Whether you’ve moved your site to a new domain or are testing out a new update, eventually you’re going to have to redirect one of your URLs. This can either be a simple process, or be the cause of annoying errors and slow load times that frustrate your visitors and increase your bounce rates.
If you want to avoid slowing down your site, keep these four rules in mind and your redirects will have no problem turning things around.
1) Don’t Create Redirect Chains
A redirect chain is a series of redirects that take multiple steps between an initial URL to reach the final URL. With each redirect, search engines have to move through each individual link before reaching the desired page, creating an unnecessary wait and a longer page load.
These redirect chains generally happen over time as new pages are created. URL A may have been redirected to URL B in January, and then later in March URL B is redirected again when an updated URL C is created. This creates a double redirect chain: URL A>URL B>URL C.
Luckily, this is an easy fix. Take the original URL A and set up a redirect directly to URL C, and cut out the middle man. This not only speeds up load time, but also makes it easier for search engines to find your pages since they don’t have to crawl through multiple links.
2) Don’t Use the Wrong Kind of Redirect
There are multiple kinds of redirects, which I could do an entire post on itself, but here I’ll just concentrate on the three most popular.
- 301: Use as a permanent redirect, the 301 redirect is best used when an original URL is permanently replaced with a new one.
- 302: Not as reliable as a 301, a 302 redirect is used for temporary redirects. This should be used if you plan on returning to the original webpage in the future. These could be used if you want to test an update to a page before permanently making any changes.
- Meta Refresh: These redirects are slower and generally not as useful as others. When you come upon a page that counts down at five second delay, these are usually meta refresh redirects.
3) Don’t Create Redirect Loops
A redirect loop occurs when a redirecting URL directs to a new URL, which then directs back to the original URL. This would look something like this: URL A>URL B>URL A. Obviously, you don’t want to send your users into this never-ending cycle, or leave them looking at an error page. Check where your URLs are redirecting too before making anything live.
4) Don’t Worry About PageRank
In the past, every time a page was redirected it lost some of its PageRank value. Google would penalize pages with a 15% loss of PageRank for 301 redirects, and a 100% for 302s, which made most website owners think twice before redirecting any URLs. But last year Google announced that would no longer penalize these kinds of redirects. Of course, PageRank isn’t the only SEO factor to consider, and a page’s traffic should be carefully watched if you decide to redirect to a new URL.
Without proper directions, your visitors can easily get lost, but redirecting doesn’t have to be complicated or slow down your site. Whether your testing out a new update or permanently changing the location of a page, keep things running smoothly by follow these four rules.
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This is why it’s so important to be organized as you create re-directs. Always keep records of “old” URLs and where they’re pointing to so that you can avoid chains and loops. And remember to redirect to the most related page of the website to the old page. A global redirect to the homepage is OK, but sending traffic to a page that’s the most similar is better.