URL Redirects For SEO: A Technical Guide

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Reroutes for SEO ought to be utilized properly due to the fact that they affect how websites are crawled and indexed by Google.

While many people think of redirects as a web detour indication, a lot more is occurring, and it’s surprisingly satisfying to discover.

Keep checking out for an extensive summary of redirects and the correct application for technical SEO.

What Is A Redirect?

Website reroutes inform browsers and online search engine info about a URL and where to find the webpage.

A URL redirect involves code carried out to a particular URL, or a group of URLs so that the user (or online search engine) is sent to a different page to the real URL that was input or clicked.

A redirect can be set as a:

  • Short-term redirect: 302, 303, 307, 308.
  • Permanent redirect: 301.

When To Utilize Redirects

The main reasons to utilize redirects are:

  • A private page or whole domain has been moved (URL changed).
  • To enable the usage of URL shorteners or ‘pretty URLs.’
  • Website migration (e.g., HTTP to HTTPS).

For SEO purposes, URL redirects are essential since they:

  • Forward authority of any links indicating a page that has moved or been deleted.
  • Avoid 404 page not found errors (although often it is much better to leave a 404).

Redirects can be implemented on a group or domain-wide basis however frequently require to be set on an individual basis to avoid problems.

When using RegEX for group redirects, it can have unexpected results if your logic isn’t flawless!

Types Of Redirects

There are 3 primary types of redirects:

  • Meta Refresh redirects are set at the page level however are usually not advised for SEO purposes. There are 2 kinds of meta redirect: delayed which is seen as a temporary redirect, and instant, which is seen as an irreversible redirect.
  • Javascript redirects are likewise set on the customer side’s page and can trigger SEO concerns. Google has stated a choice for HTTP server-side reroutes.
  • HTTP redirects are set server-side and the very best method for SEO functions– we covered in-depth listed below.

What Is A HTTP Action Status Code?

Web browsers and search engine spiders like GoogleBot are called user representatives.

When a user representative tries to access a webpage, what happens is that the user agent makes a demand, and the site server concerns a response.

The response is called an HTTP reaction status code. It supplies a status for the ask for a URL.

In the situation where a user agent like GoogleBot requests a URL, the server gives an action.

For example, if the request for a URL succeeds, the server will provide a reaction code of 200, which suggests the request for a URL succeeded.

So, when you think of a GoogleBot reaching a website and attempting to crawl it, what’s taking place is a series of requests and responses.

HTTP Reroutes

An HTTP redirect is a server action to request a URL.

If the URL exists at a different URL (because it was moved), the server tells the user representative that the URL demand is being redirected to a different URL.

The reaction code for an altered URL is usually in the kind of a 301 or 302 reaction status code.

The whole 3xx series of reaction codes communicate much information that can additionally be acted upon by the user agent.

An example of an action that the user agent can take is to save a cache of the new URL so that the next time the old URL is asked for, it will ask for the new URL instead.

So, a 301 and a 302 redirect is more than a web roadway sign that says, “Go here, not there.”

3XX Series Of Status Codes

Redirects are more than simply the 2 status codes everyone recognizes with, the 301 and 302 response codes.

There are an overall of seven official 3xx reaction status codes.

These are the various kinds of redirects offered for use:

  • 300 Several Choices.
  • 301 Moved Permanently.
  • 302 Found.
  • 303 See Other.
  • 304 Not Modified.
  • 305 Use Proxy.
  • 306 (Unused).
  • 307 Momentary Redirect.
  • 308 Permanent Redirect.

A few of the above status codes have actually not been around as long and might not be used. So, before utilizing any redirect code other than 301 or 302, make sure that the desired user agent can analyze it.

Since GoogleBot utilizes the current version of Chrome (called a headless web browser), it’s simple to inspect if a status code works by examining if Chrome acknowledges the status code with a browser compatibility list.

For SEO, one must adhere to using the 301 and 302 response codes unless there is a specific factor to use among the other codes.

301: Moved Permanently

The 301 status code is routinely referenced as the 301 redirects. But the main name is 301 Moved Completely.

The 301 redirect indicates to a user agent that the URL (in some cases referred to as a target resource or merely resource) was altered to another location and that it must use the brand-new URL for future requests.

