The importance of 301 redirects for SEO
There’s so much crap to worry about with SEO. One of those things is web page redirects. Before I get into what a 301 redirect is, and why they are important, let me first say you should have your website added to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools so that you will be alerted to errors within your website structure.
If you’ve had your website for a while it’s likely that you have made changes to the content or structure of the site. You may have changed the URL structure of a web page or two in your efforts to improve your on-page SEO. You may have even deleted a couple of pages that were no longer relevant to what you do.
I run into this all the time when a new website client wants me to rebuild their site and tells me we no longer offer this service or product, or the name of the service or product has changed. To help drive traffic that means changing some of the on-page SEO elements. One of those elements is the URL.
The Problem with Changing the URL
Changing the URL of a page is very simple. The problem comes in when you have to deal with the backlinks to your old URL. How do they know where to go now that technically the old page no longer exists? The answer is they don’t. That is unless you add 301 or 302 redirects.
What is the Difference Between a 301 Redirect & 302 Redirect?
To put it simply a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. A 302 redirect is temporary. The type of redirect you use indicates to the search engine whether or not to make the change permanently. A 301 redirect tells search engines forget the old page and only worry about the new page while a 302 lets the search engines know that they need to keep the old page information as well. In most cases, you would use a 301 redirect.
What Do I Do?
Setting up a 301 redirect is actually pretty easy but can seem scary to someone with no website building experience.
You will need to access a file on your website host. The file is .htaccess and should be in the same folder as your index (home) page. This also assumes you are using an apache server for hosting. Once you have located the .htaccess file you will need to open it using a Unix text editor like notepad. Most cPanels have a built in editor you can use. Once the file is open add a line that looks similar to this.
RedirectPermanent /oldpage.html http://www.yourdomain.com/newpage.html
Replace oldpage.html with your old web page and replace http://www.yourdomain.com/newpage.html with your new web page URL. Keep in mind that html may actually be php or another extension.
And then save the document.
Before doing this I would strongly encourage you to save a copy of the .htaccess file just in case you make a mistake. Also, if you are uncomfortable doing this on your own, which is understandable if you have no experience building websites, then I would hire someone to do it for you. A professional can add a redirect in less than 5 minutes so long as they have all the necessary login information.
I hope you find this helpful. I am including a quick video to help further understand how it is done.