What is a 301 redirect?

What is a 301 redirect and when to use it?

You probably heard this before. 301 redirect is the most common redirect used and it is really important for SEO.

What is a 301 redirect?

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. It is the ‘’command’’ which sends both visitors and search engines from a URL to another one. It used to smoothly pass authority of the first URL (link juice) to a second URL and of course to avoid a bad UX for visiting a page that has moved.

Examples of 301 redirect scenarios:

  • Example 1: Enter nationalgeographic.com in your browser window
    and you will be redirected to https://www.nationalgeographic.com/
  • Example 2: You find this link https://www.examplesite.com/old-page-about-redirects either directly or from a search result and you will are redirected to https://www.examplesite.com/new-page-about-redirects 

When should I use a 301 redirect?

?From a user perspective when someone types or clicks a link, they expect to see the page they had in mind instead of a 404 error page.

?From an SEO perspective, to lead bots and users to the correct URL and not to a 404. This will pass most of the old page authority to the new one and will ensure a good UX and almost no negative organic traffic loss.

?From a marketing and website administration perspective the main reasons why you should use 301 redirects are:

1. When there are several versions of a domain

It’s best practice to set up 301 redirects between the http:// and http://www versions of a domain. This also applies for http:// to https://.

2. When changing a domain

  1. Moving to a new subdomain or subfolder structure. For example https://dimitrisdrakatos.com/seo-news/ became https://dimitrisdrakatos.com/seo/.
  2. Rebrand a domain. A bookstore domain called thebooks.com acquires books.com and feels that the second domain is more user friendly. But, thebooks.com has been live for 4 years, and it has a lot of content and domain authority. So the team must decide if it is the best decision to use the new domain URL. If they decide to change it they must set up 301 redirects from all of the URLs on the old domain to the new one to maintain as much domain authority as possible (although most of the link juice is passed they should still expect some loss from this change).

3. When removing a page or pages from a website

An online store selling music books has subcategories related to various music types. There have 5 subcategories for rock music books but due to dwindling inventory they decide to consolidate and have one general category for all type of music books. If they do this, they will need to delete the subcategories, and create a 301 redirect command for every subcategory URL, redirecting users to the more general category.

4. When changing a URL on a published page

A party website owner publishes a blog post in WordPress with the URL ‘’www.bestparties.com/which-are-the-best-activities-for-parties-and-events’’
But then decides the URL is too long, and changes the URL/ permalink to ‘‘www.bestparties.com/best-activities-for-parties’’. He shouldn’t delete or change the permalink before setting up a 301 redirect that drives users and search engines to a new page/ URL.

But what is the technical reason for this?

A 301 permanent redirect is the best thing to do for SEO because it transfers the inbound links from the redirected domain or URL to the new one, which helps the website maintain its search rankings and prevent a significant drop in search traffic. While there is some page/domain authority loss with 301 redirects, it will have the least “traumatic” impact on the performance of a URL / domain.

Redirects explained by MOZ
Explainer image from MOZ

The most common scenarios you will encounter in the company you work for are:

  1. Changing the URL of a page after it is published
  2. Looking to delete a page.
  3. Merge pages.

Let’s analyze each case:

Scenario 1: Changing the URL of a page/post

You decide to change the URL of an already published page or post. There are different reasons to do this like making the URL shorter and more SEO and user friendly, or just making it more relevant to its content.

Before you change it, make sure that the new URL is better than the existing. After that, talk to the developer that is responsible for this kind of changes and provide him with the new URL. Once the update is live make sure that you add this change to a log file so you will keep track of all these changes.

Scenario 2: Deleting a page

Before deleting any page or post you should first think, do you actually want to delete this page? Maybe there is a legitimate business reason to get rid of it. For example, you no longer want to promote a specific feature of your product, or the information that is mentioned in the page or post is very outdated or even worse wrong and misleading.

However, it is important before deleting a page or post to analyze the performance and come up with a plan, ensuring the best possible outcome for the page and your domain. This plan may include creating additional pages to ensure you maintain keyword rankings and search value for the key terms that this page is ranking (if there are any).

Note that a 301 redirect is often not the best situation especially if there is a no equivalent page to redirect to. Sometimes you actually do not need to delete the page but instead improve or update the content.

Scenario 3: Merge pages

Sometimes there are pages that target and rank for the same keywords (known for ‘keyword cannibalization’). You can easily find these pages using either a paid tool like Semrush and Ahrefs or a free tool like Google Search Console.

After you find these pages, check them and see whether they are covering the same content/topic. Something that they should do, as they are not randomly ranking for the same terms.

Try to rewrite the topic by combining the 2 articles in 1 making sure you are still fully covering the topic and you stay relevant. Now you have 1 page instead of 2 (or even more) covering and targeting the same topic.

Last step is to decide the final URL. This could be either one URL of the existing pages you want to merge or even a completely new URL. Your decision should be based on which URL you think it is best for the topic covered based also on the SEO guidelines for creating URLs.

301 redirect all the other URLs to the one you decided. With this technique you ensure that you have one page targeting a topic and a set of keywords instead of multiple pages. This will lead to more organic traffic for sure. ?

Final thoughts ?

301 redirects are very common inside the SEO community in order to handle smoothly URL changes, page deletions or other problems (i.e. internal 404 errors) for you site. However, it is very easy to create a mess and have the opposite results.

Make sure that all relevant people are included in the discussion and process, create a good plan and you can see the benefits of the 301 redirects.

If you want to learn more about 301 redirects make sure you read these guides from:

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