What are 301 Redirects?

Erik Wardell

Erik is an SEO coach that loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. He thrives on helping people do what it takes to see their businesses succeed in search. Stay in touch on Twitter — @wanderinwardell.

A 301 redirect 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.

How to Use 301 Redirects

301 redirects are a useful SEO tool as they allow a webmaster to communicate a URL change to users and search engines. 301 redirects pass 90-99% of the original page’s value (ranking power) to the new page, which is great for SEO. And, they ensure that a user doesn’t hit a page not found error (also known as a 404 error), which is great for user experience.

Here are some common situations where you might want to use 301 redirects.

New Website Launch

If you’re launching a new website, then 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 ranking power from old URLs to new URLs. And when we say URL mapping, here's a quick example of what we are talking about.

URL Mapping

Content Updates

Removing a page from your website? Merging content from two pages to one? Let search engines and users know with a 301 redirect from the old URL(s) to the new URL.

Broken Links

Sometimes, you will have broken links on your website that lead to pages that no longer exist, or never did in the first place. When users click on these links, instead of getting a functional page, they are given a 404 page, a.k.a. a page not found message. Landing on one of these 404 pages typically creates a less than ideal experience for users.

In order to keep users from landing on pages that don't provide any value (404 pages), you can use 301 redirects to send them to functional pages similar to the ones they were looking for.

For example, let's say someone clicks on a link to an article about fishing Aspen's rivers on our site, but that page got deleted and the link now returns a 404 page. To remedy that situation, we could set up a 301 redirect from the URL where the deleted article once lived to a URL where we have a similar piece of live content all about Everything You Want to Know About Fly Fishing in Aspen.

To see which URLs on your site are returning 404 page not found errors, jump into Google Search Console. Click Coverage > Errors > Not Found (404) and you will see a list of all the pages on your website returning page not found errors.

Not Found Errors in GSC

What’s the Difference Between 301 and 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 would be useful if a product you sell is temporarily discontinued. In this example, you would create 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.

How Do I Add 301 Redirects to My Website?

Suggested resources, organized by content management system, are listed below.

Erik Wardell

Erik is an SEO coach that loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. He thrives on helping people do what it takes to see their businesses succeed in search. Stay in touch on Twitter — @wanderinwardell.

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