Performing a 301 redirect is a fairly common SEO task that needs to be completed, especially if you’re running WordPress. It is one of the easiest and one of the most important actions that can be taken when moving your content around. The 301 redirect is extremely friendly, but it has to be completed correctly in order for it to properly work.
It’s important to remember that this redirect is a permanent redirect. It will transfer all of the equity that the information has generated to the new location. Without the redirect, new content that you want to rank will never rank the way it should. What’s even worse is that if you have 404 errors showing up because WordPress updates have modified your blog or site, a search engine could drop your ranking thanks to the lower appearance of value.
A 301 redirect isn’t going to completely transfer equity. A minimum of 90% will transfer, but it won’t be a complete trade. Here are some tips to help make sure you get the most out of this permanent transfer.
1. Think about using a widget or plugin to help you keep track of everything.
If you don’t have plugins installed on WordPress or widgets on other sites that can help you keep track of 404 errors, then you’re stuck needing to check the Webmaster Tools that are offered by Google on a regular basis. There are a number of good options that are available to help get this done, but do make sure that the tool you decide to use offers redirect logs and error monitoring so you’ll know when to use the 301 redirect in an effective manner.
2. Do it from your domain registrar or your hosting provider.
If you’re looking for a whole site redirect, then there’s nothing easier than going into the dashboard of your domain registrar or your hosting provider to just set it up from there. GoDaddy, for example, can put in a full 301 redirect for you in less than a minute and just a few clicks of the mouse. Other providers may make you dig into your site to get the redirect in place, but it’s a lot easier to do an entire site this way.
3. Keep track of those old blog posts.
You might have deleted a blog post, but that doesn’t mean the actual URL has been deleted. It is pretty common for a deleted post to put up a 404 error on you. Make sure that you redirect those URLs so that people don’t get stuck feeling like they wasted their time trying to click on a link for your site.
4. Instead of updating old content, redirect it.
If you have a website that runs similar posts on a regular basis, then the 301 redirect can help steer people toward the updated content. This is different than if you have pillar or evergreen content that’s been published on your site. Let’s say that you’ve got a post in 2014 that discusses the best apps to track down turkey prices for Thanksgiving. If you write a similar article in 2015, you could use the 301 redirect to put readers onto the new content that’s more valuable than the older content.
5. Always crawl into the hidden corners of your website.
If you are doing a website redesign, there’s a very good chance that several of your URLs are going to change. The 301 redirect will steer the search engines to the new pages with minimal damage to the equity that your older pages were able to develop over time. To make sure that you’ve got all of your URLs updated and redirected, be sure to crawl into every nook and cranny of your site before you begin the redesign so that you don’t miss any subdomains that might be lurking around.
6. Save time by keeping your URL structure the same.
It takes a lot of time to go through the .htaccess, mod_rewrite, and ISAPI to really get a good 301 redirect plan put together. Can you imagine replicating that over 1,000 times on each subdomain? On some projects, that’s very much a reality. That’s why you should always do your best to keep your URL structure intact as much as possible. Not only does it keep your data readily available, but you won’t lose the 10% equity that the 301 redirect can cause. Why? Because you won’t need to use the redirect whatsoever.
7. A 301 redirect isn’t going to create a quick fix.
A common error made by domain owners today is to assume that a penalty from a search engine can be quickly fixed by simply initiating a 301 redirect. That just isn’t the case. If you have a notification that says your PageRank appears to be artificially manipulated with links and a 301 redirect transfers all link equity to a new location, what do you think is going to happen? There’s the possibility that the penalty is going to transfer or penalize your new site in some way.
Here’s something to think about: If you have a true penalty, then the 301 redirect is a solution that can work, strangely enough. Most people don’t actually have a penalty, however, even though they think they do. Often there is a reduction in value that happens, especially to links and content, that is viewed as a penalty. Devalued equity will always be passed along.
Could you do a 301 redirect to a competitor from a polluted website and penalize them? No. Search engines are a lot wiser than most people realize. Many times a 301 redirect will seem successful, but then a few weeks later the new site with the redirect will be penalized once again. The best solution for the 301 redirect is to use it in such a way where you eliminate errors, point people to valuable content, and remain transparent.
In doing so, you may just find your rankings beginning to rise.