How to Use 301 Redirects Correctly

Although Google has been vague about many aspects of SEO, head of the webspam and search quality team Matt Cutts did a surprisingly good job of explaining redirects in one of his recent videos. A big reason could be because Google is trying to create more tutorial videos, which is a new approach for the engine that has already created 375 videos for users.

Before diving into how to use 301 redirects correctly, it’s important to understand why they are used in the first place. For those who are unfamiliar, a 301 redirect is a great way for a website to direct users to a new website. It will keep your PR and search engine rankings in tact and is fairly easy to implement. You would use a 301 redirect in a few different situations:

  • If you’re redirecting an old website to a new domain address.
  • If you want several different domains pointing to one destination.
  • To make sure there is only one version of your website.

It’s also important to remember that 301 redirects should only be used when you’re making a permanent change. If you ever think you’re going to revert back to the old site, you should use a 302 redirect.

How to Successfully Implement 301 Redirects According to Cutts

Cutts answers a few of the following questions regarding 301 redirects:

1. Can you redirect a specific webpage to that same webpage on the new site?

Absolutely, and in fact this is encouraged. Cutts explained that the majority of 301 redirects go to the root of the domain, but this doesn’t offer the best user experience. If a user wants a specific page, you should make sure that you direct them to that specific page.

2. Is there a limit to how many 301 (permanent) redirects I can do on a site?

If you have 100,000 pages that you want redirected, it’s natural to wonder whether or not you can redirect all of the pages. Again, the answer is yes, you can redirect all of your webpages. There is no cap or limit to the number of redirects you can implement—Google will look at as many pages as they were willing to crawl at your old location.

3. Will a Google Bot follow multiple redirects?

This is where you are limited. If you start on one page and then do a 301 redirect to another page, then another and then another, you have to be careful that you stop at three. One “hop,” as Cutts called it, is ideal, but Google bots will follow multiple hops up to three. If you’re getting into four or five redirects, Google bots will likely stop following.

Below is the actual video of Cutts explaining the points discussed above:

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