What is a 301 redirect? This question points to a critical issue for anyone working in digital marketing, e-commerce, and online sales.

Before answering that question, let’s first ask, what is routing in general? Answering this will provide a much better foundation for understanding 301 redirects. 

Routing is the process of automatically redirecting a web page visitor to another web page. In other words, a 301 redirect means automatically directing a visitor from the current URL to a different one. If you haven’t worked on an e-commerce site or a website before, you might not have encountered the concept of 301 redirects. However, if you think you might need it now or in the future, it’s essential to learn the details about this process.

In this article, created by the professionals at Fast Panda, we will cover all the essentials you need to know about the 301 redirect.

What is 301 redirection?

Have you ever encountered those 404 error pages while browsing the internet? It’s a common occurrence, but this one is a 301 Redirect. 

301 Redirect is a command used to direct visitors to a different site when the original page on a website is no longer in use. It’s like providing them with a new address to visit. This helps visitors find the new page. It also informs search engines like Google that the old page is permanently gone.

If you don’t set up a 301 redirect when you change a URL on your site, visitors will encounter that dreaded 404 error page. Nobody wants that, right? Plus, it disrupts your SEO efforts. The crucial thing to remember is that a 301 redirect signifies a permanent switch from one URL to another. It’s not like those temporary 302 redirects. In a different section of this article, we have explored the difference between the 301 and 302 redirects. But for now, let’s explore when to use 301 redirection.

When do we use 301 redirects?

They come in handy in various situations on web pages. Experts often opt for the permanent solution, the 301 redirection, especially during complex website transitions or design changes. You might ask why it is permanent. Because it ensures a smooth transition without disrupting site traffic. If executed correctly, you can see results in less than an hour.

How do 301 redirects work?

When you implement a 301 redirection, the old page still lingers in the system for a while. However, once you link the old URL to the new one, search engines will gradually stop displaying the old URL. It might be a matter of days or even months for the old URL to disappear entirely from search results.

Why is it important to use 301 redirects on e-commerce sites?

E-commerce has become incredibly common. Many website managers need both technical and strategic details to make their sites stand out. Even the smallest steps can have a big impact. They can either cause you to lose customers or help increase your site traffic.

In this fiercely competitive environment, you don’t want to lose customers to your rivals. Expanding your customer base and increasing the time they spend on your site can lead to more profit and motivation.

Your goal might be to change your website architecture, indicate that a product is no longer available, or remove a page completely. What happens when a customer is focused on a specific product but it’s no longer available? 301 redirects come into play here. They direct visitors to similar products, allowing them to explore alternatives. This redirection increases the chance of positive feedback.

It’s a good idea when periodic products, services, opportunities, and campaigns expire. Instead of hitting an error page, visitors are redirected to your homepage or a related page. With 301 redirects, your customer will easily move to the new URL.

But are there times when 301 redirects aren’t the best choice? Sometimes, you need to use 302 redirects instead. We’ll discuss 302 redirects and their different uses compared to 301 redirects later in our talk. By strategically using 301 redirects, you can keep your customers engaged and ensure they find what they’re looking for, even when things change on your site.

How to perform 301 redirects according to different server software?

Whether you’re using WordPress or editing your Htaccess file, mastering 301 redirects is a must for anyone in web management. Let’s learn how to do it with different server software.

Simply put, 301 redirect is a way to permanently redirect one URL to another. Now, this process varies depending on the server software you use. Here, we’ll focus on two of the most commonly used software sites: WordPress and Htaccess.

301 Redirects on WordPress

Performing a 301 redirect on WordPress is straightforward, thanks to the many plugins available. Plugins like Redirection make it easy.

  • First, you need to install and activate the plugin.
  • Then, you can go to the plugin settings, where you’ll find an option to add a new redirection.
  • Enter the old URL and the new URL you want to redirect to.
  • Click ‘Add Redirect,’ and you’re done!

Now, let’s move on to Htaccess.

301 Redirects Using Htaccess

This method is a bit more technical but very powerful. The .htaccess file is a configuration file used by Apache, Nginx, and IIS web servers. Here’s how you can set up a 301 redirect using Htaccess:

  • Access your website’s root directory through FTP or your hosting control panel.
  • Locate the .htaccess file. If you don’t see it, make sure your FTP client is set to show hidden files.
  • Open the .htaccess file in a text editor.
  • To create a 301 redirect, add a line of code. For example, to redirect from an old page to a new page, you would write:

Redirect 301 /old-page.html http://www.yoursite.com/new-page.html

  • Save the changes and upload the .htaccess file back to the server.

Here are some additional examples of .htaccess URL redirects:

  • To redirect an old page to a new page, you would use:

Redirect 301 /your-old-page.html /your-new-page.html

  • To redirect your entire website to a new URL, the code would be:

Redirect 301 / https://yenisite.com

  • To redirect URLs without ‘www’ to include ‘www,’ you’d use the following code:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^website.com [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.website.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

  • Conversely, if you need to redirect from ‘www’ to without ‘www’, you can use this:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.website.com [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://website.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

  • If you use an Nginx server, you handle 301 redirects through the Nginx.conf file. For example:

rewrite ^/old-page/$ /your-new-web-page/ permanent;

301 Redirects on an IIS Server

This one is quite simple:

  • First, you start by right-clicking on the file you’re directed to in the Internet Services Manager.
  • Now, in the section labeled “a redirection to a URL,” you’ll need to add your new domain address.
  • Finally, click on “Apply.” 

What are the differences between 301 and 302 Redirects?

Knowing this difference is crucial because your choice of routing type changes based on your needs. 

A 302 redirect moves the current URL address to a different one temporarily. Unlike a 301 redirect, it isn’t permanent. A 302 redirect is perfect for situations like updating the design of a page or making temporary changes.

For instance, you have a product that’s been discontinued and won’t be back in stock. In this case, you can use a 301 redirect to send your customers to your home page. 

Now, if there’s a similar product available, you can direct your visitors to that alternative by updating the URL of the discontinued product. 

If a product is out of stock but will be back soon, a 302 redirect is ideal. It allows you to guide visitors to a page with similar products without removing the original product page. This way, you maintain your site’s flow and keep potential customers engaged. 

But what about technical issues on the site?

When there’s a technical problem, a 302 redirect can send visitors to an active page, keeping the site’s flow intact. This is because search engines treat 302 redirects as temporary. In other words, they ignore the new page domain and don’t record the directed domain. In contrast, with a 301 redirect, the new page’s URL becomes the basis for future visits.

In summary, choosing the right type of redirect depends on your purpose. Use a 302 redirect for temporary situations and a 301 redirect for permanent ones.

How to cancel a 301 redirect?

You can cancel 301 redirects, which you set up using platforms like WordPress, or by modifying your htaccess file by simply undoing the steps you initially took. 

A crucial tip: when you need to cancel a redirect, it’s often better to use a 302 redirect instead of a 301. Because this helps prevent any potential damage to your page.

Conclusion

301 redirect tells search engines that a page has been permanently moved to a new location. If you want to keep your customers and maintain interaction with them, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits of 301 redirects. These redirects are not just good for SEO; they also protect your site and visitors from potential issues. Plus, they can increase the time visitors spend on your site and positively influence their decisions to explore different products.

To turn the problems on your e-commerce site into advantages and stay active, you need to master the industry’s best features. In a highly competitive environment, standing out means being dynamic and adapting to new trends.