15 Common SEO Redirect Questions, Answered Simply

Last Updated on December 2, 2021 by Alex Birkett

Redirects are an important part of technical SEO. When done properly, they can optimize your site and improve your rankings.

This article will cover some of the unaddressed questions on the topic of redirects. The aim is to explain things as simply as possible to make redirects accessible to all SEOs, from beginners to experts.

Table of contents (click to go to a specific section):

  1. Why should you use redirects?
  2. What are the main categories of redirects?
  3. What are the common types of redirects?
  4. What do you need to know about 301 redirects?
  5. How to manage redirects?
  6. When will Google treat 301s as “soft 404s”?
  7. How long should you keep 301 redirects?
  8. Are redirects good or bad for SEO?
  9. How to preserve your current SEO ranking while redirecting?
  10. How to check your redirects?
  11. How to manage redirects in WordPress?
  12. What are the best practices?
  13. What are the common mistakes to avoid when implementing redirects?
  14. Is it necessary to redirect HTTP to HTTPS?
  15. How to redirect HTTP to HTTPS?

1. Why should you use redirects?

No website is permanent. Once you have set up your site, over time, you are going to change its structure, delete pages, or shift from one domain to another. If you are running an e-commerce store online, your products may go out of stock.

At such times, handling redirects correctly is crucial so that you don’t lose rankings and let search engines understand the changes that have been done to your site.

2. What are the main categories of redirects?

You can classify redirects into two main categories:

  • Page-level redirects

Page-level redirects involve redirecting specific pages or a set of specific pages. Here, you don’t redirect every page on the website.

Redirecting expired products is an example. For those running e-commerce stores, you know that products keep coming and going. Some products could be linked externally. Some may rank well and bring traffic until Google picks up that the content is no more.

In such instances, you can redirect expired products to new comparable products. When you do that, the user will be directed to a new product they may be interested in.

  • Website level redirects

While performing website level redirects, usually, you redirect all pages from one URL to another.

For instance, you perform website level redirects when you switch your domain name.

When you change a domain name, you need to establish a full set of redirects to help your SEO. It will let the search engines know that you have shifted the content from this URL to another URL. It also aids in preserving the link equity from links that point to your old domain name.

It looks like:

https://olddomain.com redirects to https://newdomain.com

3. What are the common types of redirects?

The main types of redirects are 301, 302, 307, and Meta Refresh.

  • 301 Redirect  

The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. It is recommended to use this redirect on your website.

  • 302 Redirect    

The 302 redirect is a temporary redirect. You can use it to redirect your website visitors to a different page temporarily as you intend to bring back the original page later.

  • 307 Redirect     

The 307 redirects are used only when you require a temporary redirect. Also, the server has to be 1.1 compatible.

  • Meta Refresh Redirect     

Meta refreshes are page-level redirects. They are bad for SEO as they are slow. Here are the common errors created by meta refresh redirect:

  1. 404 Errors     

When you see a 404 Error, it means the site can’t be reached on the server. Perhaps, the URL the user typed was incorrect or the page has been deleted.

This error also appears when a redirect is set up incorrectly. Normally, a 404 error implies that the site or web page is nonexistent.

It is, therefore, recommended for your site to have a customized 404 error wherein the user can get back to the main website so that losing traffic is minimized.

  1. 410 Errors     

You see a 410 error if your website has indexed content that should not have been indexed. It tells Google to never revisit this page as it is non-existent. The page will also never show up in search engine results.

This redirect is useful in instances when you own a business that does not offer a particular service anymore.

4. What do you need to know about 301 redirects?

A 301 redirect is a server-side redirect. It redirects you from one URL to another permanently. It is the most important redirect from an SEO viewpoint.

A 301 redirect is referred to as permanent as it lets the search engine know that the original URL is not in use and that it has been replaced by another page.

When Google or other search engines get this info, they replace the old URL in their index with the URL pointed by the redirect.

Usually, the search engines also assign the link equity acquired by the original URL to the new URL.

  • 301 redirects use cases

301 can be used after a page has been removed or deleted permanently from the architecture of your website, yet you want to retain its traffic, links, and rankings.

For instance, you can use 301 redirects after you have shifted your site to a new domain and want a seamless transition. You can also use it when you encounter broken pages (404) errors.

  • Impact of 301 redirects on SEO

301 redirects help SEO because the redirect forwards all of the old page’s PageRank to the new page. When the redirect is complete, the new page will enjoy the same authority as the old content that has been redirected.

  • Implementing the 301 redirect

The simplest way to implement 301 redirects is to go to the server’s root folder and specify the redirect in the .htaccess file. The code can be entered in two ways, as shown below:


5. How to manage redirects?

Here are three ways to manage redirects:

  • htaccess

Redirects are usually managed using the .htaccess file that you find in the root folder of your site. For WordPress users, you can hire a WordPress developer to handle this.

  • CMS

Almost all modern CMSs come with a feature that lets you add redirects. Note that many CMSs will let you redirect URLs only one at a time. In case you have many URLs to redirect, the task can quickly become tedious.

  • Plugins

For WordPress users, there are several plugins that you can use to redirect URLs. They can let you redirect a few URLs or thousands. With some plugins, there are features that permit conditional redirects, such as browser redirects and referrer redirects.

