301 Redirects are one of the oldest tactics used in SEO and they are still incredibly important and have become more versatile in the last several years. Out of the different analogies used to describe redirects, my favorite is the post office analogy. When you move to a new home, most people know to inform their post office of the move so that they’re able to forward all of your old mail to your new address. Some of us forget, and as a result lose a bunch of mail. In that same way, a 301 redirect informs search engine crawlers that the URL that used to “live” in X location has moved to a new Y location.


There are three types of redirects:

  • 301, or “moved permanently”
  • 302, or “moved temporarily”
  • 307, 302’s successor, also a “moved temporarily” redirect
  • meta refresh

Since this post is titled 301 redirect SEO guide, we’ll focus on the 301 redirect. Just so I don’t leave you completely in the dark regarding 302, 307 and meta refresh redirects, here’s a brief description on them before we jump into the world of the 301 redirects:

  • 302 and 307 types:
    • These are temporary redirects, and while they’re technically different types they are really doing the same job so I’m bundling them into one here. This type of redirect will point the crawler to the new URL location, but it won’t treat it as a permanent change. As a result, it won’t transfer any of the SEO authority that original URL has gained over the course of its lifetime. Back to our post office analogy, 302’s would be as if you had asked the post office to hold your mail while you’re out of town. If you needed to execute a redirect for a few days and then pull back to the original URL, or have a redirect that purposefully doesn’t pass SEO authority to the new location, this could be a viable option. However, since 302 and 307 redirects do not transfer any SEO authority from the original source to the new source in most cases they should not be used.
  • Meta refresh:
    • Meta refresh redirects are slower, and more of a usability tool. Think of government websites or other secured websites with external links. Have you noticed that when you click on an external link you get a countdown such as “You will be redirected to site example.com in 5 seconds. If you’re not, click here”? That’s an example of a meta refresh. It’s mostly used for time delay redirects that will actually load the original URL first. Although Meta refresh redirects pass a small amount of SEO authority, they’re not the recommended route for SEO purposes.

301 Redirects Guide

The 301 redirects, or “moved permanently” redirects, are your best friends when changing URL paths on your site. Back to our post office analogy, the 301 redirect will see that your old mail (SEO authority) makes its way to the new location.

Before we get to technical about the redirect itself, let’s dive into how search engines crawl websites to add some context to this guide.

Think of a search engine (you thought of Google didn’t you?).

Pop Quiz: How does Google crawl my website?

A. Google crawls my website as one unit. The whole website is either crawled or it isn’t.

B. Google crawls my website as a group of web pages. Some web pages may be crawled while others may be left out.

If you chose B, you’re right!

Since Google crawls websites as groups of web pages, each web page on your website is assigned with:

  • Keyword phrases that page is relevant for
  • Page-specific SEO authority (or ranking power)
  • Backlink profile (or external hyperlinks that point directly to that page)
  • Rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
    • Search Engines will display different pages on their search results depending on the end-user’s query and which page on your website is most relevant to that query
  • …and number of other search signals

After a while, you end up with a website that has a group of pages, each with specific strengths and weaknesses. You would be surprised to know that your website’s homepage isn’t always the strongest SEO asset on your website – though it tends to be most of the time.

Do I Need A 301 Redirect?

There are several different scenarios where the use of 301 redirects is recommended. Here’s a list with some of the most common scenarios:

  • You are updating your website and some (or all) pages will have a different URL path by the time you’re done. For example:
    • Original “About” page: http://www.example.com/about.html
    • New “About” page: http://www.example.com/about/
  • You are acquiring a security certificate (SSL) and will be securing your whole website. For example:
    • Original: http://www.example.com/
    • New: https://www.example.com/
  • You are discontinuing a service or product, and would like to redirect your visitors to your new service or product:
    • Original: http://www.example.com/old-service/
    • New: http://www.example.com/new-service/
  • You need to remedy canonicalization problems to consolidate different versions of your URL from “non-www” to “www” or vice-versa:
    • Original: http://example.com/
    • New: http://www.example.com/
  • Any other scenario where you need to redirect users from one URL to another.

Why Does It Have To Be A 301 Redirect And Not Another Type?

301 Redirects can transfer somewhere between 90% to 99% of the SEO authority (rankings, pages indexed, search signals) from the original URL to the new URL. Thanks to this you’re able to make needed changes to your website while preserving as much of your historical SEO authority as possible.

How Do I Create & Implement 301 Redirects?

There are different ways to approach the implementation, here are a few scenarios and resources:

I Deployed 301 Redirects But I’m Having Problems!

