How Redirects Can Help Your Online Marketing Efforts

November 10th, 2008

Using redirects for SEOWhat is a redirect?
A redirect is an instruction to browsers and robots (crawlers for the search engines that remember and rank your pages) that tells them to visit a new page instead of the one they landed on or requested. Also, the end user who types the replaced URL in the browser gets redirected to the new page without ever seeing the old page or one of those nasty “404 Page Not Found” error messages.

What types of redirects are there?
There are two types of redirects – 301 and 302 redirects.

  • A 301 redirect is a permanent transfer that tells the search engines to transfer any page rank to the new page and that you will never revert back to the old page.
  • A 302 redirect tells the search engines that it is a temporary redirect and not to transfer the page rank just yet, as you may revert back to the old page.

Why should you use redirects?
When deleting, moving, or renaming a page on your website, the important thing to remember is that this change carries many implications. If these changes are done without redirects, you may lose out on site traffic, or lose search engine rankings on certain keywords and any page rank gained (sort of like brownie points with Google).

Here’s some sample scenarios that can happen if you don’t use redirects:

  • Past site visitors may have bookmarked your internal pages. If you don’t use a redirect, they will receive a “404 page not found” error message and possibly just exit your site right away, resulting in the loss of a potential customer lead. This is especially true if it is a deep page link.
  • Blogs, directories, and partner sites may have linked to internal pages on your site. Again this can result in missed traffic for your site, because the visitor may be irked that they received a 404 page and immediately exit your site.
  • Blogs, directories, and partner sites that link to your pages may raise your site ranking in the search engines results pages (if the hyperlink title tag and keywords were used within the hyperlink), but if the page is not redirecting, this will not help you whatsoever.
  • The big guy (aka Google) may have indexed and remembered a particular page that comes up in the search results page on a certain keyword. If you then change or delete that page without a redirect and Google reports an error link , you will lose that ranking altogether.

So when should you use redirects?

  • Redesigning a website (use 301 redirects)- Let’s say you decide to redesign your website, and try to better optimize your site with keywords in the page names (one of the many best practices that can help, especially in a competitive marketplace). You realize that you can improve on our search terms, such as “website builder” and “content management”, and want to rename pages to help with the SEO. You do this to transfer the pages properly to prevent inbound link issues and preserve our search engine rankings gained to date. For example:
    Old page = www.sitemasher.com/build
    New page renamed = www.sitemasher.com/website-builder
  • Deleting products or pages (use 301 redirects) –If you have a product page or service that is no longer available, it is best to redirect it to a new or similar product or service page.
  • Expired promotions (use 301 redirects) – If you have an expired promotion, why not redirect it to your new promotion, so you tell people about it!
  • Product or service temporary unavailable (use 302 redirects) – When you are not sure if you are going to reactivate the page or not, use a 302 redirect. This tells the search engine and robots that the page may still become active in the near future and just redirect the traffic to the temporary page.

How to redirect a web page (sites hosted on an Unix server)

This is a little advanced and it is via the .htaccess file on your web server (Unix). OK, I may have lost some of you now! This method is for techie webmasters and not necessarily for people that want to just design sites. You have to do the following steps:

  1. To create a .htaccess file, open Notepad, and name and save the file as .htaccess (without an extension).
  2. If you already have a .htaccess file on your server, download it to your desktop for editing.
  3. If the .htaccess file already has lines of code in it, skip a line, then add the following code: redirect 301 /old/old.htm http://www.you.com/new.htm
  4. Save the .htaccess file
  5. Upload this file to the root folder of your server.
  6. Test it by typing in the old address to the page you’ve changed. You should be immediately taken to the new location.

Interested in learning more? Read here.

Want to share examples on how you have used redirects and why it helped you? Feel free to share your comments below.

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One Response to “How Redirects Can Help Your Online Marketing Efforts”

  1. source on January 17, 2013 5:24 am

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