February 3, 2023

How to Set Up 301 Redirects and When You Should Do it

If you’ve been doing a lot of work on your website, you may have come across the term “301 Redirect” – but what does it mean and is it important? We’ve seen websites lose over 50% of their traffic without the proper set-up and application of 301 redirects, especially when migrating a website. A 301 is a status code from a website that tells a browser if a specific URL has been removed or redirected. This means that when a user clicks on the old page, they’ll be automatically transported to the new page, whether this is on the existing website or a brand new one. They’re extremely valuable for marketers if you need to delete a page, create a new website for rebranding, move an existing page to a different part of your website or more.

So, how do you set up a 301 redirect? Implementing your 301 redirects depends on a variety of factors, including your CMS and reasoning. For example, redirecting a whole website is a different procedure than redirecting a single webpage. Usually, the most efficient way to add a redirect is through the server itself, although other options are available. 

In this article, we’ll guide you through implementing and using 301 redirects on your website to help you to understand what may feel like a daunting technical task. 

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How Do You Set Up a 301 Redirect?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to adding a 301 redirect to your website. With each website being unique, each will have a different approach that depends on your server or CMS. We’ve broken down the typical 3 answers for this question below.

Adding a 301 Redirect Onto Your Server

Digital marketers around the world have voted this as the most effective method of adding a permanent redirect to your website. But, it comes at a cost. Not only is this method more complex, but it also runs a higher risk of mistakes being made that could damage your website. That is why it is advised that a developer or IT team add a redirect directly onto your server. 

Usually, this is done by applying the correct code onto the root of your site, otherwise known as the document root or web root. For example, if your CMS runs on Apache, then to redirect a single page you’d simply need to add the following coding:

Redirect 301 /old-page/ /new-page/

Adding a 301 Through WordPress

If you’re using WordPress, then you’re in luck! There are useful plugins you can easily utilise to correctly implement your 301 permanent redirects, such as this one. All you need to do here is simply download and activate the plugin, and then fill out the table stating your old URL and new URL, and then you’re ready to go. 

Adding a 301 Through Shopify

Adding a permanent redirect on Shopify has been made nice and easy. To get started, simply head over to your Settings page and click on Apps and Sales Channels. From there, click ‘Open Sales Channel’, then ‘Navigation’, then click on ‘URL Redirects’. You simply need to copy and paste in the URL you want to redirect users from, and the new URL that they’re being directed to. Once that’s completed, just press save and everything is completed. 

When Should You Use a 301 Redirect?

Now you know how to implement a 301, it’s important to know when you need to use them. There are many typical scenarios where a redirect is required, such as if you need to:

The first two bullet points are the most common reason for needing to use a redirect. For example, if you’re an e-commerce website and a product has gone out of stock, but there’s a replacement product that meets all the same criteria, then a redirect would be useful here. Out-of-stock products can damage your website rankings, and if there’s no possibility of the product returning then using a 301 could be more useful than permanently deleting the page, as you’ll keep your PageRank authority if it was a high-performing page. 

To learn more about what factors affect your page rankings, check out our recent blog that details the most common Google ranking factors

Similarly, if you were looking to rebrand your website, for instance, if you’ve changed your company name, then you can simply move your website onto your new domain without losing any valuable rankings or domain authority. That makes a permanent redirect the obvious choice in this scenario. 

If your website uses folders to organise its website hierarchy, then you will need to learn how to use permanent redirects if you wish to move folders onto your main domain, and vice versa. This simply means that the page gets moved into the site’s root, and a redirect here is useful to gain either more traffic to your main website. 

Why are 301 Redirects Important for SEO?

There are many different scenarios where a permanent redirect will boost the performance of your SEO and overall website rankings. We’ve narrowed down some of the most common reasons below:

There has long been debates within the SEO industry about whether blogs perform better within a subfolder rather than on a root domain or subdirectory; while there’s no conclusive answer to support either side, it is largely agreed that blogs should be redirected into a subfolder unless there are technical issues preventing you from doing so. 

We know what you’re thinking; why would I want to permanently redirect my web page onto another if they’re not the same? Well, ask yourself this. Are they really that different? 

Search engines such as Google don’t only penalise your web pages if they’re trying to rank for the same keyword, but it also penalises you if two pages have the same intent. With this in mind, if the two pages aren’t really that different after all, then it makes sense to merge the two into one high-performing page using a permanent redirect. 

If you’ve recently purchased a new website, such as in the instance of buying out one of your competitors, then a permanent redirect from their website onto yours will be beneficial. Alternatively, you could have an existing old website that you can redirect to your new shiny website. No matter the SEO value of the redirect, it’ll definitely add value overall. 

As previously mentioned, if you’re an e-commerce company and a product has recently gone out of stock with no intent of it returning, then these out-of-stock products could be damaging your rankings. To avoid losing your top positions, it’s best to redirect these old pages onto new, similar ones that match the same intent. If the old page had any SEO value, then that value will simply be transferred to the new page. 

Similar to the cannibalisation issue, if you have two pages on your website that are using similar keywords and have the same intent, then it makes sense to merge them into one high-performing page using a 301. 

If your website is suffering from penalisation on search engines as a result of broken links, then a 301 redirect is the best way to solve the issue. Here, you simply need to find another page on your website that matches the keywords and intent to replace the broken page/links with, or create a new page to redirect to. 

Get Help with Your 301 Redirects from Wildcat Digital 

We understand that technical SEO is complex. That’s why our expert team is here to help. If you’re struggling with issues with your redirect, simply get in touch with one of our useful team members and we’ll be able to support you 


Are 301 and 302 Redirects the Same Thing?

No. A 301 redirect is a permanent change, while a 302 is a temporary redirect 

When Would You Use a 302 Redirect?

Only use a 302 redirect if you’re going to make the old page live again or if you’re going to set up a new one.

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Rachel Moore

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