Redirects are one of the lesser-known reasons for low search engine rankings and fewer conversions. Misusing redirects or forgetting to implement them can have serious SEO consequences, leading to higher bounce rates and a drop in overall sales. Avoiding the most common mistakes is imperative for today’s companies looking to succeed in all things SEO. Continue reading below to learn more about redirects, the different types of redirects, how they can hurt your SEO, and the best ways to use them to your advantage.
You may be also interested in our blog “14 Must-Have SEO on-Page Optimisation Techniques for 2021”
What Are Redirects and Why Do They Matter?
A redirect is a forwarding method used to direct visitors to a different URL than the one they have accessed, which is no longer in existence. It’s possible to redirect single pages as well as entire websites. Redirects are commonly used in the following scenarios:
- When a page has been moved to a new location
- When a page has been deleted entirely from the site
- When a domain name has been changed
- When two websites are merged together
- When a site is switching from HTTP to HTTPS
- When duplicate URLs are being consolidated
- When a site utilizes geotargeting or device targeting
If you do not add a redirect, anyone who visits that specific page will get an error message saying that the page is unavailable. If you add one, then the user will be immediately taken to a new URL. Overall, redirects are beneficial to company websites, as they provide a way to guide visitors and bots to the proper location.
How Do Redirects Impact Your SEO?
Using redirects properly can significantly improve your SEO, while misusing them can do the exact opposite, impacting your site visitors and search engines.
The last thing you want to do is confuse crawlers and reduce your search visibility. That’s exactly what happens when your redirects are wrong. It either takes the search engine on a roundabout journey to find what it’s looking for or simply stops the bots from accessing specific pages altogether. As a result, Google might index lower quality pages and get rid of the best ones (if a redirect is missing or poorly set). For search engines, proper redirects give bots a better understanding of your site’s overall structure, which lets them know how to classify and index your pages correctly. This ultimately results in a better search engine ranking, which can then turn into a higher conversion rate.
Redirects are beneficial, as they guide users to where they want to go. Without them, your site visitors are stuck with an error message, which makes a terrible impression that may cause them to bounce. Using redirects is an excellent way to maintain a quality user experience. Redirects also allow companies to efficiently manage the content that visitors see while simultaneously directing Google and other search engines to the correct location. If you do it right, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Most Common Types of Redirects
The types of redirects are split into two categories based on where the code is implemented: server-side and client-side. Some redirects forward users to another URL on a temporary basis, while others direct them to a different location permanently. Some relocate entire websites, and others only move specified items. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of redirects that exist.
These specific types of redirects occur completely on the server instead of on the user’s browser.
The 301 redirect is the most permanent of the bunch, signalling that a page has moved to another location indefinitely. These are helpful to use when you switch your domain name for good, or there’s a page you need to relocate permanently, or you’ve deleted a page completely but want to keep all its traffic, links, search engine ranking, etc. After the redirect is done, search engines will officially replace the initial URL in their index with the new one, and it will maintain its authority. Don’t use this redirect if you think there’s even the slightest chance that you would republish the page in the future.
Note: The most common way to perform this redirect is by using your .htaccess file via your Apache server (your server’s software). This particular file lets you edit your website’s configuration without changing anything on your server. However, there are many other ways to do 301 redirects, and the others are listed below.
The 302 redirect is not permanent and forwards visitors to a new location for a limited time only. These redirects are convenient when you need to block someone’s access to a page on your site, redirect special offers or out-of-stock pages, A/B testing, or conduct geotargeting or device targeting. With 302 redirects, search engines understand their temporary nature and keep the old and new URLs separate.
These types of redirects refer to anything that’s displayed or occurs on the client’s device and is enabled by a file request made by browsers.
404 redirects are common redirects that result from end-user errors and inform the user that the page cannot be found. These types of redirects frequently happen when someone types in a wrong URL or if a page has been deleted from the site or server. Having 404 errors isn’t always bad. If a user searches for your site and gets a bad URL, you don’t have to be worried about being penalized from Google. It’s not your fault. However, they are a cause for concern when it comes to SEO. A 404 redirect can cause you to lose your page ranking, as the bots will not be able to access the page. If there’s no page to access, then how can they rank it? And if a user can’t access your home page or service page, chances are, you’ll lose some customers too.
Common Redirect Mistakes That Hurt SEO
Redirects have a sneaky way of damaging your SEO if you’re not careful. Here are several common mistakes companies make when attempting to use redirects:
- You’ve changed domains without setting up a redirect.
All redirects need to be established before you change your domain name. Why? Because the new domain was most likely already crawled and indexed by search engines. Since there are no redirects present, the search engine may view the new URL as a duplicate or the original. This can even result in some hefty penalties from Google.
- You’ve been redirected to a non-relevant URL.
Search engines and site visitors want you to be relevant. Topical relevance on each page is an undeniable ranking factor that lets Google know that your content makes sense and offers value to users. It will quickly confuse both search engines and users if you are redirecting to some random page that doesn’t logically fit in with the old URL. As a general rule of thumb, remember to redirect to the most relevant page to the old version.
- You’re using redirect chains.
Many companies make the mistake of creating multiple redirects on top of each other, forgetting the ones they made previously. This can happen if you create a new version of a page and redirect the old version to it. If you keep on updating the page and adding redirects, eventually, you’ll have what’s called a “redirect chain.” The people visiting your site won’t care because they’re still getting to where they need to go. However, search engines won’t jump around for you and may stop crawling after as little as two redirects.
- You didn’t update your robots.txt file.
The robots.txt file is simply a file that lets crawlers know what they need to crawl. If you migrate your site or launch a new one and do not update this file, you’ll block web crawlers from doing their job. And if they can’t do their job, you can’t get ranked. That’s a problem!
- You had pre-existing redirects as you migrated to a new site.
A common mistake is to forget any pre-existing redirects when moving to a new site. Because of this, search engines won’t be able to associate the old site with the new one and ranking authority will not be passed over.
- You haven’t updated your canonical tags.
Sometimes you can have similar content under a variety of URL addresses. Canonical tags are snippets of HTML code that specify which versions you want to be indexed by search engines. It’s like you’re telling Google that the page it’s looking at is the master copy. If you have not updated your canonical tags to reflect any changes that have been made, the crawlers won’t know which page is the updated version, and therefore, won’t index it.
Entrust Your Redirects to Search Engine Optimisation Experts
Redirects may sound pretty simple on the surface, but some technical knowledge is necessary to ensure that each one is executed properly. Are you worried that you have too many redirects on your corporation’s site, resulting in a redirect chain that’s hurting your Google ranking? It can be difficult to keep track of all the new updated pages, what you’ve deleted, etc., on your own. Or maybe you’re struggling to figure out how to update your robots.txt file to give crawlers the scoop on what they should be crawling. Either way, help is just a phone call or click away!
Our highly-trained SEO experts at Zeidan Digital Marketing are well-versed in handling redirects of all types, protecting your site from poor ranking and plummeting conversion rates from redirect errors. You can rest assured your website is in the best hands with the Zeidan team. Contact us today to start generating more leads and boost your company sales with professional SEO 1300 353 237