you lose out on the SEO juice of the old domain if you haven’t implemented a 301 redirect first.

3. Using a 302 instead of a 301

Inexperienced webmasters may inadvertently use a 302 redirect instead of a 301 redirect. The difference between the two is that while a 301 is a permanent redirect, a 302 is a temporary one, and it does not transfer link equity to the new URL as it happens with a 301 redirect.

A 302 redirect is used when you temporarily want to direct traffic to another URL, but you plan on taking your visitors back to the original URL at some point in the future.

For this reason, SEO authority is not passed onto the URL where a 302 redirect points, and it can lead to other SEO issues such as duplicate content, division of traffic between the two links, and continued indexing of the original URL.

4. Building internal links that redirect to another URL

Linking to an internal link that redirects your visitors to another URL than what they expected is a 301 redirect faux pas that you should also avoid.

To solve this issue, you can use various SEO tools to identify internal links pointing to redirecting URLs, such as Redirect Checker or Screaming Frog.

Conclusion

If you want to preserve PageRank when switching to a new domain or URL, you should always use a 301 redirect, which is a permanent redirect. Although redirects do carry a degree of SEO ranking risk, when implemented correctly, the redirect should help preserve your PageRank and domain authority.

Useful Resources on 301 Redirection

  • https://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/website/redirects/setting-up-a-301-permanent-redirect-via-htaccess
  • https://www.godaddy.com/help/using-301-page-redirects-234
  • https://www.namecheap.com/support/knowledgebase/article.aspx/782/10
  • https://www.godaddy.com/help/forward-a-domain-12123
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on RedditPin on Pinterest