When to Set Up Website URL Redirects and How They Impact SEO and Website Performance

Marketing Technology, UI / UX / Design
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Website redirects are an essential component of any website redesign. In the changeover from an old website to a new WordPress site, redirects are necessary to support new navigation design, pages, domain name changes, and URL structures so that your site visitors do not experience any interruptions.

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It’s an essential part of our website development checklist. But how does it impact SEO and website performance?

When to Set up Website URL Redirects

Website redirects are necessary when website page structure changes. Without redirects, your site visitors would be looking at a 404 error and may not be able to access the information they’re after. And we all know what happens when search engine users can’t complete their queries!

Any backlinks you have (links that point back to your URL from other websites) are affected as well, so if you’ve put a lot of effort into your backlink strategy, all that good work would be negated if those links took people to a 404. Redirects solve this issue nicely.

Search engines use redirects too, so when content is moved to a new location/URL, your traffic will be sent to the right place. Without a redirect, that wouldn’t happen, and your SEO would suffer.

All things considered, it’s safe to say that redirects are necessary from both a user experience and an SEO perspective. However, there are different types of redirects, and it’s important to understand what’s appropriate for each scenario and your objectives.

Types of Website URL Redirects

A redirect can be temporary or permanent. Knowing which is best for your needs is critical as your choice could affect your SEO. The wrong choice could end up just as bad for your rank as doing nothing at all.

HTTP redirects are the most common type of redirect. There are several sub-categories under this heading, but these two are the most common:

  • 301 redirects: use when you are moving the URL permanently, such as if you have a new domain or URL and the old one won’t be coming back. 301 redirects are pretty straightforward and preferred in most cases as backlink authority is preserved.
  • 302 redirects are temporary redirects, so you would use them in cases where you’re A/B testing a new page design or redirecting users based on their location or device. The most significant difference between a 301 and 302 redirect is that search engines will continue to index the original site as it thinks the move is only temporary.

Other types of redirects include:

  • 303 redirects are usually used to redirect to a confirmation page or progress page instead of a page with new content.
  • 307 redirects – similar to a 302 temporary redirect but specific to HTTP 1.1.
  • 308 redirects – permanent redirect, can be used interchangeably with 301 redirects.
  • Meta refresh redirects are client-side redirects (as opposed to server-side redirects), such as when a user is informed they will be redirected to a new page in X number of seconds. Though necessary in some instances, meta refresh redirects are not ideal from a UX standpoint as they result in additional processing time, and the original URL remains in the user’s browser history. If the user were to return to that page, they would experience the same clunky delay. As far as search engines go, however, it won’t affect rank, per se; but your bounce rate might increase, which should factor into your decision.
  • JavaScript redirects are client-side actions used to send search engines and users to different pages on the same website.

Redirects are also recommended if you’re moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS, as having both versions visible results in duplicate content—not in anyone’s best interests. HTTP sites will show with a “not secure” warning, which might lose you some traffic.

How URL Redirects Impact SEO

Do redirects impact SEO? They certainly can, but in most cases, no. That being said, choosing the right type of redirect will help you avoid any negative impact on your rank. Placed correctly, your redirects should help you transition seamlessly to your new website but ignore them at your peril. You’ve likely put a lot of effort into your SEO up ‘til now, so there’s no reason to walk it back or start from scratch. With minimal effort, you can maintain and continue to build on the work you’ve already done.

Ultimately, redirects are good for SEO as doing nothing will result in 404 pages or search engines flagging duplicate content. Whether it affects your rank directly or indirectly, the result is the same. A poor user experience should be avoided at all costs.

Some tips for optimizing your redirects for SEO:

  • Remove pages with 301 code status from your sitemap.
  • Minimize the number of redirects—ideally, your redirect should point to the final destination.
  • Correct any redirect loops, such as pages that redirect to pages that are redirected.
  • Fix any broken link redirects.
  • Check backlinks for broken links and redirect opportunities.
  • Replace 302 and meta refresh redirects with 301s.
  • Check for bad external 301s.

Who Is Responsible for Setting Up Website Redirects?

Technically, anyone can redirect a URL. As the website owner, you are responsible for how your website displays and performs, so it’s best to keep it under your control.

WordPress offers dozens of plugins to help you manage the task. Top redirect plugins include Yoast, Redirection, 301 Redirects, Simple 301 Redirects, and WP Force SSL & HTTPS SSL redirect. Read through the descriptions to find one that suits your needs and is easy enough for your skill level.

Are you a budding developer or handy with code? If so, you can perform redirects manually without a plugin using an htaccess file. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, reach out to the WordPress experts at Gate39 Media for help.

Why Lean on a Specialized Website Agency to Handle Redirects?

If you’re getting ready to launch a new website or planning to make significant changes to your web architecture, working with a specialized website agency or web developer is highly recommended.

Working with an agency like Gate 39 Media gives you access to the skills and insights you need to ensure your website relaunch and the ensuing redirect strategy don’t impact your SEO. Our process is strategic, and 100% focused on value. We work with you to understand your business goals, providing you with the tools and knowledge you need to grow.

We are WordPress specialists with extensive experience in financial marketing, agriculture, and professional services, and we understand how critical authority and rank are to your success. SEO best practices are essential to maintaining those mandates, and that is why URL redirects are an integral part of our website development checklist.

Whether we are building a new website from scratch, creating or integrating new web apps, or migrating your old site into a fresh new WordPress iteration, every detail matters. The work is not complete until every link, backlink, and redirect is addressed and performing as expected.

Are you planning a website relaunch and concerned about how redirects will impact your SEO? Contact us, and let’s talk about it. We’d love to show you how we can help.

 

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