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Redirect The SEO Way

Redirecting Files The Right Way

Last edited on 09/10/2021

There are many reasons one would choose to rename or move a webpage. Renaming or moving a webpage for any reason creates problems for you, users, and the search engines. In this article, We're going to discuss effective page redirection techniques, and what to avoid.

Issues With Links

Every link on your site must be updated to point to the new URL name. This is not something you can hurry and forget about. If your site is large, you will inevitably make mistakes, mainly forgetting to update a link or two. When visitors click on your links, they will get the dreaded 404, “page not found” error, robots, spiders, and indexers, search engines, avoiding your site.

Don’t let these things happen. Keep up with your 301 redirects. Make sure all your links point to the new page names. If your site is large or you have a lot of links, this will take a bit of extra effort, but it’s worth it. It will take time for the search engines to catch up to your new page name. Sometimes it can take months before they do.

Page Rank Decline

Page Rank is a proprietary algorithm developed by Google. It is represented by a 1-10 number scale, with 10 being ideal. It is intended to be a representation of how useful and popular a given page is.

One of the most important ranking factors in PR is link popularity. Link Popularity is a representation of how many quality and relevant sites link to your page. Achieving a high PageRank for your pages, especially if you don’t have a really unique website with exceptional and highly sought after content is increasingly difficult and time consuming. PR is one of the most crucial ranking factors because it tells you what other people think about a certain site. For example, a highly ranked page will probably be one that lots of other people find valuable.

If you are operating a commercial site, in a competitive market, then it takes a lot of time and hard work to build a good page PR. When you rename a page and remove the old page, you also lose the PR of the page. Your renamed page will be seen as a new page, with a new PR ranking.

Bad Ideas To Avoid

Duplicate content

Avoid the temptation to merely copy the page, having two identical versions with different names. This solution is not viable because search engines may penalize you, thinking that you are trying to manipulate them by using the duplicate content technique. Even if your content is not penalized, it will be filtered, at the discretion of the search engines, which can yield undesirable results.

Custom Error Message

Another terrible idea to avoid is to create a custom error page for the renamed page. This will cause issues with both search engines and users. Search engines will see your new page as non-existent, while users will be irritated having to sift through your site to find what they're looking for.

Meta Redirect

You could use a meta refresh in a web page with the old page URL. The meta refresh could be set to redirect the user immediately or after a delay. With the delayed redirect, you could place an additional message, informing users of the change. This was one of the most commonly used techniques of the past.

The issue with this technique is that it is commonly used by spammers to trick search engines, and it should be avoided. Search engine spammers create a page that is optimized for certain keywords and phrases, it usually has no real content. The page is then picked up by search engines, but when a person clicks on your page, they are taken to another website that is unrelated. Most search engines have filters to detect this type of deception, and it can get your website penalized or even banned.

The Solution

One of the most efficient solutions is the 301 redirect. This solution is available to most websites hosted on an Apache server. The 301 redirect is visitor, robot, spider, crawler, and search engine friendly. In most cases, a 301 redirect can be implemented by adding a line to the .htaccess file.

When a visitor requests a webpage, your web server checks for a .htaccess file. The.htaccess file is where you put your one-line instructions for certain requests, such as when you want to force all visits to your site to use https instead of http, or when you need to redirect someone to another page if the URL they entered into their web browser is incorrect. The code 301 means that the page has been moved permanently. The web server notes this in its log files, and the URL of the missing or renamed page is noted, followed by a space, then followed by the new location or file name.

There are hosting providers who offer a 301 redirect service through their control panels. So you don’t have to modify the .htaccess file directly. Instead, they provide a user-friendly interface for this. Check with your hosting provider to see what the optimal way to do a 301 redirect is in your case.

Find the .htaccess file in the root directory of where all your website files are located. If there is no .htaccess file, you can create one with Notepad or a similar text editor. Make sure you give the file the name ".htaccess".

If a.htaccess file already exists with lines of code in it, do not modify any of the existing lines, unless you are familiar with the functions of the file. Just scroll down past all the existing code, leave a line space, then type in the following example:

redirect 301 file_path/dir/page.ext https://domain.tld/folder/NEW-Page1.htm

Do not add "http://..." in the first part of the statement, just add the file path of the page. Also, be sure to add a space between the file path and redirect path.

redirect 301

Instructs that a status code of 301 for the page should be redirected.

file_path/dir/page.ext

The path and filename of the moved file

https://domain.tld/folder/NEW-Page1.htm

Directs where the old file has moved.

Save the file, upload it back into your website. Type the old address into your browser, you should be automatically redirected to the new page.

Implementing 301 redirects is the best way to preserve your rankings when moving files. It can take several months for the search engines to fully update their index with the filename. During the transition, you may see search engines switch between the old and new versions of the page, this is normal. As the search engine updates, the old page will eventually drop off.

In conclusion, the best way to rename and move files on your website, while preserving your search engine ranks and providing the best experience for both human and robot users, is the 301 redirect.

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