As discussed earlier, there is more information also.

The 301 status code likewise suggests to the user agent:

  • Future requests for the URL need to be made with the brand-new URL.
  • Whoever is making the demand ought to update their links to the new URL.
  • Subsequent requests can be altered from GET to POST.

That last point is a technical issue. According to the official standards for the 301 status code:

“Note: For historical factors, a user agent MAY change the request approach from POST to GET for the subsequent request. If this habits is undesirable, the 308 (Permanent Redirect) status code can be utilized instead.”

For SEO, when online search engine see a 301 redirect, they pass the old page’s ranking to the brand-new one.

Before making a modification, you must beware when utilizing a 301 redirect. The 301 redirects should just be utilized when the modification to a new URL is irreversible.

The 301 status code should not be used when the modification is short-lived.

Furthermore, if you alter your mind later on and go back to the old URL, the old URL may not rank anymore and might require time to gain back the rankings.

So, the main point to bear in mind is that a 301 status code will be utilized when the change is permanent.

302: Found

The main point to comprehend about the 302 status code is that it works for situations where a URL is momentarily changed.

The significance of this reaction code is that the URL is momentarily at a different URL, and it is recommended to use the old URL for future demands.

The 302 redirect status code also features a technical caution related to GET and Post:

“Keep in mind: For historical factors, a user representative MAY change the request method from POST to GET for the subsequent demand. If this behavior is unwanted, the 307 (Short-lived Redirect) status code can be used instead.”

The reference to “historic factors” may describe old or buggy user representatives that might alter the request technique.

307: Temporary Redirect

A 307 redirect suggests the asked for URL is briefly moved, and the user agent must use the initial URL for future demands.

The only difference between a 302 and a 307 status code is that a user representative must ask for the brand-new URL with the very same HTTP demand utilized to ask for the initial URL.

That means if the user representative demands the page with a GET demand, then the user representative must use a GET ask for the brand-new short-lived URL and can not use the POST demand.

The Mozilla documentation of the 307 status code discusses it more clearly than the official documents.

“The server sends this response to direct the client to get the requested resource at another URI with very same approach that was used in the previous demand.

This has the same semantics as the 302 Found HTTP action code, with the exception that the user agent should not change the HTTP method utilized: if a POST was utilized in the first demand, a POST should be used in the second request.”

Other than the 307 status code needing subsequent requests to be of the same kind (POST or GET) which the 302 can go either way, whatever else is the exact same in between the 302 and the 307 status codes.

302 Vs. 307

You might handle a redirect by means of server config files.htaccess on Apache, example.conf file on Nginx or through plugins if you are using WordPress.

In all circumstances, they have the very same syntax for writing redirect rules. They differ only with commands utilized in configuration files. For instance, a redirect on Apache will look like this:

Alternatives +FollowSymlinks RewriteEngine on RedirectMatch 301 ^/ oldfolder// newfolder/

(You can read about symlinks here.)

On Nginx servers, it will look like this:

reword ^/ oldfolder// newfolder/ permanent;

The commands used to tell the server’s status code of redirect and the action command vary.

For instance:

  • Servers status code of redirect: “301 ″ vs. “long-term.”
  • Action command: “RedirectMatch” vs. “rewrite.”

However the redirect syntax (^/ oldfolder// newfolder/) is the same for both.

On Apache, ensure that mod_rewrite and mod_alias modules (accountable for handling redirects) are made it possible for on your server.

Since the most commonly spread server type is Apache, here are examples for.htaccess apache files.

Make certain that the.htaccess file has these two lines above the redirect guidelines and put the guidelines below them:

Choices +FollowSymlinks RewriteEngine on

Read the main paperwork for more information about the RewriteEngine.

To comprehend the examples below, you may refer to the table below on RegExp essentials.

* no or more times
+ Several times
. any single character
? Zero or one time
^ Start of the string
$ End of the string
| b OR operadn” |” a or b
(z) keeps in mind the match to be used when calling $1

How To Develop Redirects

How To Produce A Redirect For A Single URL

The most common and commonly utilized kind of redirect is when deleting pages or changing URLs.

