If you’ve ever driven or traveled in a car, chances are you’ve passed through construction zones with detour signs. Detour signs direct you around the construction to the new road and help get you back on track to your destination. A 301 redirect is essentially a detour sign for the Internet. 

So, what exactly is a 301 redirect? And when you should use them? 

301 redirects – also known as redirects – are when you permanently change the URL of a web page to another chosen page, giving that page the ranking power of the original. In other words, if you click the link of an old URL that has a redirect, you’ll automatically be shown the new page instead. 

When 301 Redirects are Good for Your Website

Redirects are important to use when launching a new website, changing your company or brand name, changing your domain name, merging with another company, or for other strategic reasons. They keep traffic from hitting a dead end and encountering a 404 error message, which impacts user experience (when people don’t find the content they want, they’re more likely to leave your website). Also, redirects ensure that search engines continue to index pages even if the URL has changed, which means you still show up in search results for relevant searches. 

That said, there are also some drawbacks to using 301 redirects. 

When 301 Redirects are Bad for Your Website

One of the main issues with redirects is that every time a web page loads with a redirect, another web page also needs to load, which takes up time that Google could be spending crawling page content. Even if it’s milliseconds, you want Google crawling your page content as much as possible and Google limits how much of your website’s content it will crawl at any given time (also known as its crawl budget). Ideally, you want every second Googlebot is looking at your site to be spent looking at your website’s most valuable content – the information and experiences for which users come to your site and for which you want to be known. 

Additionally, 301 redirects are bad for SEO when they are in the form of long redirect chains, redirect loops, and when they comprise the majority of a website’s links (i.e. when websites have a bunch of redirects and fewer pages with valuable, relevant, and unique content). 

  • Redirect chains are when there are multiple redirects, like when a page redirects to a page that redirects to a page – which is a big no-no. That’s when you should go in and update the redirect to point to the last page, essentially removing all of the “middle” redirects.
  • Redirect loops are when pages redirect to each other. The key here is all redirects should be properly tested and involve two pages only (the initial page and the landing page to which the initial page is redirecting).
  • 301 redirects shouldn’t be used for temporary website construction as 301 redirects are permanent (302 redirects are the way to go here).

To Redirect or Not to Redirect?

When asking yourself, “to redirect or not to redirect?” we encourage you to look at whether there’s a strategic reason to do so, and the overall user experience your website provides. If most of your web pages feature high quality content that your users find valuable, with links to related topics and similar content, you’re okay redirecting pages when it makes sense, such as when launching a new product that bundles prior products (think new staging services that include photography – you might want to redirect an old photography page to the new staging services page that includes photography to increase the chances of that page being seen as the authority and getting ranked by Google). Because redirects maintain some of the search engine authority of the original page and/or domain (though not all), they are very important in some use cases like when launching a new website, combining websites, and more.

When in doubt, connect with our team to chat through the pros and cons of 301 redirects. We can help you evaluate your real estate website’s technical SEO to make sure you get found online for the searches that matter most.