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Use a 301 Redirect to a Relocated Web Page for Better SEO Results

If you have to permanently move a page on your Web site, you can automatically redirect your Web visitors to the page’s new URL by using a 301 redirect. The 301 redirect is the preferred and most SEO-friendly form of redirect.

Also known as a permanent redirect, the 301 informs a search engine that the Web page has been permanently moved to a new location. This is the cleanest redirect because there’s no ambiguity — the search engines get a clear message that one page is history, and some other URL has now taken its place.

To put it in perspective, say your favorite barbeque restaurant closes without your knowledge. Fortunately for you, the next time you head over for their mouth-watering ribs, you see a sign in the window: “WE'VE MOVED TO A NEW LOCATION: 123 Yummy Drive.” This sign enables you to get back in the car and head to the restaurant’s new location without too much inconvenience.

A 301 redirect is kind of like that “WE’VE MOVED” sign, but better. On the Web, visitors don’t even have to realize you’ve moved. Your Web site automatically redirects them to the new URL and displays the new page.

If you’ve registered a vanity URL (an easy-to-remember domain that isn’t your main business domain name), you should put a 301 redirect on it so that when users go to the vanity URL, they’re taken to your real site instead. For example, people interested in a currently playing movie often type the movie title directly into their browser’s address bar, so movie studios try to register those URLs in advance. For the 2008 movie The Dark Knight, if you typed in www.thedarkknight.com, you were automatically redirected to http://thedarkknight.warnerbros.com/dvd/, which was a subdomain on the Warner Brothers studio site. That’s because the studio wisely secured the movie title URL and then redirected it to the actual site using a 301, thereby capturing more Web site traffic.

When a search engine encounters a 301 redirect, it does three things:

  • Drops the now defunct page from its index, so that that page won’t be included in future search results.

  • Includes the new page in the index, available for listing on search results pages.

  • Transfers link equity from the old page to the new.

The 301 redirect is the SEO-recommended form of redirect because it reduces duplicate content within the search engine index. Duplicate content hurts your search engine rankings because search engines don’t want to show their users results that are essentially the same. Therefore, if a search engine detects that two pages it has indexed are the same, it filters out the less-authoritative page, so that only one of the pages can appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). Because a search engine responds to a 301 by dropping the old page entirely from its index, the chance of having two pages in the index with the same content is nil.

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