301 redirects after a website redesign
When you are redesigning your website, there’s certainly a lot to think about. How will your new site look? Is the updated content perfectly polished? Will users have the kind of positive experience that drives traffic and optimizes conversions? Have you properly incorporated the most effective SEO strategies in the new site? Is your new website designed to grow with your business?
As you’re looking toward the future, don’t leave the past behind you. Make sure that you take the search engine rankings that you have worked so diligently to earn at your old site with you to your new site by employing 301 redirects.
What Is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is an HTTP server response status code. It spreads the word to both visitors and search engines that your old website has permanently moved to a new location. It’s kind of the Internet equivalent of asking the post office to forward your mail when you change locations in the real world. More importantly, the 301 redirect does not just tell Google and other search engines that your website has moved to a new URL; it also tells search engines to deindex the old URL and rank the new one in its place. Why does this matter? It’s the best way of transferring trust and link authority from the old site to the new one.
Why Are 301 Redirects Crucial for Your Redesigned Website’s Success?
There are times when starting with a clean slate is a total disaster, and the launch of a redesigned website is definitely one of those occasions. If you don’t make an effort to reallocate the trust and link authority from your old site to your new and improved one, the rankings for your site and the amount of traffic it draws are both likely to drop.
Google PageRank value isn’t easy to come by, and it’s key to helping potential customers find your website. Earning it generally requires time, effort, a quality site and a meticulously plotted SEO strategy, so you don’t want to squander it. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to shift all PageRank value from one site to another. However, the smart use of 301 redirects can transfer between 90 and 99 percent of that hard-earned ranking value.
Alternatives to 301 Redirects and Why They Don’t Cut It
A 301 redirect code reroutes traffic, prompts deindexing and transfers a fair amount of link authority. There are alternatives that can accomplish some of those tasks, but none of them offer the same trifecta of benefits that a 301 redirect does. Options that might be suggested as an alternative to a 301 redirect include:
404 file not found errors. These only prompt deindexing of the old page.
302 temporary redirects. These merely redirect traffic.
Meta refreshes. These simply send traffic to the new page.
Canonical tags. These ask search engines to shift link authority from a site to an identical one at a new URL. However, redesigned websites are rarely exact copies of earlier ones, so the search engine is likely to ignore the request.
The bottom line is that no other option is as effective in protecting your website’s ranking during a redesign as a 301 redirect. While they can be time-consuming to create and test, you should insist on having 301 redirects as part of your transition plan.
Getting the Most Out of 301 Redirects
Like any good tool, 301 redirects must be employed properly to be effective. When setting up your 301 redirects, don’t simply send all traffic to your homepage. Instead, match old pages with their updated equivalents. Create a spreadsheet that shows where each old URL should lead, and use this to map out your 301 redirects. Be careful about hopping, or chaining several redirects together. While Google will follow a few hops, too many increases the risk that it or your customers will get lost in the shuffle.