For instance, state you changed the URL from/ old-page/ to/ new-page/. The redirect guideline would be:

RewriteRule ^ old-page(/? |/. *)$/ new-page/ [R=301, L] Or RedirectMatch 301 ^/ old-page(/? |/. *)$/ new-page/

The only distinction between the 2 methods is that the first utilizes the Apache mod_rewrite module, and the second usages mod_alias. It can be done utilizing both methods.

The routine expression “^” indicates the URL must start with “/ old-page” while (/? |/. *)$ shows that anything that follows “/ old-page/” with a slash “/” or without a specific match should be redirected to/ new-page/.

We could also use (. *), i.e., ^/ old-page(. *), however the issue is, if you have another page with a comparable URL like/ old-page-other/, it will also be redirected when we just wish to reroute/ old-page/.

The following URLs will match and be directed to a brand-new page:

/ old-page/ / new-page/
/ old-page / new-page/
/ old-page/? utm_source=facebook.com / new-page/? utm_source=facebook.com
/ old-page/child-page/ / new-page/

It will reroute any variation of the page URL to a new one. If we use reroute in the following type:

Reroute 301/ old-page// new-page/

Without regular expressions, all URLs with UTM question string, e.g.,/ old-page? utm_source=facebook.com (which prevails considering that URLs are utilized to be shared over a social media network), would end up as 404s.

Even/ old-page without a trailing slash “/” would end up as a 404.

Redirect All Except

Let’s state we have a lot of URLs like/ category/old-subcategory -1/,/ category/old-subcategory -2/,/ category/final-subcategory/ and wish to combine all subcategories into/ category/final-subcategory/. We require the “all other than” guideline here.

RewriteCond % !/ category/final-subcategory/ RewriteCond % REQUEST_FILENAME!-f RewriteRule ^(classification/)./ category/final-subcategory/ [R=301, L] Here, we want to redirect all under/ classification/ on the 3rd line except if it is/ category/final-subcategory/ on the fourth line. We also have the “!-f” guideline on the second line, ignoring any file like images, CSS, or JavaScript files.

Otherwise, if we have some possessions like “/ category/image. jpg,” it will also be rerouted to “/ final-subcategory/” and trigger an image break.

Directory Change

You can use the rule below if you did a category restructuring and want to move everything from the old directory site to the new one.

RewriteRule ^ old-directory$/ new-directory/ [R=301, NC, L] RewriteRule ^ old-directory/(. *)$/ new-directory/$1 [R=301, NC, L] I utilized $1 in the target to tell the server that it must keep in mind everything in the URL that follows/ old-directory/ (i.e.,/ old-directory/subdirectory/) and pass it (i.e., “/ subdirectory/”) onto the destination. As an outcome, it will be redirected to/ new-directory/subdirectory/.

I utilized two rules: one case without any trailing slash at the end and the other one with a tracking slash.

I could integrate them into one rule utilizing (/? |. *)$ RegExp at the end, but it would trigger problems and add a “//” slash to the end of the URL when the asked for URL with no routing slash has an inquiry string (i.e., “/ old-directory? utm_source=facebook” would be redirected to “/ new-directory//? utm_source=facebook”).

Get rid of A Word From URL

Let’s say you have 100 URLs on your site with the city name “Chicago” and want to remove them.

For the URL http://yourwebiste.com/example-chicago-event/, the redirect guideline would be:

RewriteRule ^(. *)-chicago-(. *) http://% SERVER_NAME/$1-$2 [NC, R=301, L] If the example URL is in the form http://yourwebiste.com/example/chicago/event/, then the redirect would be: RewriteRule ^(. *)/ chicago/(. *) http://% SERVER_NAME/$1/$2 [NC, R=301, L] Set A Canonical URL

Having canonical URLs is the most important part of SEO.

If missing, you may endanger your website with duplicate content concerns since search engines deal with URLs with “www” and “non-www” versions as various pages with the same material.

Therefore, you need to ensure you run the website just with one variation you select.

