What Is a Redirect? All You Need to Know

Whenever you build a website, chances are that you will have to rework some pages. This could be due to various reasons, such as improving search engine optimization (SEO), refining technical SEO, repurposing content, and so on. What do you do if a website visitor wants to access the specific page that you have reworked on your website for information?

The answer lies in redirects. Redirects are bits of code that take visitors to alternate URLs that contain the information they were looking for if the page they were trying to visit is not functional for some reason. 

What is Redirect?

Simply put, a redirect is a coding technique in which browsers automatically send users to a defined URL if they try to visit a page that is not operational or is undergoing some work. Let us take an example—you are an eCommerce website selling sports shoes, and your visitor is trying to look up the “cricket shoes” page. However, the page for cricket shoes is currently undergoing some changes and is not functional. So, you create an alternative URL for that page, which is called a redirect. This page automatically opens when the visitor tries to click the “cricket shoes” page. The visitor will be able to access all the information from the original page on this redirected page. 

When are Redirects Used?

There are many situations in which one can use redirects. Here are some main reasons to use redirects on your website:

  1. Page Maintenance – When you are reworking a page for any reason, you should use a redirect so that relevant information is still accessible to users in the meantime.
  2. Page Deletion – Sometimes, you might have to entirely remove a Web page from your website. In such cases, you can use a redirect link to lead users to a different page that offers information similar to what was on the deleted page.
  3. Mergers – When you merge two or more pages on your website, chances are that one of the original pages’ links would not survive. You can use a redirect for those pages to the merged page for the users.
  4. Change in Domain Name – If you launch a new website with an entirely new domain name, you can use redirects for your previous website on a large scale. This can help preserve all the inbound links you might have built in the old website, and make it easier for old users to access your new website.

How do Redirects Impact SEO?

Redirects usually require more time to load, as they do not reside on the main website architecture. This means slower page loading speeds, which can impact user experience and affect search engine result page (SERP) rankings. Hence, use redirects only when absolutely necessary. And even if you use redirects when not absolutely necessary, do make sure it is only for a short time. For instance, if you create a new version of a Web page on your site, use a redirect till it is created and then simply update the new URL instead of keeping the redirect. 

Redirects are useful, but they load slower than original pages in most cases. Page loading speed is a major SEO ranking factor and can reduce your website’s SERP rankings in the long run.

Types of Redirects

There are many ways in which you can use redirects for your website. All types of redirects serve their own individual purpose. Choosing one type can depend on various factors, such as how they function, the duration for which they will be used, and so on. There are two types of redirects—permanent and temporary. Within these redirects, there are other two most commonly used types, which are:

  • Server-Side Redirects (SSR)
    1. 301 Redirects
    2. 302 Redirects
  • Client-Side Redirects (CSR)
    1. JavaScript
    2. Meta Refresh

Let us take a look at how exactly these types of redirects differ, and when you should put them to use.

Permanent vs Temporary Redirects

There are two primary types of redirects – Permanent and Temporary.

As the name suggests, permanent redirects are used for the long-term, when an original URL is permanently redirected to a new page. This can happen due to various reasons such as changes in the domain name, new website, and more. Similarly, temporary redirects are used when a page is under maintenance and has been non-functional for a short while.

Whenever search engine crawlers go through a redirect link, they first analyze whether it is a permanent redirect or a temporary redirect. In case of a permanent redirect, the crawlers index the new page. The permanent redirect tells the crawlers to forget about the old page, and index the new page in its place. However, temporary redirects are recorded as such, so that the SEO of the original page remains unaffected. Hence, the crawlers will always aim for the main URL the next time a user tries to open the page since the crawlers do not index the temporary URL.

Server-Side Redirects

There is always a conversation amongst the developers about CSR vs SSR redirects. While both serve different purposes, server-side redirects are used more often due to their efficiency.

This type of redirect, as the name suggests, occurs directly on your website’s main server. Whenever the browser the user is using visits a URL that has a redirect, the browser directly sends the request to your server. This means that the server is responsible for directing the browser automatically to the redirected page. This means that the browser puts in a request for a page with URL “A”, and the server will itself redirect the browser to the page’s redirect URL “B”.

A majority of redirects out on the Web use this type of redirect, as it serves their interests of keeping things within the server. This has many benefits, including a page loading time that is at par with the original URL. There are two common types of SSR redirects:

  • 301 Redirects

A 301 redirect is used in case of a permanent redirect. For instance, if you are relaunching a website, then a 301 redirect would be the perfect option to redirect your old URLs to your new website. 301 redirects offer the huge advantage of passing on almost 100% of the link authority of the original URLs to the redirects. This means that they send a clear signal to the search engines about the permanent shift of your original URL, and index your new page. This helps preserve the SEO metrics of your old URL and prevents any downranking on SERPs.

  • 302 Redirects

302 Redirects are used for temporary reasons. For instance, if one or more of your pages are under maintenance or are being temporarily worked upon, you can use a 302 redirect for the original URLs. These redirects are automatically treated by the search engines as temporary pages, which means that the SEO of the page will mostly remain unaffected.

Client-side Redirects

Client-side redirects use the technique of putting the responsibility of redirection on the client—the browser. The browser handles the redirect request itself, and the server does not play any role in this process. In client-side redirects, when a user clicks on a URL that has been redirected, the server tells the browser to “Try asking for this new URL instead”. 

This process happens twice for confirmation from the browser’s end. This is why client-side redirects tend to take more time to process and load. Since there are no changes made in the server, the source code directly stores the redirects. This leaves the SEO of your page vulnerable. Hence, it is suggested to not use client-side redirects for your pages. There are two main types of client-side redirects:

  • Meta Refresh

This type of CSR is set up by the developers by placing a meta tag of the HTML document in its header. This is an easy way to set up a redirect. However, it also takes users several more seconds to get redirected to the new page from the browser. This can negatively affect the SEO and usability of your page. Moreover, the link authority is passed on to the target page if meta refresh is used.

  • JavaScript

You can also use JavaScript to redirect a page. However, this means that the user must have JavaScript enabled on their browser in order to be redirected. While implementing, do ensure you are adhering to the guidelines.

Master Redirects for Your Website

It needs expertise in the domain to execute redirects without negatively impacting your SEO. Infidigit is a leading SEO company that can help you in implementing all types of redirects and driving results. With dedicated SEO experts at hand to assist you with the process all the way through, we ensure that your redirects are executed seamlessly without your rankings being affected negatively.

With Infidigit’s SEO services, you can set up and optimize all types of redirects and technical SEO elements of your website to achieve the best rankings on SERPs. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

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What Is a Redirect? All You Need to Know