About six months ago, my family and I moved to a new house. There’s obviously a lot of work that goes into moving - packing everything up from the old house, getting the new house inspected, cleaned and prepped, and not to mention the actual move. There’s one thing that doesn’t seem that important, but it could make a big impact in your life if you don’t do it: filling out a change of address form with the Post Office.
Sure, there’s probably plenty of mail you get regularly that you don’t really need (I’m looking at you Bed, Bath and Beyond). But unless you want your credit score to take a hit, you probably want to get your bills at your new address. The same can be said for launching a new website. Unless you want all of the work and time you put into getting your “SEO score” up to fall by the wayside, you need to fill out a change of address form with the internet.
But the internet is a pretty large and intimidating place - even worse than the Post Office, so how do you let it know you’re changing your address? With redirects!
What are Redirects?
So what exactly is a redirect? According to Moz, a redirect is “a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested.” There are different types of redirects, but in this instance 301 redirects are the best bet. A 301 redirect tells search engines that the old URL has permanently moved to a new location and passes along most of the value of the links your old URLs had. A 302 redirect does not pass anything over to your new URL and tells search engines that the move is only temporary.
While it’s typical to see a slight decrease in traffic and keyword rankings when you launch a new site, redirects can help limit this decrease. For instance, say your site is ranking #1 in Google for a specific search query. You then redesign your site and that page that was ranking is no longer at the same address. That old page will still appear in the search engine result page (SERP) and when the user clicks the result, they would end up seeing a 404 not found error and likely go back to Google and click on the next listing, costing you a visit and potentially a lead.
Eventually Google will also learn that the page no longer exists and will remove your old page from the SERP. Implementing a 301 redirect will seamlessly point users to the new page and will help Google understand that the page moved and help increase the chances of maintaining your current #1 ranking.
Why it's Important
Time must also be taken to ensure that you’re redirecting all of the necessary pages. A great place to start is researching the pages that serve as a point of entry, or landing page, for users. That includes pages that are being linked to from external sites and pages that are ranking organically. There are many tools available to collect this data, including Google Analytics. By redirecting these landing pages, you’re ensuring you’re pointing users to your new site as early in their session as possible.
Do you really need to take the time to map out redirects for all of those pages? ABSOLUTELY! Just as you perform a home inspection, move all of your things into your new home and change your address, you should also perform tests on your site, import your current and optimized SEO elements and make sure you tell search engines where you’ve moved to with redirects.