We’ve all encountered broken links before, and let’s face it– broken links are the bane of any business relying on either on-site or off-site SEO. A broken link is not just an error, but it’s also an interruption in the valued customer experience. Broken links can also reduce your page and content quality ranking on Google, no matter how good the content may be. This is frustrating for both web users and business owners alike, because at one time the link was probably working just fine to begin with.
So why does this happen? How does a good link become a bad link, and what can you do about it? This is where the 301 Redirect comes in.
What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 Redirect is a method of maintaining active links when a web page has been permanently moved or has migrated. URL addresses are designed for linking from page to page, but over time they can change or become obsolete, leading users to a dead end when clicking on old links. A 301 tells the web browser that the old link is no longer working but there’s a new link to follow instead. You might, for example, use a 301 Redirect when a product page has been replaced with a new page featuring the latest model. 301 Redirects are also commonly used for misspellings of a popular URL. In the age of auto-fill and auto-correct, it’s amazing how frequently typos still send users to a non-existent site or page.
301s work by inserting a snippet of code into the website design, often in the .htaccess using Redirect Logic. For more intuitive web platforms, there may be tools available to set up redirects by simply entering both the old URL and the new URL where you would like it redirected to.
How 301 Redirects Benefit SEO
301s are an important part of modern web design that largely affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO). With SEO strategy at the heart of building a successful business website, every possible step to improve SEO should be taken. This includes having trusted, working links that help to enhance the user experience, increase product sales, and boost search engine rankings. Every 301 Redirect serves as a rescue effort for broken links wherever the original URL has been linked to or shared.
When to Use a 301 Redirect
301 Redirects are appropriate for any page that has been permanently moved. A few common instances where 301s are useful include:
- Expired or replaced product pages
- Deleted and re-written pages
- Old landing pages
- Ended promotional pages
- Any page currently locked down and unlikely to be opened again
Keeping URL links updated for new pages, or redirected from old pages, is a seamless way to continue providing a top-quality online experience, and in many cases the redirect goes entirely unnoticed by the user.
Why 301 Redirects Are Important
When potential customers click on a broken link, it can significantly interrupt the user experience. Instead of jumping to the next point of research or sale, viewers are presented with an “error” page and are forced to hit the back button. When this happens in a conversion funnel, the broken link can cause leads to lose momentum and fall from the funnel as “bounces.” In a concierge experience, your business may lose review points for broken links at the wrong point in a customer’s online journey.
Essentially, any single web page that contains a broken link can make the entire brand look bad. Customers who encounter a broken link may lose confidence in the brand, which can negatively impact the customer-business relationship in the future.
Back-link Success and Authority
You’ve worked hard for your off-site back-links. Links directing to your best blogs and popular product pages are important because they lend authority to the pages themselves, and to the website as a whole. But what happens when you need to permanently move a page that has won back-links in the past? Without a redirect, the old and now defunct page will result in a broken link. This isn’t just bad news for you, but it’s also bad for your back-linking partners.
With a 301 Redirect, every existing link to the old page will bounce smoothly over to the new, updated, or replacement page that you’ve created. Ultimately, you preserve the integrity of your content for viewers while gaining the benefit of links leading to a live page on your site.
What about linking to your own pages? A well-built website is full of internal links to optimize navigation and provide an inspired route for customers through the site. For example, blog posts will often reference one another when related topics are mentioned or briefly discussed. Service pages typically link to product pages, and product pages link to other products within the site. If any of these links lead to a page that has been moved or deleted, an internal error is created that disrupts the natural flow of site exploration. Establishing 301 Redirects saves you (and the customer) the hassle of dealing with navigation issues due to outdated links.
Outbound links are any links that you’ve established leading to other websites. Over time, these can become defunct when the external site changes. To maintain relevant and updated content, it’s important to make sure that all outbound links are still live, and that any visible data is up to date.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to periodically audit both internal and outbound links, especially those that are over two years old. When encountering a broken outbound link, don’t hesitate to reach out for a 301 from the provider, or replace the dead link with an alternative source for the desired content.
In conclusion, if your site hosts several internal and external links, or you regularly update new pages for product listings and promotions, 301 Redirects can be a game changer when it comes to SEO. If you think your redirect strategy could use some work, reach out to us today for expert web support services to get you back on track.