6 questions about redirects for SEO • Yoast

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Written by Edwin Toonen –

A redirect happens when someone asks for a specific page but gets sent to a different page. Often, the site owner deleted the page and set up a redirect to send visitors and search engine crawlers to a relevant page — a much better approach than serving them annoying, user-experience-breaking 404 messages. Redirects play a big part in the lives of site owners, developers, and SEOs. So, let’s answer a couple of recurring questions about redirects for SEO.

1. Are redirects bad for SEO?

Are redirects bad for SEO? The answer is no; redirects are not inherently bad for SEO. However, it is crucial to implement them correctly to avoid potential issues. An improper implementation can lead to problems such as losing PageRank and traffic. Redirecting pages is necessary when making URL changes, as you want to preserve the hard work invested in building an audience and acquiring backlinks.

To ensure that redirects are implemented correctly and effectively, consider the following best practices:

  • Use the appropriate redirect type: The most commonly used redirect for permanent URL changes is the 301 redirect. This informs search engines that the original URL has permanently moved to a new location. By using a 301 redirect, you can maintain the ranking and relevance of the old URL and seamlessly redirect users and search engine crawlers to the new URL.
  • Update internal links: When you implement redirects, updating any internal links on your website that refer to the old URLs is important. This ensures visitors can navigate to the correct pages and search engines can properly index the new URLs.
  • Preserve user experience: Redirects should aim to provide a smooth user experience. Avoid excessive redirect chains, which can slow page load times and frustrate users. It’s also important to redirect users to relevant content that aligns with their intent. For example, if a page has been permanently removed, redirect users to a relevant alternative rather than a generic homepage.
  • Monitor and test redirects: Regularly monitor your redirects. Check for errors or issues, such as broken redirects or redirect loops. It’s also helpful to periodically test the redirects to ensure they function as expected.

2. Why should I redirect a URL?

By redirecting a changed URL, you send users and crawlers to a new URL, minimizing annoyance. Whenever you perform any maintenance on your site, you are taking stuff out. You could delete a post, change your URL structure, or move your site to a new domain. You must replace it, or visitors will land on those 404 pages.

If you make small changes, like deleting an outdated article, you can redirect that old URL with a 301 to a relevant new article or give it a 410 to say that you deleted it. Don’t delete stuff without a plan. And don’t redirect your URLs to random articles that don’t have anything to do with the article you’re deleting. Lastly, don’t 301 redirect all your 404s to your homepage!

Bigger projects need a URL migration strategy. For instance, moving to a new domain or changing the URL paths. In these cases, you should look at all your site’s URLs and map them to their future locations on the new domain. After determining what goes where you can start redirecting the URLs. Use the change of address tool in Google Search Console to notify Google of the changes.

3. What is a 301 redirect? And a 302 redirect?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect informing visitors and search engine crawlers that the requested URL has moved to a new destination permanently. It is the most commonly used redirect for permanent URL changes. When implementing a 301 redirect, you signal that the old URL is no longer in use and that the new URL should be accessed instead. It is important to note that with a 301 redirect, the old URL should not be used again in the future, as it signifies a permanent change.

On the other hand, a 302 redirect is a temporary redirect. This type of redirect is used to indicate that the requested content is temporarily unavailable at a specific address but will return at a later time. Unlike a 301 redirect, a 302 redirect suggests that the change is temporary and that the original URL may be used again.

You must consider the URL change’s nature when deciding which redirect to use. If the change is permanent and you have no intention of using the original URL again, a 301 redirect is appropriate. However, if the change is temporary and you plan on returning to the original URL, a 302 redirect should be used.

It is recommended to carefully consider the purpose and longevity of the URL change when selecting the appropriate redirect. If you are uncertain about which redirect you need, please read our article on which redirect to pick?

4. What’s an easy way to manage redirects in WordPress?

We might be biased, but we think the redirect manager in our Yoast SEO Premium WordPress plugin is incredibly helpful. We know that many people struggle to understand the concept of redirects and the work that goes into adding and managing them. That’s why one of the first things we wanted our WordPress SEO plugin to have was an easy-to-use redirect tool. I think we succeeded, but don’t take my word for it.

The redirect manager can help set up and manage redirects on your WordPress site. It’s an indispensable tool to keep your site fresh and healthy. We made it as easy as possible. Here’s what happens when you delete a post:

  • Move a post to the trash
  • A message pops up saying that you moved a post to the trash
  • Choose one of two options given by the redirects manager:
    • Redirect to another URL
    • Serve a 410 Content deleted header
  • If you pick redirect, a modal opens where you can enter the new URL for this particular post
  • Save, and you’re done!

So convenient, right? Here’s an insightful article called What does the redirect manager in Yoast SEO do, that answers that question. Or watch the video below!

5. What is a redirect checker?

A redirect checker is a tool to determine if a certain URL is redirected and to analyze the path it follows. You can use this information to find bottlenecks, like a redirect chain in which a URL is redirected many times, making it much harder for Google to crawl that URL — and giving users a less-than-stellar user experience. These chains often happen without you knowing it: if you delete a redirected page, you add another piece. So, you need to keep an eye on your redirects; a redirect checker is one of the tools to do that.

You can use one of the SEO suites, such as Sitebulb, Ahrefs or Screaming Frog to test your redirects and links. If you only need a quick check, you can also use a simpler tool like httpstatus.io to give you an insight into the life of a URL on your site. Another must-have tool is the Redirect Path extension for Chrome, made by Ayima.

6. Do I need to redirect HTTP to HTTPS?

Every site should use the HTTPS protocol, but be sure to redirect your HTTP traffic to HTTPS. You could get into trouble with Google if you make your site available on HTTP and HTTPS, so watch out for that. Google prefers HTTPS sites because these tend to be faster and more secure. Your visitors expect the extra security as well.

So, you need to set up a 301 redirect from HTTP to HTTPS. There are a couple of ways of doing this, and you must plan this to ensure everything goes as it should. First, the preferred way of doing this is at the server level. Find out what kind of server your site is running (NGINX, Apache, or something else) and the code needed to add to your server config file or .htaccess file. Your host will often have a guide to help you set up a redirect for HTTP to HTTPS on the server level. Some hosts have a simple setting to manage this in one go.

There are also WordPress plugins that can handle the HTTPS/SSL stuff for your site, but for this specific issue, we wouldn’t rely on a plugin, but manage your redirect at a server level. Don’t forget to let Google know of the changes in Search Console.

Redirects for SEO

There are loads of questions about redirects to answer. The redirect concept isn’t too hard to grasp if you think about it. Getting started with redirects isn’t that hard, either. The hard part of working with redirects is managing them. Where are all these redirects leading? What if something breaks? Can you find redirect chains or redirect loops? Can you shorten the paths? You can gain a lot from optimizing your redirects, so dive in and fix them. Do you have burning questions about redirects? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: How to properly delete a page from your site »

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