Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Use URL Redirects for a Better Website

Having a great website isn't just about utilizing proper Search Engine Optimization. It's about having great content and navigation so your viewers enjoy the site and can make their way around the site easily. It's also about structuring your site to properly shepherd viewers when they themselves can't find what they are looking for. For example, when managing a website, you often have to relocate or remove a particular webpage.

Unfortunately, if that page is popular, your visitors may already have linked to it, and web crawlers from Google, Bing, etc. have probably already indexed your web page, resulting in high search engine rankings that you don't want to ruin. URL redirection, also called URL forwarding, is the process of forwarding one URL to a different URL. The process is enables via small snippets of code which are usually inserted between the and tags of your page's HTML code. URL redirects are a great way to provide your visitors with the information they were looking for while preventing the loss of web traffic. There are four main kinds of URL redirects: 301, 302, 307 and Meta Refresh.

301 Moved Permanently
A 301 Redirect is a permanent server-side redirect. A 301 redirect is the best method to preserve your current search engine rankings when redirecting web pages or a web site, and the most efficient and search engine friendly method for web page redirection. You implement the 301 redirect by creating a .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is a file that contains specific instructions for certain requests, including security, redirection issues, and how to handle certain errors. 301 redirects are particularly useful in the following circumstances:

   You've moved your site to a new domain, and you want to make the transition as seamless as possible.
   People access your web site through several different URLs.
   You're merging two web sites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the correct pages.

302 Found (HTTP 1.1) / Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.0)
A 302 Redirect is a temporary redirect. It has two major versions, 1.0 and 1.1. In the first version 302 referred to the status code 'Moved Temporarily'. This was changed in version 1.1 to mean 'Found'. This type of redirect is not a good choice for SEO, as the 302 redirect has been essentially made obsolete by the 307 redirect, which was introduced later.

307 Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.1 Only)
A 307 Redirect is the HTTP 1.1 successor of the 302 redirect. The major web crawlers will treat it like a 302 in some cases, redirecting browsers to another page. However, it's quite unpredictable in terms of SEO.

Meta Refresh
Meta refreshes are a type of redirect that is executed on the page level rather than the server level. They are most commonly associated with a five second count down with text "If you are not redirected in five seconds, click here".

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