3 Uses for 301 Redirects
I know, I couldn’t resist the numerical alliteration: 3 uses for 301 Redirects. Before we get into the uses, this post will cover some of the technical aspects you may or may not know about 301 redirects, 404 error messages, and why they matter on your website.
Technical Aspects of 301 Redirects
301 Redirects is a technical term for telling web browsers to go to a different page than the one you entered into a browser. The purpose of a redirect is to keep people from being frustrated by the error message you see so often in internet surfing: “Oops! The page you are looking for cannot be found!” This error message is technically called a 404 error message when a server receives a request for a page that it does not have.
This is an error you do not want your users to see on your page.
“Generally, 404s don’t harm your site’s performance in search, but you can use them to help improve the user experience.” – Google Webmaster Tools
Rather than sending the user this error message, a 301 message tells the browser to go from the intended address to another one of your choosing. Even though Google says, generally, it does not hurt search ranking, you do not want people to click on a search result and land on a 404 error message. This is the number one reason people use redirects: to prevent the website user from bouncing because they got an error message.
I have discovered several uses for redirects that do more than just prevent 404 error messages. Read on for more info.
Redirect to A Social Page
One use of a redirect I have discovered, and use, is to send people from an easy web address to a hard to remember URL for a social platform. For example, I use www.mybloggingcommunity.com to send traffic to my free Facebook group. With a social platform, your address always comes after the name of the platform, so even if it only a word address (many profiles use long strings of numbers), it is better to have 3-4 words that identify your business and redirect that to your social platform.
Redirect from A Page You Haven’t Built
When I was writing the review for Hobo’s Grill in Fort Mill, SC, I thought I would probably want to build a landing page focusing on restaurants and breweries, but I did not have time to do it at that moment.
With a 301 redirect, I was able to insert my preferred link to the text of the article and set up a redirect to my homepage so that readers who click on it will still see something of value and when I build my local restaurants landing page, it will already have links to it.
I noticed this with an online store that I was helping manage: if you no longer hold a certain inventory item, people will land on broken pages when they look for it. If you are selling a product on your site, this is the last possible thing you want your users to see!
If you are going to discontinue an item in your inventory management, make sure you set up a 301 to send the users on to the replacement item. If you do not have a replacement item, then send users to a landing page explaining that you no longer hold that type of item, but recommend they look at a list of other sites. This way, you are providing your user with valuable service, rather than leaving them high and dry on your desolate 404 page.
These are some of the uses I have discovered for a 301 Redirect. What are some uses you have discovered?