For a myriad of reasons, businesses may find it necessary to move their website to a new domain. This could be due to a company rebranding, a website overhaul, or perhaps even merging with another business. Whatever the reason, website migration is a tricky process.
One pivotal aspect that is often misunderstood or overlooked is the handling of website redirections — the so-called 301 redirects. If neglected, it could lead to catastrophic results like loss of traffic, decline in website rankings, and severe damage to a brand’s online presence.
This article aims to shed light on why 301 redirects still play a critical role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) during website migration.
What Are 301 Redirects?
Before we delve into the why, let’s first understand what a 301 redirect is. Simply put, it is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. The “301” is the HTTP status code that signifies a permanent move. A 301 redirect tells search engines that a page has permanently moved to a new location, and all the accrued SEO history should be transferred to the new page.
Preserving SEO Equity
301 redirects are essential because they protect your site’s SEO equity — the value a website has built up over time through its link profile, keyword rankings, and content quality. Without 301 redirects, the search engine would treat your newly migrated site as entirely new, losing all the SEO equity you had on your previous domain.
301 redirects pass approximately 90% to 99% of link equity (also known as ‘link juice’) to the redirected page. Thus, by using 301 redirects during website migration, you ensure that your new site maintains the established search engine rankings, preserving traffic levels and potentially improving them.
User Experience (UX)
Beyond SEO, 301 redirects are also crucial for maintaining a great user experience. If you migrate your website without creating proper redirects, your visitors will encounter numerous 404 error pages. Not only is this frustrating for the user, but it also harms your site’s reputation, making it seem unprofessional and unreliable. By correctly using 301 redirects, you ensure visitors are taken to the relevant content on the new domain seamlessly, enhancing their experience and your site’s credibility.
Search Engine Crawling and Indexing
301 redirects also aid in guiding search engines when crawling your website. When you move to a new domain without setting up 301 redirects, search engines will still try to crawl and index pages on your old domain. This can lead to your new site not being indexed correctly, leading to visibility issues in search engine results.
On the contrary, correctly setting up 301 redirects will inform search engines about the changes, helping them update their index faster and more accurately. The redirects also help search engines understand the relationship between the old and new URLs, improving the likelihood of the new site inheriting the ranking position of the old site.
In an era where digital presence is paramount, the significance of 301 redirects in SEO cannot be overstated. Despite advancements in SEO techniques and algorithms, they remain a fundamental part of successful website migrations. When used appropriately, they can ensure the preservation of SEO equity, deliver a seamless user experience, and facilitate efficient crawling and indexing by search engines.
Remember, website migration is a significant undertaking that involves careful planning and execution. Don’t let your hard-earned SEO efforts go to waste by overlooking the critical role of 301 redirects. Always seek guidance from SEO experts or comprehensive SEO guides to ensure a smooth and successful website migration.