IN this month's article I want to explain the importance of website redirects. Redirect is the term used to describe the function of re-routing a user or search engine from one URL* to another at your request.
Why applying a redirect is important
If you don't apply a redirect after removing a page, post or product, then you will have a broken link, which is bad for your website user experience, as users are likely to click the back button and move to a competitor's site if they don't find what they are looking for.
This isn't just about users being able to locate your page, this is also about search engines which will have crawled your site and indexed it (registered the URLs). If a URL is suddenly unavailable to be crawled this is classed as a broken link and is a detrimental factor for how you rank in the search engines.
When to use a redirect
There are a wide variety of reasons you may need to redirect your website users and the search engines. The most common and labour intensive of which tends to be when you engage in a redesign of your website. A modern website should be optimised for the search engines by the company building it, which means URLs will undoubtedly change. If a URL changes (even if by just one character) then a redirect will be required from the old page to the new one, this will have to be applied for each and every change (no need to panic your web developer should have this all in hand).
Another example of when you would use a website redirect would be if you have an obsolete product and remove it, the old URL should be redirected to a similar product or preferably the new upgrade, whichever makes the most sense. This will enable those seeking the obsolete item to access an alternative, a good practice is to include in the page wording that it is an upgrade or an alternative to the previous product, otherwise you may find users hit the back button and go elsewhere.
A quite often missed faux pas is with Team Profiles especially for larger companies. If you highlight members of your team with a profile page, normal a bio and a picture and their page has individual unique URLs what happens when someone leaves? You remove their profile page, right? But what happens to that URL? If you do not redirect it, it's a broken link. Normally we would suggest you redirect the URL to a colleague in the same department or a line manager.
When applying redirects you need to consider both the user and the search engines. Does the redirect make sense? Will it make sense to the user i.e. does it have (if deemed required) an explanation in the content as to why they have reached this page rather than the one they clicked on and does it make sense for the search engine crawling the page, is it a related topic (similar or same keyword/phrase)?
The Types of Redirect
There are a number of redirect options, the most common of which are:
301 Permanent redirect
307 Temporary redirect
We almost always recommend using a 301 redirect as this will carry 90-99 per centof link equity.
Redirects, whilst appearing complex at first glance, can be a very simple process once mapped out. If you are hoping to manage your website in house it is worthwhile engaging a developer to create a short process solution for you to manage your website redirects which normally only require you to add the old and then new URL to a box form. Alternatively, you will need to add the redirect commands directly to your website files, which can get rather complex for novices.
*A URL can be found in the top bar of your browser and will compromise the domain and the page or sub domain extension. For example the URL for our SEO page looks like this: https://www.thelasthurdle.co.uk/organic-seo/
The Green part is our domain and the blue bit is the page extension, together the whole thing is the URL for that page.