Like everything revolving around Search Engine Optimization, you can do everything right and not get the desired result.

When deployed properly and timely, 301 redirects can get the job done in transferring your SEO authority from the original source to the new location fairly quickly. However, it’s important to be aware that search engines like Google will take some time to acknowledge the transfer and update their index. Add a little more time for the SEO authority to transfer to the new location.

In our experience, a website that has a healthy crawl frequency rate will see some ranking fluctuations after the deployment of 301 redirects, but things seem to stabilize after a couple of weeks. This can take longer if the 301 redirect is between different top level domains.

Back in 2012 I wrote a blog posts about 301 redirect problems. Check it out for more potential hazards.

The 301 Redirects Worked At First But After A While My Rankings Dropped

You really need to make sure that the new location is still relevant to what the old page was about if you hope to maintain your rankings.

Here’s an example scenario:

  • Let’s say you sell Nike shoes, and decided to discontinue your Red Nike Shoes page.
  • Your Red Nike Shoes page ranked really well in Google for the keyword phrase “red nike shoes”. You didn’t want to lose those rankings and traffic, so you 301 redirected that page to your Green Nike Shoes page.
  • At first the 301 redirect worked, but overtime your rankings for “red nike shoes” disappeared.

In the scenario above, you can clearly see why the rankings dropped. The new page, Green Nike Shoes isn’t relevant to Red Nike Shoes, so overtime that authority dissipates.

As long as the destination pages you’re pointing your redirects to are still relevant to the content from the original source, you’ll have a better chance at retaining that SEO authority and all of the goodness that comes with it.

My Page Used To Rank #1 But Google Penalized It, Can I Redirect It?

Be aware that if you have pages that have been penalized by Google, 301 redirects won’t save you. If you 301 redirect a penalized page, that penalty can follow the redirect into your new URL.

People have tried to game the system through redirects before. So much so that we feel Google takes longer to acknowledge major redirects these days in an effort to avoid spam redirects.

However, we have seen in rare cases URLs that have been penalized recover in rankings after an algorithmic penalty expiring – usually after a few years. If you see this happen to a URL, in theory, it would be safe to 301 redirect that URL to a new destination.

How Long Should I Keep 301 Redirect Active For?

Google recommends that 301 redirects should remain active for at least a year after implementation. Most of the time it won’t hurt to just leave them active in your rewrite module or .htaccess file indefinitely. In fact, the longer they’re active the better.

What Else Do I Need To Do To Launch My New Site?

301 redirects are a major tactic to ensure historical continuity of your SEO authority as your website(s) evolve. However, they’re one item from a much longer check list.

Check out my post from earlier this year about five completely avoidable mistakes people making when launching a new website.

Please be sure to collaborate with us through the comments below. I’d love to hear of any other scenarios where 301 redirects are needed that I may not have mentioned. Also, any ideas, insights, tactics are welcome. Last but not least, if you need help with your online business, please get in touch with us, we’ll know if we can help in minutes.

29 thoughts on “The Ultimate 301 Redirect SEO Guide

  1. Lisa

    Dear Ricardo,

    Thanks for your article, it’s value with me! I already used Redirect 301 for my website homerunsoftball.com.
    But I have a question: I redirected a old domain to a single page on my new website, and I have got a lot of 404 error page!

    How I fix it… please


    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hey Lisa, glad you liked the post. Are you getting the 404 errors on the old site? The one you redirected? Or on the new site?

      Best way to go about this is to use Google Search Console to see where the 404’s are coming from, then map them out and redirect them to the appropriate location on the new site.

  2. zipship

    Kudos for this well written post of yours. I believe that it is really important to include all possible URLs in the 301 redirect map. I think that even if they are indexed, they still have this some sort of link authority.

  3. Masood

    Hey Ricardo,
    What is your take on 301 redirecting an expired domain to my new website to increase traffic and rankings? And one more thing what is the best way to do this? How much time it takes to show results?


    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Masood,

      Expired domains can carry over value by use of 301 redirects, but it depends on your timing. We’ve tested quite a bit with that tactic on our own guinea pig websites in the past, and had the best results when we redirected recently expired domains.

      On those, the rankings did transfer fairly quickly, but they only stuck when the focus was similar to whatever the expired domain was relevant for before it expired.

