The Shifting Impact of Redirects

3xx (shorthand for any 301, 302, 307, or 308) redirects are a web server response code designed to tell your web browser what to do if a page is missing or doesn’t load correctly. They also inform search engines like Google and Bing about the same things, and these settings can have a massive impact on how your site performs in SERP ranking, or Search Engine Results Page ranking.

Conventional SEO statistics and research data has shown us over the years that 3xx redirect have an impact on SERP for your website. Changing pages, domains, or moving content has traditionally had a negative impact on page rank.

Old Page Redirect Rules

Here’s a breakdown of the previously known effects from using 3xx redirects:

  1. 301 Redirects generally killed up to 15% of your page rank. This was directly from the mouth of Matt Cutts and others at Google as far back as 2010, but confirmed again by Matt in 2013.
  2. 302 Redirects would completely kill page rank, passing on none of the existing juice.
  3. HTTPS migrations, if done improperly, could tank ranking. Done right, still caused a sitewide rank drop.

Redirects Have Changed

As of the end of July, Google has changed their rules. Likely due to their focus on shifting sites to HTTPS and the frequent resulting hits to page rank, they opted to remove the penalties for shifting or deleting content, or redirecting to new pages. Gary Illyes of Google confirmed on July 26th, this shift that some have suspected for a while:

Redirect Best Practices Still Rule

Historically, you didn’t want to mess up redirects. Technically, you still don’t. You should still try to use the correct redirects, and here’s why:

  • Google will still count a 301 redirect to an irrelevant page as a soft 404, which will kill your page rank over time.
    • This means that you should continue to use 301s as a best practice, redirecting to pages that actually replace and are relevant to the page being replaced.
    • If you cannot, it is better to pass a 410 code, which tells Google that the content has been permanently removed.
  • Google confirmed that they changed 302 behaviors because so many blog CMS and ecomm CMS systems use 302s as a default and it was messing up page rank for sites that should have been the best. eComm CMS systems like Magento don’t necessarily make it easy, obvious, or convenient to change this setting.
    • Just because it doesn’t kill page rank like it used to and will eventually build over time as Google learns, doesn’t mean you should use it.
  • HTTPS migrations have been shown to be hit or miss. When done right, sites have shown an increase in Organic traffic, while others that didn’t do such a great job definitely took a hit.
  • Google isn’t the only game in town, and though they are the major player other engines like Bing, Yahoo, BaiDu, DuckDuckGo, and others will still show negative impact from improperly used redirects.

New Redirect Best Practices

Long story short you should still follow the tried and true rules, because redirects still carry a measure of risk if not done properly. This is why working with experienced companies like GRIT Marketing Group is important when considering a new website. We have the knowledge and experience to make sure this is done right, and that way you don’t have to.

If you have a website that needs some TLC, or you’re ready to strategically improve your business through better marketing, contact GRIT today!