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What does Google say about 301 redirects and how to use them?

December 6, 2021 0 comments

301 redirects are a very important part of a well-maintained search engine optimised website. Although redirects are avoided as much as possible, it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate broken links and redirects.

Otherwise, without 301 redirects, there will be just broken links that are not only bad for search engine rankings but also lead to a poor user experience for your website visitors.

In this post, we will share for how long Google suggests a 301 redirect should be kept in place and answer a few more frequently asked questions about 301 redirects. 

But first, let’s see what a 301 redirect is, so we’re on the same page.

What is a 301 redirect?

A 301 redirect is used when a page has been moved permanently to a new location. On the other hand, a 302 redirect is used for temporary redirection.

For instance, if you rebrand your business and move to a different domain, this is a permanent change and, therefore, a 301 redirect, in this case, would be appropriate.

How long should a 301 redirect be kept in place?

Google’s John Mueller recently answered this question. More specifically, he mentioned how redirects are identified and tracked at Google, and why a longer time period is necessary for Google to check the redirect a few times. 

According to him:

“At Google, we try to reprocess all pages at least every few months. Most pages are checked more often. However, the amount of crawling is limited, and there are many pages that we’d like to crawl, so we have to prioritize.

When a URL changes, our systems need to see the change in the form of a redirect at least a few times in order to record that change.

To be certain that a redirect has been seen a few times, we recommend keeping the redirect in place for at least one year.”

Do 301 redirects pass PageRank completely?

Another common question about 301 redirects is whether they pass the PageRank completely or not?

Matt Cutts once shared some insights into how effective 301 redirects can be when it comes to passing PageRank. According to Matt:

“The amount of PageRank that dissipates through a 301 is almost exactly, is currently identical to the amount of PageRank that dissipates through a link.”

How effective is Google at crawling 301 redirects?

As you know, there are multiple types of redirects. However, 301 redirect is usually more common and considered a safer option in most cases.

And there is evidence to support it.

In 2021, Google updated its guidance in Advanced SEO documentation and confirmed that of all the different redirect types, Google is more likely to correctly crawl 301 redirects.

“A server side redirect has the highest chance of being interpreted correctly by Google,” Google updated in its guidance.

What about redirect chains?

Last but not least, it is easy to use 301 redirects liberally. In that case, you will likely end up with 301 redirect chains. That is something that you should avoid.

According to John Mueller:

“The only thing I’d watch out for is that you have less than five hops for URLs that are frequently crawled. With multiple hops, the main effect is that it’s a bit slower for users. Search engines just follow the redirect chain (for Google: up to five hops in the chain per crawl attempt).”

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, 301 redirects are an important part of any established website. For one reason or another, it is common to redirect pages and change their URLs.

However, properly using 301 redirects is crucial. Otherwise, it may backfire and affect your search engine rankings.

We hope that this article — with advice directly from Google — will help you create a robust strategy on how to use 301 redirects effectively and safely.

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