Redirects -- How 301 and 302 redirects impact Search Engine Optimization -- Avantia Inc.

 

Redirects can be a powerful tool to accompany your website or Content Management System (CMS) application.  However, getting started can be tricky and confusing for those new to software development and website management.   By giving a basic overview of the terms and providing examples, I hope to clear some of that confusion up.  This post will cover Content Management System redirects, alias’, reasons for using them, how they can effect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the difference between apache and CMS redirects.

Website Redirect

A URL redirect is a webserver function that sends a user from one URL to another. URL redirects commonly take the form of an automated redirect that uses one of a series of status codes defined within the HTTP protocol.

EX: The domains example.com, example.net, and example.org have all been registered by a company whose website is example.com. Users who enter example.org or example.net in their Web browser will see the URL change to example.com as they reach the destination, example.com.

Website Alias

A website alias is a way to link one domain name to another. A website alias is a nickname for a website, while a website redirect is a signpost from one URL to another. 

EX: The domains example.net and example.com have been registered by a company. Entering either in a Web browser will find the same content.

 

Reasons for using website aliases or website redirects

·         Direct viewers to a different page

·         Handle common misspellings - A Web browser user might incorrectly type a URL, for example, gogle.com instead of google.com. Organizations often register commonly misspelled versions of their domains and point them to the correct URL.

·         Re-branding - Similarly, an organization may purchase another organization and choose to re-brand the domain name or multiple domains (organizationA.org and organizationB.org become organizationC.org). Viewers likely will continue to use the old bookmarks that will send them to the new site.

Reasons for using website redirects

·         Search Engine Optimization SEO - Website redirects have higher rankings in search engines than website aliases. The destination site gets the search engine rankings. The originating site does not.

·         Using a "moved permanently" website redirect to a new URL will speed up visitors' subsequent visits to the same page.

·         Re-branding - When a company's name changes, it is useful for site visitors to see the new company website URL in their Web browsers. Website redirects show the URL change to the new address, website aliases do not.

·         Visitor confidence - Again, taking advantage of showing the URL changing, an e-commerce company might want to show visitors that if they enter http://..., it will change to the secure https://....

·         Redirect only some portions of your website. During a website upgrade, a company may wish to redirect each section of the site to the new version as it is completed.

·         Redirect a group of URLs to another site. If a company sells a department that has multiple URLs, it can use a single redirect to point all those URLs to another site.

·         Redirect accesses are logged separately. The original access is logged to the original domain's log file and the redirected access is logged by the destination domain's log file. This enables site managers to see how much traffic the original accesses are contributing to the redirected accesses.

·         The destination URL is on a different server than the origin URL. Only redirects can point to a different server.

Redirects In terms of Search Engine Optimization -- SEO

A 302 URL redirect means that the page was temporarily moved, while a 301 means that it was permanently moved.

301s are good for SEO value, while 302s aren't because 301s instruct clients to forget the value of the original URL, while the 302 keeps the value of the original and can thus potentially reduce the value by creating two, logically-distinct URLs that each produce the same content (search engines view them as distinct duplicates rather than a single resource with two names).

Apache VS. CMS Rewrites

Redirects can happen at different levels, aliasing and non-special purpose URL redirects usually happen at the higher apache level while other URL redirects that depend on request header information (user agent string, referrer, host, request-uri) happen at the CMS level.  This can result in multiple URL rewrites taking on place on many different levels especially in any environment that may include custom software development.  The following diagram illustrates what a layered environment might look like.

 

Diagram

 

                                                   redirect.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closing

In closing, you can see that there are many benefits to using URL redirects, alias’ and rewrites.  They are used across all of the major websites and CMS applications across the net.  While this is just a starting point, there is much more to cover on the URL redirects.  For a more technical approach, be sure to check back as I will cover the technical basics of URL rewriting using the Tuckey URLRewriteFilter.

 

Resources

http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.2/rewrite/intro.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HTTP_status_codes

https://www.olympus.net/services/hosting-services/website-aliases-redirects-and-seo

http://www.w3.org/Protocols/rfc2616/rfc2616-sec5.html