Last week I discussed what a 404 page is and how it is important for your SEO efforts. I also mentioned tips on creating a custom 404 page for your site, so it is consistent with your brand and how it can possibly save a conversion. Today I decided to continue on with the coding theme and talk about 301′s what they are and why they are so important. Reading on you will find that it’s not just an area code in Maryland.
What is a 301?
A 301 or 301 redirect is another HTTP status code that tells the search engines that a website or page has permanently moved to another location. This is the most common type of redirect that is used by search engine optimization individuals. A simple way to think of this is a change of address form when you move to another house.
What’s the Big Deal?
The reason this is so important is that search engines do not penalize you if you do a 301, but do penalize you with other redirects. A 302 redirect is yet another HTTP status code and is one that is most commonly used. The problem with using a 302 to redirect a page or a site is that it is temporary NOT permanent. One of the reasons is that they can cause your SEO efforts harm as 302 are often used by spammers and use them so if you don’t want your site to be frowned upon in search engines, I suggest always using 301 redirects.
Another reason you should use a 301 redirect is to avoid pages of your site being seen as duplicate content. For example if you type in www.yoursite.com, www.yoursite.com/index.html and yoursite.com and all three URL address remain unchanged, you will need to perform a 301 redirect. Search engines see three different pages, when in fact it is only one page. Instead, first pick which URL you wish to remain unchanged–usually the www.yoursite.com. Then perform a 301 redirect for both www.yoursite.com/index.html and yoursite.com. If it is done successfully, when you type in yoursite.com or www.yoursite.com/index.html, it will automatically switch to www.yoursite.com in the browser. This now tells the search engine that there is one page, not three. Search engines are not fans of duplicate content and if your site has too many pages with the same content and different URLs, it could cause your site to not be indexed in the search engines and cause spiders to crawl your site less frequently. Search engines want to give out the best possible information available and do not want to show the same page twice within their results. It also costs search engines resources to spider and index your content, so they will do it less and less if your site is not accurate and consistent.
Finally, another reason you want to use a 301 redirect is that over time your website and pages gain value. Search engines give credit to sites that have been around long as well as if your pages have lots of other websites linking to those pages. The last thing you would want to do is lose all that value and link strength that has taken you a lot of time to gain. A 301 redirect will prevent you from losing all that link popularity from scratch as well as prevent you from losing your rank in search engines and letting your competitor out rank you.
If you are unsure about how to do a 301 redirect, or you feel your overall SEO and Social Media Marketing efforts could be improved, LinkShare now provides these services and we would be more than happy to assist you in succeeding in these areas.
- By Victoria Edwards, SEO/Social Media Internet Marketing Specialist