A 301 redirect is a way to redirect traffic to a current and updated web page. These are necessary if a URL is broken or no longer active. 301 redirects are important for user experience, which can also strongly affect the SEO of your website.
301 or 302?
To first clarify, there are two kinds of redirects. 301s are permanent and include PageRank, MozRank, Page Authority, and Traffic Value. Previous pages will be removed from Google’s index and replaced by the new page. Some percentage of “link juice” will be lost in addition to PageRank.
Alternatively, 302 redirects are temporary. These are best used if testing a new webpage. 302s can be used as a temporary detour while fixing a page. They may not pass any traffic value to the new page, so it is best to avoid them if possible. All PageRank, MozRank, and Page Authority will remain the same, and the detour page will not gain any traffic value. After working hard on the SEO of your website, you don’t want to sacrifice your accumulated SEO value for a 302 redirect. They have the potential to greatly harm your SEO if created by accident, so they should be used sparingly and with care. Google will still view them the same as 301s, but it’s best to be specific and relevant and stick to 301 redirects.
But my SEO?
Search engines like Google will quickly notice the change to a redirect. Your SEO is immediately affected. However, if your website is large and complex, it could take a while for Google to completely forget the original page. If your website is new, you shouldn’t need any redirects, but it is important to realize the immediate effects of your website’s SEO.
301 redirects are a great way to accidentally test your SEO. Moz tested Google’s theories to see how much 301s can actually change your SEO, and they found results identical to Google’s predictions. On average, SEO is 15 percent below where it would be without any redirects. If your SEO is well-established, you could have better results despite the 301 redirect. However, if your website is extremely new and undeveloped, then that redirect could produce even worse SEO results. While 15 percent is only a benchmark, you can develop your own measurements using MozBar. By testing your redirects, you are able to see the ease of use for visitors while ensuring traffic is continuing correctly.
Still, Watch Out
While it is possible to add or delete 301 redirects, it is best to keep them forever. If you do remove a 301 redirect, then Google’s connection to your web page is broken, and the reputation of your domain becomes flawed.
Still, it is important to not redirect all old pages to a homepage. While this may seem like a holistic fix, it actually causes Google to view these pages as a 404. Instead, redirect old pages to other internal pages instead of a homepage. Your site and content is likely to change, so redirect old pages to newer, more updated content to help your visitors and your SEO.
301 redirects can multiply quickly as a website gains more content and web pages. While necessary to redirect broken or outdated pages, it is best to build your website carefully to avoid them. If you don’t redirect your page at all, then there will be a dead 404 page, which should be avoided at all costs. Even if your website is relatively new, it is important to pay attention to URLs early on to ensure traffic is logical and allows for growth.