The forwarding of URLs is a topic that is often settled in the (for most of us) rather difficult to understand the specialist area of system administrators. In some cases – especially when it comes to setting up a web server or redirecting entire domains – this is absolutely correct. Nevertheless, it is also important for content managers, online editors, and online marketers to know about the basic meaning of these terms.
What are URL redirects used for?
This question can be answered relatively easily. In principle, a redirect ensures that website visitors and crawlers who want to access a specific page (e.g., via a link or by entering a URL) are then directed to content that can actually be reached under a different URL.
Example: The user calls up a link to the website www.yourdomain.com and is sent to the website www.abc.com/hello.
So far, really easy. However, one should note that there are different types of redirects, each of which serves a certain purpose. For the user, the result is basically the same: he ends up on a different page.
However, so that search engines can correctly interpret your website and your content, it is important that you give the crawler a better understanding of what this redirect is all about.
The web server communicates this information to the crawler using certain status codes, of which there are a total of eight different variants. In the following, I will limit myself to the two most important (301 and 302).
302-Redirect: “Moved Temporarly.”
With the status code 302, the web server signals that the forwarding is only a temporary change.
An example: Let’s assume you have come up with a special promotion for a product. (e.g., 10% discount if you order by tomorrow). However, you don’t want to change the content of the actual page because it is already ranking well in the search results. Instead, you build a landing page with its own URL for this action. But you want only the visitors to be directed to this landing page. Instead, the content of the normal product page should remain in the index in order not to endanger the good ranking.
In this case, you should temporarily forward the address of the standard product page to the address of the landing page with a 302 redirect.
If the crawler wants to access the product page, the webserver signals to it:
“Hello dear crawler, I know you actually want to call up the content of the page www.yourdomain.com/product-x . However, I would like my visitors to see www.yourdomain.com/product-x-osterrabatt instead . However, this is only a temporary condition. So you don’t have to worry about the contents of this other page, just keep the normal page in the index. This address is still valid and will be available again soon. See you soon! “
The 301 redirect: “Moved Permanently.”
You probably already guessed it: With a 301 redirect, you signal that it is a permanent change. Not only human visitors but also crawlers should look at the new URL.
Example: You have decided to relaunch your website. You would like to take this opportunity to switch to a more user-friendly content management system. In this move, the entire website is fundamentally revised: outdated content is thrown out, the structure of the page changes in part, the URLs of the individual pages are optimized. The page is ready and will be in focus.
However, your old page has gotten some links from other sites over time and has been indexed by Google for years.
In this scenario, you should definitely remember to redirect the old URLs of the page to the respective equivalent content of the new page via 301 redirects.
In the same way as above, the webserver reports:
“Hello dear crawler, the address that you want to retrieve no longer exists. The content is not gone, however, it is now permanently available under this URL. Please just forget the old address and add the new URL to your index . See you soon!”
What role do redirects play in everyday life?
As I mentioned in the introduction, the correct set-up of the technical infrastructure is, of course, the task of an administrator who has the appropriate expertise in the area of server configuration. Nevertheless, there are situations in everyday life of an online marketer that make it necessary to set up a simple forwarding without having to create a support ticket.
Example: If expanding the organic reach of your website is part of your marketing strategy, and you regularly publish SEO-relevant blog posts in the process, the URL of the respective article is one of the adjusting screws that you should consider.
Content management systems such as WordPress (if configured accordingly) usually automatically create the URL of an article from the title of the respective article. Usually, this is also quite practical. However, it is not all that rare that you want to revise the URL again after the article has been published – by it because you realize that you have overlooked a typo in the heading, or because you have added the URL in the course of a subsequent Would like to optimize the revision again more precisely to a specific keyword.
“Unfortunately,” the article has already been shared in social networks and in the newsletter, as well as being linked in some other articles. In this case, it is, of course, useful if you can fix the subsequent change to the address of the article by quickly setting up a 301 redirect.
How do you set up a redirect?
One way to set a redirect is to set a corresponding entry in the .htaccess file. Editing this file is not entirely safe, however, and changes should ideally only be made by knowledgeable persons.
As a rule, using a corresponding plug-in is the much easier and safer way to set up redirects yourself. Most CMS offers the appropriate extensions for this.