When somebody talks about ‘301 redirect’, it might sound like something too technical or complicated. But it’s not. A 301 redirect is a pretty simple thing. Yes, a 301 redirect is related to a website’s search engine optimization process, but not exactly as complicated or hard to understand as many other SEO techniques.

If you want to know what 301 redirect is, how to do 301 redirect, and when to use 301 redirect, you have come to the perfect place. This article is a guide to answer and explain all these.

What is 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is used for redirecting a page of a website to another. That means when a user types in or pastes a web page URL into their browser, they are taken to a different URL instead. When this happens, the website owner or admin has set 301 redirect to take the user to a redirect URL instead of the original URL.

301 redirect helps in boosting a website’s SEO in some instances. For instance, you have a website where you have built a tremendous amount of traffic. Now you are having to change the URL of the homepage due to specific issues. If you change the URL of this page, you might lose all the traffic. Users will still keep looking for the original URL and won’t be able to find it. They might get fed up and assume that your website has closed down.

Showing the stats of a search engine optimized website

Note that a 301 redirect is not used for temporarily shifting a web page to a new URL. It is not the same as a staging website, a web page clone, or a website backup. 301 redirects are only used for permanently moving a web page from one URL or location to another. It is used when you want your site visitors to eventually stop going to the old URL.

The 301 part of a 301 redirect refers to the HTTP status code for the page that has been redirected. A 301 redirect tells your users’ browser that the page they are looking for has moved permanently in a layman’s language. The user is taken to its new location and told that the website owner or admin does not intend to move the page back to its previous location. Hence, every time the user types the old URL, they will end up on the new redirect URL instead.

How to do 301 Redirect?

There are several different ways of setting up a 301 redirect. The most common way is to edit the .htaccess file of your website. If you cannot locate this file, it could mean one of these two things.

  • Your website does not have a .htaccessfile. In this case, you would need to create one with the help of your Notepad (if you are using Windows) or TextEdit (if you are using Mac). Create a new document. Save the document as .htaccess. Do not forget to remove the .txt file extension, which generally appears at the end of all Notepad files by default.
  • Your website does not run on an Apache webserver. There are a few different types of web servers. The most common ones are Windows/IIS, Apache, and Nginx. The .htaccess file is only used by Apache. Check with your web hosting service provider which server your website is using.

For several different cases, you can do 301 redirects based on the following:

  • You can redirect an old web page to a new web page.
  • You can redirect an old domain to a new domain. This is when you choose to rebrand your business or if you change your domain name.
  • You can redirect the same domain from being non-www to being www.
  • You can redirect an entire website from HTTP to HTTPS.
  • You can use a combination of the previous two cases and redirect your website from non-www to www and from HTTP to HTTPS at the same time.

secure (HTTPS) website built on Strikingly

Image taken from Strikingly user’s website

How do 301 Redirects Affect Your Site’s SEO?

If you ask SEO professionals, there is a strong link between 301 redirects and page rank. The rank of a page is given by Google to judge its value based on the quality and quantity of web links it possesses. Although it is not the only factor affecting a site’s SEO, it is one of the most critical. Thus the way you do a 301 redirect on a web page would affect its search ranking.

Let’s suppose you have a blog and want to merge two different articles into one. In this case, you can redirect one of the articles to the other. By doing this, you will merge the page authority of both pages into one.

a Strikingly user's blog

Image taken from Strikingly user’s website

But for this to work out the way you want it to, the two pages must have related content, or else Google would turn it into a 404 error. If your new article combines your previous two articles and is available on the second article’s page, redirecting the first article’s link to the second article’s URL would work. Now you would have double the page authority on your new article. This updated content is also likely to attract more organic traffic than the total traffic you were getting on the two pages combined.

When to Use 301 Redirect?

You can use 301 redirects for multiple purposes.

1. Changing the URL of a Web Page

This is the most fundamental reason why you might need to use 301 redirects. Perhaps your original URL is poorly optimized, or you just want to reorganize your site’s structure. In some website builders, you can change the entire folder structure of the website URLs by changing the individual URL of each of its web pages. Using 301 redirects to do this saves a lot of time.

2. Recreating a Piece of Content

Updating your website’s content is a recommended and usual task that most businesses do from time to time. But sometimes, you might want to completely recreate a piece of content on your site. This is when you change your promotional strategy, alter your business line, announce a new product launch on your main landing page, introduce a new line of product or services, or simply want to use a new web page template.

If you use 301 redirects to achieve this, you can make the new versions of multiple web pages go live within seconds! This not only saves time but also saves a lot of headache, confusion, and cost. Once your 301 redirects are in place, you can simply unpublish or archive all the old pages.

3. Migrating Your Website to a New Domain

This is also among the most common purposes of using a 301 redirect. If you want to change your website domain, you will likely clone your website and point its hosting to the new domain. But this will cause you to lose all the traffic that you had on your previous domain. To capture that traffic on your new domain, redirect your old domain visitors to the new domain with the help of a 301 redirect. Make sure you serve all your redirects from the original URL.

a list of suggested domain names by Strikingly

Image taken from Strikingly

Some Other Benefits of 301 Redirects

Here are some other benefits you get when you use 301 redirects.

1. Keep Your Site Visitors Engaged

When you use 301 redirects, you avoid letting your site visitors see the 404 error. Viewing a 404 error on a web page highly discourages users from revisiting the website. If you change the URL of a web page, it is best to set a 301 redirect on its previous URL to the redirect URL to keep your site visitors engaged.

a subscription form on a Strikingly user's website to keep visitors engaged

Image taken from Strikingly user’s website

2. Remove Old URLs From the Index

When a Google bot encounters a 301 redirect, it realizes the need to remove the old URL from the Google index and replace it with the redirect URL instead. Eventually, the new page will replace the old page in the index of all search engines. At the same time, all the human visitors would continue to be redirected to the new URL whenever they attempt to access the page that was previously on the old URL.

If your website is built on Strikingly, and you want to use 301 redirects on some of your web pages, you can contact our customer service team through live chat at any hour of the day. We help all our users to provide a smooth website browsing experience to their customers and prospects. We wouldn’t want you to lose any of your website traffic when you change the URL of a page due to any of the reasons mentioned above. 301 redirects help maintain the engagement of your site visitors, which in turn gives you less headache to maintain your website.