301 redirection

María Navarro

Written by María Navarro

A 301 redirection occurs when querying a URL and the server returns a 301 HTTP code indicating that the URL has been permanently moved to another location. There are several ways to implement a 301 redirection, but it should always be done via server-side code.

When a user accesses a redirected URL, his browser obtains the corresponding code and the URL he must access to find the content. If the server response time is fast, the jump from one URL to another will hardly be noticed by the user.

To detect a 301 redirection we must use an http header analysis tool that does not follow such a redirection because in that case we will get the response code of the redirected destination page. The Crawl as Google tool of Google Webmaster Tools will allow us to detect first hand if the redirection we have implemented on our site is correct. Another highly recommended tool for analyzing URL redirections is the Site Information Tool from WMTIPS.com. The peculiarity of this tool is that it follows the redirections showing the headers of all of them.

How does a 301 redirection affect the indexation of a URL?

When we implement a 301 redirection in a URL indexed by search engines, they understand this HTTP code as the transfer of content from a source URL to a destination URL. At that moment, a migration process is initiated that will have 2 effects on the indexed content:

  • Indexing the destination URL of the redirection and de-indexing the old or origin URL of the redirection.
  • Moving most of the Web popularity from the source URL of the redirection to the destination URL.

When to use 301 redirections?

The most desirable situation in any web site is that it increases its number of pages and these have persistent URLs over time. But there are situations in which we must move content or it simply expires and is replaced by other content such as catalog updates in e-commerce. In these situations we must use 301 redirections to communicate to search engine robots that a page or site has been moved to a new URL for good. This allows us to carry out a successful SEO migration and mitigate as much as possible a drop in organic traffic.

If the migration of a Web site involves a change of URLs, a redirection study must always be considered.

301 redirections are perceived positively by both search engine robots and users when they redirect to equivalent content. If the 301 redirection is performed on content unrelated to the user’s search intent, the conversion rate of the visit will drop significantly.

In a scenario of deletion of pages for which we do not have equivalent or at least related content, it is more advisable to let these pages return a 404 code offering the user a friendly 404 page than to redirect these URLs on the home page as has been done traditionally, as this will currently not be viewed favorably by search engines and they will register this scenario as a mild 404.

Frequent errors related to 301 redirections

The most common mistake is to implement multiple 301 redirections. This situation occurs when a redirection lands on a URL that in turn returns a 301 code. When in a series of multiple redirections two of them coincide as destination and source, a loop of redirections is produced that will end up giving an invalid response.

Redirection loop

It also happens sometimes that some internal links are not updated so that every time users or search engine robots follow them, redirections occur. This presence of internal redirections is not recommended by search engines as it slows down the internal flow of popularity.


How to perform a successful Web site migration

How to use Screaming Frog to check server HTTP status codes

Tool to check the http headers of the WMTips server.

HTTP status codes

Server http header analysis

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María Navarro
María Navarro
Senior SEO Consultant at Human Level. Graduated in Web and Application Development and in Telecommunications and Computer Science. Specialized in technical SEO and e-commerce, she leads important projects in various sectors, mainly online stores and travel. Teacher of the Master in Professional SEO/SEM and the Advanced SEO Course at KSchool.

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