If you move content, change your website structure, or A/B test pages to identify the top performers, you will need redirects. And in this article, you’ll learn everything you need about redirects and SEO.
Recap: When Should You Use Redirects?
- Use 301 redirects for permanently moved pages. You won’t lose the old page’s ranking signals.
- Use 302 redirects for temporarily moved pages. The new URL won’t get the old URL’s ranking signals.
- Create a redirect map to avoid long redirect chains.
What Is a Redirect?
Redirects send website visitors from one page URL to another.
For example, when a visitor wants to visit “example.com/page-a,” you transfer them to the “example.com/page-b” URL.
Typically, visitors won’t even notice they’re being redirected.
At the same time, you’ll preserve your rankings, backlinks, and other page signals to maintain your SEO results.
Why Redirects Are Useful
When you merge content, change pages or replace existing pages with different ones, your visitors could end up on a 404 page.
Since this is bad for user experience and SEO, it’s better to use a redirect.
Redirects allow you to maintain a consistent user experience and meet the searcher’s intent.
Specifically, you’ll find that redirects are helpful in the following cases:
Your URLs Changed
Redirects are a great way to handle moving content.
For example, let’s say you have an out-of-stock eCommerce product but an available alternative.
Without a redirect, you’d have to keep the page that tells visitors the product is no longer in stock.
It’s terrible for user experience: once visitors land on your website, they’ll see the product is no longer available and leave, affecting your dwell time.
But with a redirect, you’ll automatically transfer them to the replacement product page.
Your Domain Names Changed
When you rebrand your website or change your domain name, use redirects to point the old URLs to the new domains without losing ranking signals.
Despite the change, visitors will land on a functioning page.
Similarly, if you’re merging two websites into one, you can use redirects to maintain your results.
Your website is restructured
When you restructure your website by deleting pages, reorganizing them, and changing the entire hierarchy, you might accidentally deoptimize your entire website.
For example, you might think it’s a good idea to republish a page’s content as a different page.
However, Google will treat it as new (and potentially duplicate) content, so you won’t get the traffic your old page was getting. You'd also lose your existing backlinks.
With redirects, you re-point URLs to the new pages. Your links and SEO stay the same, but you get a new website structure.
Pro Tip: Create a Redirect Map
If you plan to restructure your website, create a redirect map:
- List all the original page URLs and redirected page URLs to avoid errors.
- Avoid long redirect loops (Page A -> Page B -> Page C).
- Check for crawl errors in Google Search Console.
- Get notified about redirect issues and broken links with automated SiteGuru audits.
It’s best to get your redirects right on the first try. Every error could make visitors see the 404 page and bounce.
How Does Google Handle Redirects?
Google logs both the original URL and the new, redirected URL.
As long as your redirected content fulfills the searchers’ needs, Google has no problem with redirects.
Again, keep your redirect chains short (e.g., from Page 1 to Page 2) because Google only crawls up to 5 redirects.
Bouncing visitors and bots around won’t just affect your indexability but also your user experience.
What Are the Different Types of Redirects?
Although there are over 40 status codes, SEOs typically talk about three redirect types:
- 301 redirects
- 302 redirects
- 307 redirects
Want to check your page’s status code? Use our free HTTP status code checker!
When Should You Use 301 Redirects?
301 redirects are permanent redirects.
For example, when you delete a page, you can set up a redirect to another relevant page, so the visitors don’t get the 404 notice.
The 301 status code shows Google that the page has been permanently moved. It forwards all the relevant signals (links, rankings) to your redirected URL.
Use 301 status codes for:
- Permanently moved or merged pages
- Domain name changes
- Website restructuring
- Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS
- Redirecting different website domain names and URLs to a central one
Keep in mind that your visitor's browser stores a 301 redirect in it's cache. That mean that even after you remove the redirect from your site, they may still be redirected. Therefore, only use the 301 status code if the redirect is really permanent.
When Should You Use 302 Redirects?
302 are temporary redirect status codes.
302 status codes won’t forward all SEO signals to your new URL, so use them when you don’t plan to keep the redirect for a long time:
- Implementing redirects based on arbitrary factors (e.g., the user’s location - a user from England would be redirected from Amazon.com to Amazon.uk)
- Taking down pages temporarily (e.g., if you’re updating a page, set up a 302 redirect so the searchers don’t land on a 404 page)
- A/B testing pages
- Fixing broken pages
When Should You Use 307 Redirects?
307 status codes are temporary redirects generated by the browser.
The main difference between 302 and 307 lies in the HTTP request methods. With the 307 status code, the request can’t change from GET to POST. It has to be GET and GET or POST and POST.
302 vs. 307 Redirects
It’s best to use 302 redirects.
As Google’s John Mueller once said:
“This is actually your browser trolling you. If you set up HTTPS, 301 redirect from HTTP to HTTPS, and enable HSTS, when you try to access the HTTP version in your browser, it’ll automatically access the HTTPS version, but record it as a 307 redirect. The 307 is a lie.”
Disadvantages of Using Redirects
Most websites can’t do without redirects. However, there are a few things you should be mindful of:
Redirects Affect Your Crawl Budget
Google can only crawl so many of your pages in a single day. Based on your update frequency and website authority, it defines your crawl budget (the number of crawlable pages).
Every URL in your redirect chain is an URL that Google has to crawl. So, if you have too many redirects or long redirect chains, you could be wasting Google’s “power.”
Create a redirect map and keep it updated to avoid wasting your crawl budget.
Redirects and UX
Most legitimate redirects are okay by Google. However, consider your user experience before implementation.
Does the new URL meet the searcher’s original intent? Your user experience should be fine.
Was your old page different? If searchers feel they landed in the wrong place, they’ll click away.
Redirects and Loading Speed
Whenever you create a redirect, the visitors’ browsers must simultaneously load two pages.
Visitors may bounce if your website is slow, so avoid using redirects if they affect your loading time.
Which redirect should I use?
If you plan to move pages permanently, use a 301 redirect.
If your redirect is temporary, use a 302 redirect.
What happens with my SEO when I create a redirect?
With 301 redirects, Google forwards all the links and SEO signals to your new redirected page. If there’s a close match in your page content, Google will pass PageRank to the redirected URL.
Since 302 redirects are temporary, Google won’t pass ranking signals to the redirected URL.
Do I need to update my backlinks and internal links for permanent redirects?
You don’t have to update your backlinks. However, we recommend manually updating your internal links for 301 redirects to preserve your crawl budget.
Do multiple redirects hurt SEO?
No, unless you have a long redirect chain. In that case, bots and visitors will need to wait longer for your pages to load, and your crawl budget might be affected.
Still, there are no penalties for implementing legitimate redirects.
What are sneaky redirects?
Sneaky redirects are a black-hat SEO technique in which you don’t redirect users to a similar page but to a malicious page or a page that doesn’t meet their search intent.
Steer clear of sneaky redirects because they’re considered spam and subject to manual penalties.
Are 301 redirects good for SEO?
When you need to implement them - they are. However, ensure the new page’s content closely matches the original page’s content.
There Is No Reason to Fear Redirects
Redirects are a staple in every SEO professional’s toolkit.
With proper implementation, your rankings won’t be affected, and you’ll provide a fantastic experience to your visitors!