SEO ranking or the position of a website in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) means a lot to every website owner, especially when the sites are to bring profits to their businesses. There are lots of factors that influence whether your website stands higher on the SERP when web-surfers do a search. WordPress redirect is one of the easiest to control and helps maintain your site’s SEO ranking.
Simply put, a WordPress redirect is a way to send your visitors to an alternative URL instead of the one they initially requested. Redirects are useful in many cases and help bring much better user experience than 404 error pages.
The Closed Restaurant
Let’s take a look at this scenario.
A few weeks ago, your friend recommended an amazing restaurant in her area and you can’t wait to take your family to dine there this weekend. After a hard-working week, you’re all excited and get well prepared for the fantastic dinner with your family members. When you arrive, you see a closed door and a sign that says: “We’ve moved!”. Unfortunately, you can’t seem to find its new address. Now that everyone is all starving and upset, you have no choice but to find the nearest restaurant to have dinner.
Disappointing, isn’t it? Not only does the restaurant lose a customer but it also leaves a bad experience for you. In fact, restaurant owners should have put up a contact number or an address of the new store to send all current and new customers to the right place.
Why WordPress Redirects are Important
Now think about this scenario from a search engine crawler’s perspective. The crawler wants to index your WordPress webpage, but it’s been moved or temporarily under repair. Hence, those crawlers fail to identify the page. Having no human emotion of disappointment, it makes notes of these negative results instead. Shortly after that, your site starts losing its ranking in search results.
Some website owners, unfortunately, are not aware of this. They think removing a web page is insignificant. In fact, it could frustrate your visitors if they cannot find the pages they’ve bookmarked to get back later. What’s worse, you’ll be losing all the old pages’ traffic and backlink profile.
Without redirects being performed, your web pages are a lot like the closed restaurant in the scenario above which causes your site visitors to move on to another website pretty quickly. Web crawlers, likewise, will have no idea of which web pages to return for indexing. That explains why WordPress redirects are essential to maintaining your SEO rankings and providing the best user experience to your visitors.
Different Types of Redirects
The 3 main types of WordPress redirects that we will take a look at are 301, 302 and Meta Refresh. All redirect types share the same mission that tells site visitors and search engines that the pages they requested are no longer active, and point them to your preferred URLs. Having said that, each redirect accomplishes that mission in a slightly different way.
301 – Permanent Redirects
Most of the time, you’ll be dealing with 301 redirects. So what’s it?
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that takes users and web crawlers to a new URL when the original page no longer exists. It is intended to be used when there are no plans to reverse the change.
Why 301 Redirects are Important for SEO
301 redirects are generally considered the best solution for SEO strategy and also recommended by Google for most URL changes. It takes time and effort to build your WordPress site and show search engines that your site is valuable. Therefore, it’s a pity to lose SEO rankings when you’re in the midst of reorganizing your website page architecture.
With the right set up, 301 WordPress redirects will inform your users’ brower and the search engines that the page they’re trying to reach has been permanently moved. Better yet, it passes all existing values of the original web pages to the redirected one including ranking power and associated traffic. As a result, you now can feel safe to remove or repair the outdated pages while redirecting users to a new location without any adverse effects.
When to Use 301 Redirects
With 301 redirects in use, the search engines will not determine your page as an error, and continue to send traffic to the new page. There are several circumstances where a 301 redirect is utilized:
- Transfer a website domain
- Update/ restructure a website
- Remove a page, e.g. discontinued products or services
- Convert a website from HTTP to HTTPs
- Change URL structure/ CMS
- Fix wrong backlinks
Even though 301 redirects prove useful in many cases, there will be certain situations when 302 redirects come in handy. Let’s explore what a 302 redirect is.
302 – Temporary Redirects
A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect used when a page has temporarily been moved, but will eventually be back in the future.
When to Use 302 Redirects
Using a 302 redirect is less common than the previous one, but it’s more appropriate in some specific cases, e.g removing a product on a WooCommerce website. Let’s take a look at this example.
A product is no longer available for sale, since it is seasonal or temporarily out of stock. Therefore, a 302 redirect should be created so that potential customers can be directed to the alternative category page or homepage. When customers are not able to order the products they want, it makes sense to show them similar products that are currently available.
302 redirects prove an ideal choice when it comes to conducting A/B testing for a web page. In this case, a 302 redirect is considered a good solution to soft launch a web page and make changes to help deliver better user experience.
What Happens if a Webmaster Mistakenly Uses a 302 Redirect for a 301 Redirect
When a 302 redirect is used instead of a 301 redirect, you’re making it more difficult for the web crawlers to determine the correct page to do its job. Search engines are programmed to list the only one page to show up in search results, accordingly, the original page that is no longer available can be the one indexed.
Webmasters sometimes intentionally choose a 302 over a 301 redirect to avoid Google aging delay. However, this will be an issue for Google, since it needs to consider whether a 301 redirect is meant to be used in the first place. This practice not only lowers the site SEO ranking, but also impacts your site’s traffic and revenue negatively.
Meta Refresh Redirects
A meta refresh redirect enables a page to display a countdown with the text “You’ll be transferred to another page in 10 seconds”. It’s mostly used after a purchase is made as a way to bring your full-circle back to the main website page or a special landing page. The problem with meta refreshes, from an SEO perspective, is that they can be slow and that’s not good for search engines as well as your site’s performance.
Meta refreshes can be seen more SEO-friendly when you speed up the time it takes for the refresh to occur. Rather than 10 seconds, it should be 3 to 5 seconds. This also helps avoid search engine optimization’s issues. Plus, those who don’t want to wait around will stay at your site rather than navigating to another one.
There are hardly any drawbacks to using WordPress redirects, especially when it helps improve your site visitors’ experience and maintain SEO rankings, which are really hard to build yet easily to lose. Obviously, different types of WordPress redirects and how each one affects your site’s SEO could be challenging for any WordPress beginners to get familiar with and make use of effectively.
Now that you’ve fully understood what WordPress redirect is and why it plays an essential part to your website, it’s time to put into practice what you’ve learned from this article!