While choosing a redirect plugin, see that the plugin is frequently updated, lest you run into issues over time.

6. When will Google treat 301s as “soft 404s”?

As per Google’s John Mueller, Google treats 301s as “soft 404s” when the page redirected to a destination has content that is different than the old content.

Redirects should be kept aside for URLs that are moving, yet the content is staying mostly the same, if not precisely the same.

Nevertheless, Google trusts redirects. Recently, Google stated that redirects are almost totally projecting duplicate content.

7. How long should you keep 301 redirects?

Google recommends you keep your 301 redirects active for over a year. However, as 301s are permanent, in theory, you can keep 301 redirects forever.

If you’re migrating a website, for instance, you can check your log files to find out when Google stops to visit your 301 status code pages and begins to visit your new destination URLs directly.

In case you need to remove 301 redirects, you can wait for Google to stop crawling them and then only remove them.

On the other hand, if there is another website linking to your old URL as you have implemented link building or if a user has bookmarked it, removing the redirect will mean that those users encounter a 404 “not found” page. The users will have to update the link themselves to the new destination to avoid this issue.

8. Are redirects good or bad for SEO?

It depends from case to case. However, in most cases, redirects are good for SEO, provided you implement them correctly.

If implemented incorrectly, you might face different issues, from loss of traffic to loss of PageRank. Redirecting pages is crucial if you are going to alter your URLs. Or else, all the effort you have invested in building an audience and gathering links will be wasted.

9.How to preserve your current SEO ranking while redirecting

To preserve the old page’s SEO value when redirecting one URL to another, 301 redirects is the best option. It is because this redirect lets the bots know that the page has moved permanently.

Note that the bots will take a bit of time to discover the 301 redirects, identify them, and credit the new page with the rankings of the old page.

It will take longer to complete this process if the crawlers visit the page infrequently or in case the new page does not correctly resolve.

10. How to check your redirects

You can use different tools to check and find out if your redirects are functioning correctly.

A popular tool is the Link Redirect Trace which is a Chrome browser extension. It is capable of checking broken or incorrect redirects. You will be alerted in case there is any so you can make the desired changes and maintain your SEO ranking.

The Google Search Console is another popular tool for checking 404 errors and fixing them. With this tool, you don’t have to look at each page.

Also, you can use Content Forest. This tool lets you copy your URL and paste it so that you can test for redirects. In case there are redirects, you will get a code to go with the URL. It will also map the path of the redirects. This tool makes it easy to check for errors.

11. How to manage redirects in WordPress?

There are great tools such as the Yoast SEO Premium to help you manage redirects in WordPress. With this easy-to-use redirect tool, you can easily set up and manage redirects on your WordPress website.

Once you delete a post and move it to trash, you will get a pop-up message notifying you of the action taken. You can then select one of two options shown by the redirects tool:

  • Redirect to another URL
  • Serve a 410 Content deleted header

In case you select redirect, a modal will open. There, you can enter the new URL for a particular post.

Next, save it to complete the redirect.

12. What are the SEO redirect best practices?

Here are some of the redirects best practices:

  • Use 301 redirects when you have moved your content, and there is a similar page that you can redirect to.
  • Use 302 redirects if you plan to make a temporary redirect.
  • Implement the correct protocol.
  • Be consistent. For instance, be consistent with or without trailing slash.
  • Redirect to the final destination URL directly.

13. What are the common mistakes to avoid when implementing redirects?

Avoid these common mistakes at all costs when implementing redirects:

  • Don’t use 302 redirects over 301 redirects, though Google has stated that 302s pass link equity just as 301s. You might end up losing rankings and traffic.
  • Don’t leave redirects in your internal links lest Google skips through internal redirect hops. Redirect to the final destination URL.
  • Don’t create redirect loops. It occurs when a URL ends up redirecting itself by mistake. The culprit for redirect loops could be spelling mistakes, outdated plugins, wrong code, and so on. When redirect loops occur, the server will eventually time out.

14. Is it necessary to redirect HTTP to HTTPS?

When you plan to move to the HTTPS protocol for your website, it is crucial to redirect your HTTP traffic to HTTPS. Google will penalize you for making your site available on both HTTP and HTTPS.

Moreover, browsers will display a NOT SECURE message if your site is not secured by an HTTPS protocol. And Google will rank you higher as it prefers HTTPS sites that are faster and more secure. You will gain the trust of your visitors as well.

15. How to redirect HTTP to HTTPS?

The best way to redirect HTTP to HTTPS is at the server level. Find out the type of server on which your site is running. Is it NGINX or Apache?

Next, find the code required to add to your .htaccess file or server config file.

Usually, your host will provide you with a guide to aid you in setting up a redirect on the server level.

Or, if you are using WordPress, there are plenty of plugins to manage your site’s HTTPS/SSL issues. Just remember to let Google know of the alterations in Search Console.

Wrap-Up on SEO Redirects

Redirects are an essential part of website development, but they aren’t always used correctly. Redirects and redirect chains can affect your rankings and there are several things you should know before performing a redirect. To help you out, this article answered some common questions about redirects that you probably have.

Author: Lucy is a creative content writer and strategist at Marketing Digest. She specializes in writing about digital marketing, technology, entrepreneurship, and education. When she is not writing or editing, she spends time reading books, cooking and traveling.