A 301 redirect is a way for your website to sends users and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally requested. For example, with a 301 redirect, we could direct a person trying to access www.example.com/cats to www.example.com/pets.
Why use 301 redirects?
The primary reason to use 301 redirects is to prevent poor user experience for your site visitors and confusion for the search engines when a URL changes. 301 redirects are important because they ...
- Seamlessly send users from old, non-functioning URLs to new, functional ones.
- Transfer page value from old pages to new ones with minimal page authority loss.
- Minimize the number of crawl errors on your site.
When to Use 301 Redirects
Knowing when to use 301 redirects is half the battle. Here are common events which trigger the need to think 301.
- New Website Launch - If you’re launching a new website, then the URLs most likely will change. The search engines have indexed the content on your existing website and will expect to find content at those URLs. If you simply launch the new website without mapping old URLs to new URLs, then the search engines will get lost in the shuffle. Use 301 redirects to map old URLs to the new URLs so that you can pass page value.
- Content Updates - Removing a page from your website? Merging content from two pages to one? Changing a permalink or URL setting? Let search engines and users know with a 301 redirect.
- Broken Links - Sometimes, there are broken links on the web that send the search engine crawlers to a page that doesn’t exist. The broken link could be on your own website or on another website pointing to your website. Google reports these broken links to you as crawl errors in Google Search Console. Review your crawl errors and create a 301 redirect if the URL does lead to a page not found error, also know as a 404 error. Then, mark the crawl error as fixed in Google Search Console.
301 or 302 Redirects
A 301 redirect tells users and search engines that the content of a page has permanently moved to a new location. A 302 redirect tells users and search engines that this change is temporary. More often, you will use a 301 redirect. However, a 302 redirect can be helpful. For example, if you have an e-commerce website and a product on it is temporarily discontinued you may consider creating a 302 redirect to point the discontinued product page to a similar product. Then, when the original product is back in stock, remove the 302 redirect.
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How To Set Up 301 Redirects in WordPress?
In WordPress, you have several options for adding 301 redirects to a website.
Manually adding 301 redirects to the .htaccess file is one way of managing redirects. It requires FTP access, can be cumbersome, and occasionally leads to a much larger issue, like the website not rendering if there are errors in your code. We don’t recommend this method.
Create a redirect in the header of a page with PHP. This is a manual approach that’s hard to manage over time.
Using a WordPress plugin is our preferred method of adding and managing 301 redirects because there’s no coding and it’s easy to manage and test.
Best WordPress Plugins for 301 Redirects
Here are a few of our favorite WordPress plugins for redirects.
Yoast SEO Premium
A paid plugin with a robust redirect manager, Yoast SEO Premium is powerful and easy to use. It syncs with Google Search Console to make responding to crawl errors quick and easy. This plugin also allows you to import and export CSV files, which is handy for adding redirects from a spreadsheet.
Powerful and free, Redirection includes a page not found error monitoring system, CSV file import/export, and the ability to use regular expressions, or RegEx.
Simple 301 Redirects
The name says it all. Simple 301 Redirects is simple and easy to use and it’s a great solution for smaller websites with basic redirect needs.
Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching business owners and freelancers how to get found in Google, Yahoo, and Bing via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.