Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on September 1st, 2009

301 Redirects Explained


The Internet is a big place. What you thought was once there might no longer be. Trippy, isn’t it? Sometimes it is necessary to move, delete, update or change your website or its URL. A 301 redirect sends a user from an old homepage to a new URL.

It’s a lot like forwarding your mail but, instead, it forwards those accessing your site. The code “301” is interpreted as “moved permanently” (“302” is temporarily) to a new location. It’s the most efficient and search engine friendly method for web page redirection. 301 redirects aren’t penalized by search engines like some other types of redirects are.

A common use for a 301 redirect is when there is permanent movement of a site or page to a new location, for whatever reason. This could be the consolidation with a newly acquired competitor’s site, or the change of a URL to better reflect the site’s content. Maybe the old site’s parents kicked it out and told it to get a job. When requested, you want the search engine to find the appropriate site address and know that all current links on the web to the old site now belong to the new one.

It may seem suspicious if all links to your site are 301 redirects because, to the search engine, it does not seem natural. The idea is for a site to link organically to an accomplished by a site that is naturally a great resource for users. Only use 301 redirects as necessary. In the past, 301 redirects haven’t had the best of reputation. Some people chose to abuse them, using them on a large scale, avoiding actually trying to get people to come to their sites naturally.

When attempting to access a page or site that has been deleted or moved without the proper redirect, users get a “404 File not found” error. Show up. Site’s gone. No note. Don’t make people hunt for your site, unable to link to or access it. Show them the way.