Redirects are used to transfer both website visitors and search engines from one page to another when you move content to a new location, delete it, or change your domain name.
They are incredibly essential not only from an SEO point of view but also from a user experience angle. Neither visitors nor search engines wish to come across a page that no longer exists.
But there are many types of redirects, as well as many different situations where each one should be used.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through:
- Everything you need to know about redirects
- Types of redirects
- Application scenarios
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
First Things First: What Are Redirects?
Put simply, a redirect is a way to send users and search engines to a different URL when the original one no longer exists. Anyone landing on a moved or deleted page would see an error without a redirect.
Error pages are not a positive experience for visitors who are expecting to see your website live. The result of such a response can lead to your users abandoning your site or bouncing without converting.
Make sure your redirects system is running smoothly so that your visitors always get where they want to go. And don’t forget that any backlink that leads to a 404 page will not be considered by the algorithm and will therefore be wasted.
In short, forgetting to implement redirects can result in lower search engine rankings and dissatisfied users.
At this point, you might be asking: When should I use redirects? Let’s see!
When to Use Redirects
These are the most common scenarios where we recommend using redirects. As you’ll see, 301 and 302 redirects (we’ll dive into those later) are quite common and come in handy in many situations.
For instance, you can implement redirects when:
- Doing a domain transfer. As a necessity, when rebranding and moving from one domain to another, you must redirect all your pages from the old domain to your new one. These redirects will be 301s if permanent, or 302s if temporary.
- Merging two websites. After merging sites into one, it’s necessary to redirect all the old URLs to the content’s new location. 301s are perfect for this use case.
- Switching to HTTPS. When switching from HTTP to HTTPS, you will also need to permanently redirect pages and non-secure resources (HTTP) to their secure location (HTTPS). In this case, 301s are the perfect option.
- Running promotions. If you’re running a limited-time promotion, you may want to redirect your traffic to a seasonal landing page. This type of redirection is temporary, so 302s may be ideal here.
- Deleting pages. When removing content from a site, you should permanently redirect its URL to a similar page with relevant content. This way, the backlinks will still count for SEO. Additionally, internal bookmarks or internal links will continue to function properly. We recommend using 301s for this type of redirect.
In the next section, when discussing types of redirects, we’ll cover many more scenarios. The above-mentioned ones are the most common.
Now that we have a basic picture of redirects and when to use them, let’s take a look at all the types of redirects.
Types of Redirects
There are several types of redirects. Depending on your goal, you’ll have to use one or the other. The decision will also depend on whether you need permanent or temporary redirects.
It’s important to know the different options you have when implementing redirects so that you don’t hurt your SEO or user experience.
Let’s look at redirect types in detail.
Perhaps the most commonly used type of redirect is HTTP redirects. An HTTP redirect is a richer way of redirecting the user by putting more information about the purpose and type of redirect in the user’s hands.
This way, users can make different decisions depending on their situation. Obviously, this has a good impact on User Experience (UX).
There are several kinds of HTTP redirects:
A 301 redirect forwards users to your new URL and indicates to search engines that the resource has been permanently moved. With this type of redirect, search engines remove the old URL from the indexes and transfer the PageRank (authority) to your new URL.
You should use them when:
- Changing a URL
- Recreating a piece of content
- Consolidating content that competes for the same keyword or topic
- Migrating content from one domain to another
- Migrating a website during a phased web launch.
When a 302 redirects a user to another page, it notifies them that the move is temporary and the original URL will be restored. In case you heard something about 302s not passing link PageRank, relax, they have been known to pass link authority since 2016.
Since these redirects last a short time, their ideal use would be when:
- Testing templates
- Producing redirections based on the user’s location or device
With no relation to SEO, a 303 redirect temporarily forwards users to resources only similar to the one requested. It prevents a form from being resubmitted when the user navigates back.
- Use them when you want to redirect customers who send you data (like form submissions) to a new page instead of a standard page request.
A 307 redirect is basically a 302. The only difference is that it preserves the HTTP method (POST, GET) of the initial request when redirecting. Since they specifically state that the URL is temporarily moved and will return soon, they are more clear than 302.
