What is a redirect?
A redirect is a common action that occurs throughout the web daily and is mainly used to ensure that a user has a fluid journey through a website. Redirects are used to ensure customers have little chance of accessing a page that is unavailable (404), or a page that has moved. There are other examples of redirection occurring to aid a user’s journey; for example, if you were to visit https://www.google.com from Spain, you would be redirected to https://www.google.es, which is the Spanish version of the popular search engine.
When to use a Redirect
Redirects are a useful tool to ensure users are landing on the correct pages, however, there are some best practices in regards to using redirects due to different types. These include:
- 301 “Moved Permanently” redirect
- 302 “Moved Temporarily” redirect
- 307 “Moved Temporarily” redirect
- Meta Refreshes
The most commonly used redirect is the 301 as it is the one that has the most SEO benefit, although it has been said that a 302 redirect will still pass on “link juice” to other pages.
There are many scenarios in which a redirect should be used, and the most common ones include:
- A webpage has been deleted, or stock has run out on an Ecommerce website
- A URL has been changed on an existing page
- A company has changed domain or moved website
Meta refreshes are a more unique form of redirect, and can usually be identified with a countdown on the page informing a user that they will be redirected in 5 seconds.
Redirects can also aid a site to pass the flow of link juice, that is, to ensure that all pages that may have expired content are redirecting to another appropriate page so that that link juice flowing to that page is no longer lost for that domain.
When not to use a Redirect
Although redirects are useful when dealing with website maintenance, there are some instances where implementing redirects can be damaging to a website and have a detrimental effect on the user experience.
Instances include redirects and meta refreshes that are used to deceive a user on your website. Some of these could be penalised by Google, and some of these could make users leave your site altogether by them clicking a link they believe takes them to one topic, but in fact results in them being taken to information that is unrelated.
Not all Redirects are created equal
The choice of redirects in order to let users know content has moved, has been a hotly debated topic within the SEO community. This is due to the fact that, historically, a 301 redirect and a 302 redirect have not been treated the same when it comes down to ensuring the maximum amount of link juice is passed throughout a site.
This dates back to 2010 when there were reports that there is PageRank dilution when a 301 or other 30x redirect is used. However, in 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts said that 301 redirects would not lose any value when it comes to passing on link juice. This left the SEO world unsure on the state of other 30x redirects until 2016, when Gary Ilyes and John Mueller suggested that all forms of 30x redirection will pass on link juice.
Meta refreshes are also linked with “black hat” SEO techniques. In some instances search engines consider a meta refresh as manipulative behaviour as the page they may crawl is not necessarily the final page a user will be able to read. In any event, it offers a poor user experience and should be avoided.