If you wish to run your website with the “www” variation, use this rule:

RewriteCond % ^ yourwebsite.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(. *)$ http://www.yourwebsite.com/$1 [L, R=301] For a “non-www” version: RewriteCond % ^ www.yourwebsite.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(. *)$ http://yourwebsite.com/$1 [L, R=301] Routing slash is also part of canonicalization given that URLs with a slash at the end or without are also treated in a different way. RewriteCond % REQUEST_FILENAME!-f RewriteRule ^(. * [^/]$/$1/ [L, R=301] This will ensure the/ example-page is rerouted to/ example-page/. You might select to get rid of the slash instead of including then you will require the other rule listed below: RewriteCond % REQUEST_FILENAME!-d RewriteRule ^(. *)/$/$1 [L, R=301]HTTP To HTTPS Redirect

After Google’s effort to motivate website owners to use SSL, migrating to HTTPS is among the frequently utilized redirects that nearly every site has.

The rewrite rule below can be used to force HTTPS on every site.

RewriteCond % ^ yourwebsite.com [NC, OR] RewriteCond % ^ www.yourwebsite.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(. *)$ https://www.yourwebsite.com/$1 [L, R=301, NC] Utilizing this, you can combine a www or non-www version redirect into one HTTPS redirect guideline.

Redirect From Old Domain To New

This is also among the most pre-owned redirects when you choose to rebrand and need to change your domain. The guideline below reroutes old-domain. com to new-domain. com.

RewriteCond % HTTP_HOST ^ old-domain. com$ [OR] RewriteCond % ^ www.old-domain.com$ RewriteRule (. *)$ http://www.new-domain.com/$1 [R=301, L] It utilizes 2 cases: one with the “www” variation of URLs and another “non-www” because any page for historical factors might have inbound links to both versions.

The majority of site owners utilize WordPress and may not require a.htaccess declare redirects however use a plugin rather.

Dealing with redirects utilizing plugins might be slightly various from what we talked about above. You may need to read their documents to handle RegExp properly for the particular plugin.

From the existing ones, I would advise a free plugin called Redirection, which has many parameters to control redirect guidelines and lots of useful docs.

Reroute Best Practices

1. Do not Reroute All 404 Broken URLs To The Homepage

This case often happens when you are too lazy to examine your 404 URLs and map them to the proper landing page.

According to Google, they are still all treated as 404s.

If you have a lot of pages like this, you must consider producing lovely 404 pages and engaging users to browse further or discover something besides what they were trying to find by displaying a search choice.

It is highly recommended by Google that rerouted page material ought to be equivalent to the old page. Otherwise, such a redirect might be thought about a soft 404, and you will lose the rank of that page.

2. Get Mobile Page-Specific Reroutes Right

If you have various URLs for desktop and mobile sites (i.e., “example.com” for desktop and “m.example.com” for mobile), you must make certain to redirect users to the suitable page of the mobile version.

Correct: “example.com/sport/” to “m.example.com/sport/”
Incorrect: “example.com/sport/” to “m.example.com”

Likewise, you have to ensure that if one page is 404 on the desktop, it needs to also be 404 on mobile.

If you have no mobile version for a page, you can avoid redirecting to the mobile version and keep them on the desktop page.

3. How To Utilize Meta Refresh

It is possible to do a redirect using a meta refresh tag like the example listed below:

If you place this tag in/ old-page/, it will reroute the user instantly to/ new-page/.

Google does not forbid this redirect, but it does not advise using it.

According to John Mueller, search engines might not have the ability to recognize that kind of redirect correctly. The exact same is likewise real about JavaScript reroutes.

4. Prevent Redirect Chains

This message shows when you have a wrong routine expression setup and winds up in an unlimited loop.

Screenshot by author, December 2022 Usually, this occurs when you have a redirect chain. Let’s say you rerouted page 1 to page 2 a long time back. You might have forgotten that

page 1 is rerouted and decided to redirect page 2 to page 1 once again. As an outcome, you will wind up with a guideline like this: RewriteRule ^ page1/ page2 [R

=301, NC, L] RewriteRule ^ page2/ page1 [R=301, NC, L] This will create a boundless loop and produce the error shown above. Conclusion Understanding what

redirects are and which scenario requires a specific status code is essential to

enhancing

web pages effectively. It’s a core part of comprehending SEO. Many scenarios need exact knowledge of redirects, such as migrating a site to a new domain or creating a short-term holding page URL for a webpage that will return under its regular URL. While a lot is possible with a plugin, plugins can be misused without correctly comprehending when and why to utilize a particular

kind of redirect. More Resources: Featured Image: