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SEO: What’s a Redirect?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of critiquing your site so that the search engines see it and know where to point visitors to. Basic search engine optimization techniques involve having logical page headings, pertinent meta tags (words you never see but that live in the background of your page), and quality content. These basic things will surely get your website noticed initially, but what about when it’s time to change?

When you’re changing your website to a new domain, or simply moving a page to a new location, you should provide a redirect to accompany the change. A redirect is a way to automatically move anyone who visits the old page straight to the new one. This will help people who have bookmarked your old URL, or page, not lose the content you created previously and will bring them directly to the same content in the new location. Better yet, this not only helps people, it helps search engine’s too.

Say you own Pancakes.com and have an article called strawberry┬árecipe. Your original domain for this article was “pancakes.com/strawberry-recipe”. Since your site has grown so large, you’ve decided to file your articles differently and move your strawberry recipe article to a new path called “pancakes.com/recipes/strawberry”. Now, if somebody visits the old path, “pancakes.com/strawberry-recipe”, they’ll get an ugly “404 Not Found” error. Nobody likes that, including search engines.

What you SHOULD do is provide what is called a 301 redirect. The 301 just means that it’s a permanent change (a 302 redirect is temporary should you temporarily need to move a file) and the redirect – well, you know what that does by now. The 301 redirect will pass all of your statistics and link building along to the new page and won’t hurt your SEO.

If you fail to implement a 301 redirect, both your uses and search engines will only see the blank page and you’ll lose users and lose search engine credit for the page you once had (and still have at a new location). If you implement a 301 redirect it will be just as easy for users and search engines to find your content again.

301 redirects are nice to keep around for the long-haul, but that isn’t completely necessary. After a few months, search engines will notice the change of address and new format of your URL. They will begin indexing your site to your new locations and start disregarding the old location. Users, however, may not be so keen. For that reason, we recommend keeping a 301 redirect in place for about 6 months after the change takes place if possible. Of course, you can always keep it for longer too!

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David is an avid social entrepreneur and Boston sports fanatic. He founded Diversified Data Technologies way back in 2009 and stuck around to see it grow. His party quarks include unnecessary dancing and being an overly hospitable host. When looking, he can be found capturing the twitterverse at @DLanphear, being professional on LinkedIn, or bouncing around town with Foursquare.

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