Ask any SEO and they will tell you that 301 redirects are essential to running a successful SEO campaign. For people that are unfamiliar, a 301 redirect is considered a ‘permanent’ change of location from one URL to another.
An alternative to a 301 redirect is a 302 redirect. A 302 redirect is also known as a ‘temporary’ redirect between two URLs. One of these redirects will transfer link authority between pages and the other does not, both however will be friendly from a user standpoint.
Why 301 Redirects?
A 301 redirect is the only redirect in which the search engines will take as a signal to transfer the link authority from one URL to another. Ideally this redirect will allow your new page to replace your old page at the same position within the search engines. I say ‘ideally’ only because it has been debated that 301 redirects only transfer a percentage of ranking value.
What should you take from this? Only place redirects when you absolutely need them. Make sure to create the best URL structure up front so you can avoid multiple 301 redirects in the future. Remember that transferring a percentage of your link value is always better then not placing a 301 redirect and losing ALL the value.
How To Check 301 Redirects?
It’s not that uncommon that SEO’s themselves are not the ones that implement the 301 redirects. If this is the situation it’s a good idea to verify that all the redirects are indeed 301 redirects.
My tool of choice is Fiddler Web Debugging Proxy (fiddler2.com) – it’s a fantastic tool that will run while you surf the internet. Try typing in your old URL that is now redirecting to the new page, what do you see in Fiddler? Look at my example below.
The DKS site has a 301 redirect from the non ‘www’ version to the ‘www’ version. I can validate the 301 redirect by typing the non ‘www’ version into the browser and looking at the results in Fiddler. You will see that in the left that it displays ‘301’ which is the goal we wanted to achieve.
Don’t Miss Out On Free Link Equity
301 redirects are not only important for website redesigns or simple URL changes but it’s also a valuable tool to maximize your link building opportunities. Is an authoritative website linking to a page on your domain that displays a 404 error page? Place a 301 redirect from this non existing URL to receive value from the linking source.
While link building is arguably the hardest aspect of SEO it doesn’t always have to be. Start with your existing link portfolio and see what value you can squeeze from it. Increasing your link value might just start with making sure that your redirects are actually 301 redirects!
Guest author Nick LeRoy (nickleroy.com) is the Search Marketing Specialist at Minnesota Web Design firm DKS Systems, an award winning web design and development firm that services clients nationwide. You can also guest post here and share your SEO tips.