Why do I need 301’s?

If you are managing your website correctly, you will constantly be adding new pages to your website. Additional content will help your customers find more information about you and the products or services you sell. Adding pages and more content to your website will also help you with search engines.

As part of the regular management of website content, you will also delete files, change file names or move files from one place to another. All of those are normal things to do to keep your website organized and working at its best for your users and for search engines.

However, when you move files, delete files or a change a file name you create a problem. What if users bookmarked that file you just deleted? What if there is a link to the file you just moved? When the user now goes to that bookmark or clicks that link, the user looking for that page will be taken to an error page and told that the page they are looking for cannot be found (read more about page not found errors).

To avoid your customers finding error pages after you move, rename or delete files, you’ll want to create a redirect from the old page to the new page. Let’s say you changed the file name from somesite.com/a-old-page.htm to somesite.com/a-new-page.htm. The redirect you want to create will tell anybody who arrives at the “a-old-page.htm” to go to the “a-new-page.htm”. Depending on the redirect you use, browsers will redirect you automatically meaning that your customers will automatically find the new page.

There are a lot of ways to do that redirect. The best way is what is called a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is just a redirect but with a status code of 301 generated prior to the redirect occurring (learn more about status codes). The 301 status code tells the browser or search engine robot that this redirect is intentional and this redirect is permanent. Using 301 redirects ensures that your users will find the content they want instead of finding error messages.

Putting in 301 redirects requires a little technical know-how but there are tools that allow you to put in those redirects easily and painlessly while managing the rest of your content.

For more on 301 redirects, or to start setting up 301 redirects for your website’s old pages, contact me today.