301 Redirects: The Importance of Not Messing up!!

I’ve recently had the pleasure of making quite a few on page search engine optimisation changes to websites for some clients over recent weeks. Most of this recent on page work involved straight forward adjustments to title tags, meta tags and changes to the body of content on websites. However I have also had to incorporate some 301 redirects recently, a technique that is slightly more advanced in terms of your regular day to day on page optimisation fine tuning. And by that measure I thought 301 redirects would make for a good topic to write my next blog post about.


So what are 301 redirects exactly? What do you use them for? And just why are they so important?

Any time you want to redirect traffic to a new page or if you are switching the whole of your domain to a new domain, one of the most popular ways to do so is to use a 301 redirect. There are other methods to do this by but a 301 redirect ensures for a fast smooth and effective way to process this transfer.

If for example you are making a change to a URL structure on any given page of a website (for instance, mysite.ie/guitars-accustic.html to mysite.ie/guitars-accustic-pianos.html) it is essential to transfer over to the new URL all the page rank, backlink juice and search engine prominence that original page contains. By incorporating a 301 redirect properly this will reroute any links & link juice and all the on page SEO value held by the original page and it will successfully transfer all this to the new page.


Besides the risk of loosing all the on page SEO value by incorrectly removing or shifting a web page from your website you also need to take into consideration the users experience as well. After all you don’t want to generate a bad user experience by sending users to a page that no longer exists. We have all seen and felt the frustration from visiting those pages displaying 404 error messages!

The danger of loosing all your back links, page rank and link juice from incorrectly applying a 301 redirect pales in comparison to incorrectly carrying out the procedure for switching an entire domain. This is one mistake you definitely don’t want to make. The damage that you can do here is almost too large to contemplate.

I have heard a couple of horror stories about companies who have incorrectly switched their old domains to new ones. Some of theses companies had previously achieved years of domination for some of the top search engine ranking terms in their respective industry. But when it came to switching their domains all those years of solid SEO work became redundant. What these companies effectively did was loose their online brand recognition with the search engines along with their rankings and traffic to boot.

In the case of one company who I will not name, their traffic fell literally over night from 15,000 visitors + a day to under 1,200 all because they failed to fully implement the switch over from their old website domain to the new one. Of course this major loss in traffic also directly correlated with a severe loss in their revenue.


Redirects for a single web page:

To carry out a 301 redirect you will first need to create a .htaccess file. Open a new note pad doc on your computer and name it .htaccess. Once you have done this you can upload it to your websites root directory for any redirect you may want to make now or in the future. A .htpaccess file is the the most common redirect setup.


If you want to redirect a single page such as “mysite.ie/guitars-accustic.html” to “mysite.ie/guitars-accustic-pianos.html” type the following line in your .htaccess file directly under the line “RewriteEngine on”

Redirect 301/ guitars-accustic.html http:www.mysite.ie/guitars-accustic-pianos.html

The first URL is the one being directed, and the second URL is the one it is being redirected to. Note how you must not type out the full web address for the first URL!

Bair in mind also that you only have to include the line “RewriteEngine On” only once in your .htaccess file.


The last step in the process is to verify that the redirect worked. You can simply do this by visiting the page you’ve redirected and see if it automatically forwards over to the new URL. You’ll know right away if it hasn’t worked if you see an error message displayed and or if there is no change in structure to your URL.

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