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301-redirect

301 redirects are website redirect magic. Without them, your users and search engines will get lost when you permanently move URLs on your website. Read about 301 redirects and the consequences of not using them in this guide.

Jens Kjær Riis
- SEO-specialist
Last updated: Jul 24. 2023

What is a 301 redirect?

Imagine you've found the home of your dreams, but the move has to happen so fast that you don't get to inform your aunt, your postman and your neighbor. But... when they try to visit you at your old address, they are automatically sent to your new address. It's as if someone is standing at your old address and telling them: "Wait, the person you're looking for has moved to a new address. You can find them here."

This is how a 301 redirect works on the internet: when someone clicks on your link or types your old URL into their browser, they are automatically sent to your new URL.

This ensures that your users and search engines can always find the right page, even if you've moved it. In other words, 301 redirects have a significant impact on both user experience and SEO.

Why are 301 redirects important?

If you choose to remove a page without creating a 301 redirect, it will mislead and confuse your users and search engines when they try to find the page. Instead, they will be met with an error message(404 error).

It's like leaving your old home without letting anyone know where you've moved to. After a while, your aunt, your postman and your old neighbor will stop visiting your old place and get frustrated with the experience. So will your users and search engines.

Protecting your link value with 301 redirects

When you do a 301 redirect, you retain the value from the links that lead to the old URL. It acts as a rope that binds the old address to the new one. That's why 301 redirect is the best choice when you want to shut down a subpage or replace it permanently.

You should be aware that it is always better to fix links in the source than to redirect. Therefore, it is best to only use 301-redirect when it is strictly necessary. This is partly because a redirect has a small impact on website speed, as the server must first load the old and then the new URL.

Therefore, you also want to avoid so-called redirect chains - i.e. chains of redirects where one redirect redirects to a third redirect and so on. Many and long redirect chains will require significantly longer server response times. You can use analysis tools such as Screaming Frog or Ahrefs to identify and eliminate any redirect chains.

Search engines quickly intercept 301 redirects

When you implement a 301 redirect the right way, search engines like Google and others will be able to quickly track it and update their index with your new URL. As mentioned, it's also a good idea to update your internal links so that they lead directly to your new URL - not the old one.

However, it is important to wait to update the links until the search engines have registered the change in their index. You can monitor this in Ahrefs' Site Explorer report, for example.

Below is an example of a target URL for one of Webamp's major keywords. The orange graph is the old URL and the blue is the new one. Notice the temporary dip that occurs while the search engines have been trying to identify the new URL.

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