Therefore, the same uses apply here as with 302 as well.
Like 301 redirects, 308 redirects indicate a permanent change. Since they are almost identical, you can use them interchangeably.
However, they differ in that 301 allows POST to GET conversion whereas 308 doesn’t. Thus, neither the request method nor the body can be altered. Meanwhile, 301 can sometimes be changed to GET.
308 redirects share all of 301s’ use cases. For instance, they can also be used when permanently moving a resource to a new location. Nevertheless, a 308 redirect can be more useful when you’re migrating a website with forms created with a POST method.
307 and 308s vs. 301 and 302
As you already know, a 302 is used for a temporary redirect and 301 for permanent redirects. However, regardless of the original redirection method, many browsers switch the redirect request method to GET. Therefore, our best advice is to use 307 for temporary redirects and 308 for permanent redirects. That way, you’ll preserve the request method you used.
Meta Refresh Redirects
Meta refresh redirects are client-side redirects. In contrast to 301 and 302 redirects, meta refresh redirects don’t take place in the web server. Instead, they instruct the web browser to move to another page within a set amount of time.
It must be said that Alphabet does not recommend using meta-refresh redirects. In fact, Google’s John Mueller has made very critical comments about meta redirects with delay times:
We don't have any guidelines on the delay number, but if you want it treated like a redirect, it makes sense to have it act like a redirect (and keep the delay minimal). The same goes for JS-based redirects.
— johnmu: nothing is permanent, use 302 always 💫 (@JohnMu) March 2, 2018
In the early days of SEO, this was a widespread technique to create sneaky redirects to doorway pages. It’s because of this legacy that search engines have difficulty interpreting meta refreshes – even those of “goodwill”. Also, keep in mind that any delay other than zero seconds violates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
- Redirects based on user interaction
- Cross-browser redirects
- Device targeting
But, the truth is that JS redirects:
- Have higher requirements for the client
- Can only be found after the page has been rendered, which can hurt your optimization efforts
Unless you need a temporary redirect, it’s always best to use a 301 redirect.
- Incorporating the redirect target into your XML sitemap
- Updating internal links so they point to the redirection’s target
- Updating canonical URLs so they point to the redirection’s target
What About ‘Non-Official’ Redirects?
In addition to the traditional codes, there are others that do not actually redirect users anywhere. However, they are still very relevant. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Some redirects are not officially considered as such. Forced redirects fall in this category.
Forced redirects take users from a web page they know to an unknown site. This site is often infected with malware or a fake advertisement to collect personal information.
Forced redirects usually function via:
- Deceptive links
- Deceptive pop-ups
- Deceptive display ads
Such redirects are usually made possible by implementing UX dark patterns and black hat SEO tactics. And they’re definitely lethal for both SEO and brand-building.
410 Content Removed
410 redirects indicate to users and search engines that you have removed a page from your site. They’re useful when you have a lot of 404 errors on a page, so you can de-index them and avoid dropping in the rankings.
451 Content Unavailable for Legal Reasons
The last of our unofficial redirects is the 451. 451s are appropriate headers for pages removed due to legal reasons or a judge’s request. These types of redirects indicate to users and search engines that there are legal reasons why you cannot comply with the desired request.
As with most “unofficial” redirects, 451s are usually present on low-quality websites. For instance, a website sharing pirated movies may use 451s after receiving a DMCA takedown notice.
Put your Technical SEO Monitoring on Autopilot
Your site’s SEO performance can be negatively affected by faulty redirects, which is why you must monitor them closely. However, keeping an eye close to your code can be a complex and time-consuming technical task. Fortunately, SEORadar has you covered.
SEORadar is the technical SEO tool that detects any code changes across all your URLs just in time before they affect your rankings.
Among hundreds of technical SEO elements, SEORadar automatically notifies you if:
- A 301 changes to a 302
- A new immediate redirect is found
- A 200 changes to any other type of redirect
- A new infinite redirect is found
Plus, with SEORadar, you can get customized alerts depending on what items you want to track and which method of contact you prefer.