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Redirection and its different types

By - ValueLabs Editorial Team | 22 Dec 2015

What is redirection?

URL redirection or URL forwarding is a technique used by the World Wide Web for making more than one URL address available for a web page. The process of forwarding one URL to another one is called Redirection. Similarly, when a URL domain – with all its pages – is redirected to a different domain, it is known as Domain Redirection or Domain Forwarding.

Why is redirection done?

A URL can be redirected for multiple reasons. It can be redirected to prevent broken links that are formed when pages are moved, to shorten the URL, to allow the same owner to have multiple domain names to reflect to a single website, to help users navigate a website easily, and sometimes, to protect privacy. At times, redirection is used for illegal purposes like phishing attacks; even to manipulate search engines.

What are the different types of redirects?

Listed below are the descriptions of some of the most commonly used kinds of redirects.

  • 301 Moved Permanently

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that is considered to be the most efficient, popular and convenient way of redirecting a web page. This type of redirect is used when a website has been permanently moved to another address; one which has to be indexed by search engines so that all the traffic to the old URL is rerouted to the new URL.

This redirect is particularly used under the following circumstances:

  • When you want seamless transition of traffic to your new domain from your old site
  • When people use different URLs to reach your site, you can choose a preferred URL and then use 301 to redirect and send all the traffic to your preferred URL
  • When you want to make sure that the links to your outdated URLs are redirected to the relevant pages after you merge two websites

Please note that as soon as a web page is shifted from one website to another, the search engines will take some time to process the 301 redirect, understand the idea, and credit ratings to the new page with all the rankings (including trust) that its predecessor had. This procedure might take longer if search engine spiders don’t go to the provided site often, or if the brand new URL does not redirect effectively.

  • 302 Found (HTTP 1.1) / Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.0)

A temporary type of redirect, 302 is used when a certain URL has been changed to another location temporarily. How a URL works is dictated by a particular protocol called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, commonly known as HTTP, upon which the internet runs. There are two major versions of this – 1.0 and 1.1. In the first version, the status code 302 means ‘moved temporarily.’ The version 1.1 has changed this to mean ‘Found.’

This redirect is particularly used under the following circumstances:

  • When your page is under maintenance and you want to temporarily direct traffic to another page
  • When you redirect users to another page but need to keep your original URL indexed
  • When your content is located in one URL, but you’re promoting links to another URL

307 Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.1 Only)
The successor of the 302 redirect is the HTTP 1.1 307 redirect. It works exactly the way a 302 redirect was intended to work and should ideally be used instead of it. The only exception to this is when the content has only temporarily moved due to some reason, like during maintenance or when the server compatibility to version 1.1 has been successfully identified by search engines. Since it is not possible to determine whether a search engine has identified a page as compatible or not, it is recommended that a 302 redirect be used for temporarily moved content.

  • Meta Refresh

When a redirect is executed on the page level instead of at the server level, it is known as a Meta Refresh. Interestingly, this is not a recommended SEO technique as it is usually slower and has poor usability. A 5-second countdown is usually associated with a meta refresh. This countdown is often followed by the text ‘Click here if you are not redirected in 5 seconds.’

  • SEO Best Practice

Redirecting from one URL to another is a common practice. But the biggest mistake during this process is to assume that a website redesign is working perfectly without giving much thought to the SEO juice. If adequate care is not taken, the rankings of the website can suffer adversely.

It is pretty simple, however, to keep the SEO juice intact. Google and other search engines associate URLs with specific values. From Google’s perspective, different URLs mean different pages. So instead of getting credit for your page that you had since the 90s and all the credits you have accumulated over the years for all the links, it is only registering the brand new page, disconnected from all the others with no links, external or inbound.

Google (and other search engines) will then perceive it as a newborn page, and will accordingly assign a value to it. When it gets a ‘404 Page Not Found’ error while checking for the previous page, it just assumes the page is dead and its value then disappears. When this happens to every page of your site, the result can be devastating for your business.

Preventing the above issue is easy – just use 301 Redirect instead. Code 301 (moved permanently) tells the requesting software that the content from an URL has moved to another URL. When the search engine sees a Code 301, it takes the assigned SEO juice from the existing URL and moves it to the new URL.

This also prevents people from getting the error ‘Page Not Found’ when they search for the old page. Instead, they get redirected to the new page seamlessly.

Choose the redirects you want to use wisely. Doing so can go a long way in helping you prevent your SEO juice from leaking all over the place.

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