301 Redirects: Implementing Your SEO 'Change of Address' Card

If you're moving or renaming your page URLs or the directories those pages reside in, you'll need to do 301 redirects. 301 redirects are like a "change of address" card for the search engines -- they indicate that an existing page URL has moved and where the search engine can find it. However, 301 redirects ARE different from 302 redirects. 302 redirects are considered "temporary" redirects -- so be sure to use 301 redirects.

Creating redirects is a two-step process. First, you'll need to identify which pages need redirects - which are moving or changing names? I like to create a 301 redirect map using Microsoft Excel to map the old page URL to the new page URL in two adjacent columns.

Once the URLs are mapped, the next step is to create the actual redirects. How you create the 301 redirects varies by the type of Web server you have.  HTML-based pages can be on either of these server types, so check to find out if you're unsure which Web server type you use.



Linux Servers

Linux servers are one of the most common Web servers I run into. If you use WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal as a CMS or have PHP web pages, you have a Linux Web server.

Creating 301 redirects on a Linux server is incredibly simple. In the root directory of a Linux website resides a file named .htaccess. Using a few lines of code in this one file, you can easily create and update your 301 redirects as needed. A simple 301 redirect from one page to another in the .htaccess file looks like this:

redirect 301 /old/old.htm

Note that you need to leave the "http://" off the front of the old URL. Use this same line as many times as needed, continually replacing the old URL and the new URL in the template, until you have added a redirect for all of the pages in your mapping list.

IIS Servers

The other common Web server type is an IIS server, which is typically a Microsoft-based operating system. If you have ASP or pages on your site, then you have an IIS server. While 301 redirects can be done on IIS servers, the process isn't quite as simple as with a Linux server.

With IIS-based redirects, you have two options:

1. Create individual 301 redirect pages.

2. Like the .htaccess method, program, the 301 redirects in a central location -- in IIS itself.

While you can create individual redirect pages using ASP or, I don't normally recommend that route, as it can be very time- consuming and take up additional file space on your server. Ideally use the second option, programming the redirects directly into IIS itself. The only setback with option 2 is that you will need direct access to your Web server, not just FTP access, to make this change. If you host your website with a third-party, it can be a challenge to get this access or to have the host make the changes for you.

To make the changes directly to IIS, you'll need to access the Internet Information Services Manager (IIS) and follow these steps:

1. Select the Web page to redirect and choose Properties.

2. Under the File tab, select "A redirection to a URL."

3. In the text box, enter the URL of the new page.

4. Check the "A permanent redirection for this resource" and click OK.

Repeat these steps for all of the pages you have in your mapping.

Caution with 301 Redirects

Now that you know how to create 301 redirects, be careful not to get too trigger-happy and create them just because you want to rename pages often. 301 redirects should be used for SEO, but don't overdo it. Unfortunately, redirects (including 301s) don't pass all of the inbound link value from the old page to the new one. How much value is lost? It's tough to really know. Seer Interactive did a study last year, and it seemed at that time that Bing passed the least value of all the engines back then.

301s are necessary, but perhaps not as ideal as we'd like for SEO. So protect your site as best you can with a relaunch: implement your 301 redirects!

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