SEO has become a buzzword in the tech industry and much more of an everyday topic among bloggers, website owners, and online marketers.
This is not surprising at all as SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, has rightly taken its place as the major driver of website traffic and an important marketing strategy.
Another lesser-known yet equally important and even closely related topic is the concept of redirects. The relationship is simple, though sometimes controversial. Redirects are instructions on a website that automatically send visitors or search engine bots to a URL different from the one they are trying to access.
Redirects and SEO are two closely knitted concepts and the application of the former almost always directly impacts the latter. The impact could be either positive or negative. And the definite relationship between redirects and SEO is sometimes controversial, as mentioned earlier because search engine organizations would not reveal clear details on how their search algorithms handle redirects.
But one thing is clear.
Website maintenance and page accessibility are largely part of SEO practices. And redirects are important tools for fixing dead ends (404 errors) on a website. To clearly understand the impact of redirects on SEO, it is necessary to first see the two concepts independently.
What is SEO?
SEO is simply the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of the traffic a website receives from search engine rankings. It is important to note here that SEO gets traffic from search or natural search results, not paid advertisements. This is popularly known as ‘organic’ traffic. And what this means is that SEO excludes direct traffic and paid placements.
Again, SEO is the method of getting more traffic by optimizing a website’s searchability. Optimization of a website involves certain changes to website design and content. It may include editing the website content, adding more content, modifying HTML elements – such as title tags, Meta descriptions, etc. In a nutshell, well-focused SEO increases natural traffic to a website through search engines.
What are redirects?
Have you ever tried to access wikipedia.net when you want to visit the Wikipedia web page? It automatically takes you to wikipedia.org. That is called a redirect, or more precisely, URL redirect.
Redirects are server-side instructions on a website to take visitors to a particular page each time they try accessing a URL on the website. Redirects occur when the page visitors are sent to a different page from the page they requested. Redirecting a page implies giving a page a brand new or a different URL.
Redirects are very powerful tools that can help you retain a page’s SEO or search engine ranking even after their URLs have been changed. However, this is only when the redirects are properly implemented or used rightly. Redirects affect SEO negatively when they are wrongly implemented. It can drastically reduce search engine rankings, thereby, resulting in lesser traffic to the website.
It’s important to use redirects when you want to delete pages with significant SEO value, switch domain names or when merging websites. They are also important during website maintenance, A/B testing of new pages, and most important when you have a broken URL.
4 facts about redirects and how they impact SEO
1. All redirects are not equal
There are different types of directs, with each responding differently to the client (the browser). 301 redirects are considered the most SEO-friendly redirects; it signifies permanent URL redirection and a long term use. However, a 301 redirect cannot be used in redirections. That should be done using 302 redirects or any other type of redirect. Here’s a list of all types of redirects
- 301 redirects (permanently moved)
- 302 redirects (temporarily moved)
- 303 redirects (see other)
- 307 redirects (temporary redirects)
- 308 redirects (permanent redirects)
2. Redirects help to retain SEO value
One great impact of redirects is making sure that your page ranking is maintained. Search engine results are ranked based on what the search bots consider the most relevant and available to users. Hence, redirects prevent broken links even after you have restructured your website URLs. This ensures that your SEO on the said page remains valid and accessible to both the visitors and search bots.
When content becomes disused or obsolete over a while, the use of redirects can be used to send visitors to a valid page. This helps to prevent ‘404 errors’ when visitors are directed to your page. Ensuring that your website remains accessible and relevant. Redirects help search bots to easily locate moved web pages without having to crawl your website again. Hence, reducing crawl budgets on your website. This offers chances of increasing the quality of traffic a website receives since it signals an update to the content if that’s the case in practice.
3. Redirects can generate more traffic
Brands stand a chance of increasing their website traffic by pointing several similar domain names to their website. This can be done using 301 redirects. This is also the case when rebranding your website. Such as a change of brand name, domain or redirecting from HTTP to HTTPS.
Google wants the entire web to switch to HTTPS. And has admitted to favoring HTTPS websites over HTTP websites in its ranking systems. This makes sense because HTTPS is more secure. Google wants the highest-ranking sites to be secured to ensure that the page visitors feel safe. As much as the increase in ranking from switching to HTTPS is not a ton of gold, it’s still substantial and makes a significant difference.
4. Redirects can be bad for SEO
Redirects can only benefit SEO when they are implemented correctly. Yes, SEO can go wrong in several ways when redirects are not properly managed. Aside from your local visitors, wrongly implemented redirects could hurt your SEO if they are backlinks somewhere.
Poorly implemented redirects could affect your SEO negatively. They manifest as lagging load time, chain redirects, inconsistent response, loop redirects, etc. and these are bad friends to SEO. Not testing or properly reviewing your redirect is very dangerous. Any mistake in your destination or visiting URL will cause your SEO rank to nosedive. Reviewing redirects are quite important, after all, how would you fix it if you don’t even know it’s broken? Chain redirects – when a redirect leads to another redirect – will impact negatively on SEO and should, therefore, be avoided.
Redirects are only used when necessary, and the appropriate type of redirect is highly advised. In other words, it’s important to clearly understand the different types of redirects and when to implement them before choosing redirects as an option in your SEO strategy.
Redirects are only dangerous when they are used wrongly or poorly implemented. And while there are different methods of implementing redirects, the use of plugins to implement and manage redirects in WordPress is fairly the most common method. This is mainly because it’s pretty safe and easy. Although plugins allow you to bypass the need for writing codes to implement redirects, it’s fairly used by everyone, including developers.
The impact of redirects on SEO is mostly positive provided they are rightly implemented and for the good reason. Redirects can help you maintain PageRank; MozRank, Page Authority, and traffic value which are crucial in SEO. It could also contribute to SEO results such as increased traffic and power a more accurate SEO practices.
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