      I don’t see this being scalable, but under the right circumstances (case by case), can work. If you’re not able to transfer that authority during the first few months though, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Hope this helps! Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  4. Jerico


    We plan to move our ecommerce site into a new domain name. We have more than 3k of urls. Where do we place our 301 redirects? From what I have understand, we need to put our redirects on our old domain, which means, the old domain must be working for at least a year as you have mention that redirect directives must be at least 1 year active.

    Is there something in google webmaster tool, where we can tell google that we have redirects?


    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Jerico,

      Where the 301 redirects are placed depends on the server you’re on. On Linux you’d use an .htaccess file, on a Windows server you’d have to use rewrites.

      The redirects will be on the old domain, correct. I would keep the old domain registered with the redirects in place for at least a year, longer if you can.

      Google Search Console has a “change of address tool”, you should check that out. Follow this link: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/83106?hl=en

  5. Sarvesh Mali

    Great article Ricardo . Three days before I just do 301 redirect to renamed landing pages and all old URL redirected towards index page. But as result of this only my index page showing in SERP instead of landing page URL . Now I want to undo 301 redirect . Is it beneficial to my website to undo 301 redirect as SEO point of view ? Shall I retain old SEO juice of old URL ? Please help me to take right decision . Thank you .

    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Sarvesh,

      That would happen if the old rankings were triggering landing pages that now 301 to the index / homepage.

      It’s ok to undo the 301 redirects if the old pages are still live, otherwise they’ll be hitting 404 errors.

      Good luck!

  6. Anna

    I did a 301 redirect via my htaccess file. I changed my site extension from .html to nothing, or specifically “/”.
    I did this because most shopping carts (i.e. woo) don’t work with the .html extensions. I set it to .html when I moved my site from dreamweaver to wordpress about 6 months ago and didn’t want to lose the traffic I was getting.

    Anyways, I lost a lot of traffic – like almost all of it.

    I did the redirects Jul 14/15. Mid day Jul 15 is when I lost all my traffic. I noticed the drop on Jul 16. expected a drop, but not THAT much.
    – yesterday, I noticed that the redirects weren’t working so I re-added them via a plugin and they worked fine again. Originally, I did the in htaccess and somehow they were written over – I realized that the site-wide .html to non-.html rule was gone when I looked this morning, which is probably why the redirects weren’t working Jul 16 when they were July 14/15.

    I’ve just re-added the .html and got rid of all the redirects. Will my traffic come back?

    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Anna,

      Sorry to hear that! If you’re experiencing a drastic loss of traffic almost immediately after launching your WordPress site, I would check the robots.txt file. WordPress has a setting to block spiders while a site is in development, and it’s not that uncommon to forget to turn that off. Load up your site, and check your robots.txt file (yoursite.com/robots.txt). If you see a “Disallow: /” in there, that’s your problem and it’s easy to fix.

      If that’s not it, then you may need to go through a step by step audit to figure it out. Good luck! Hope you find your solution.

  7. celeste howden

    Thanks for your informative post.
    Can you advise whether there are any problems – eg SEO ‘penalties’ – if you have most of your site using 301 redirects?
    In other words is it a valid way to update most of the pages/posts in a site for the long term?
    Thank you.

    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Celeste,

      I’m not aware of SEO penalties surrounding the legitimate use of 301 redirects. I’ve worked on projects that for one reason or another had to have thousands of 301 redirects.

      301 redirects provide a valid way to redirect traffic and search engine authority from one “old” URL to a “new” one.

      Thanks – Ricardo

  8. celeste howden

    Hi again Ricardo.
    This is probably very obvious/basic. Most articles on this topic talk about replacing the old pages/posts with new ones.

    But I only want to update my URLs – they have codes that have now been changed. I think I should be able to update (overwrite) the URLs on my existing posts rather than add replacement posts.

    It will mean that there are no posts attached to the old URLs; but I will set up 301 redirects on the old the URLs to point to the amended posts with the new URLs.

    Will this work ok?
    Many thanks

    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Celeste,

      That should work. The 301 redirects don’t require that the “old URL” be a page with a post or any content. It’s just a URL redirect so that when the “From/Old” URL is entered it then redirects to the “To/New” URL.

      Thanks and good luck!

  9. Adam

    Hi Ricardo, fantastic article I learned a lot. I do have one question though.

    How many 301 redirects are too many? I want to change my site structure from say example.com/2016/08/example-post.html to something like example.com/posts/example-post

    If I have 130 or so posts on my website now, would redirecting all 130 using a 301 redirect to new post names effect my rankings do you think?


    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hey Adam,

      I’m not aware of any particular number, but I can tell you that I’ve worked on sites with thousands of redirects – so you will be fine with 30 redirects. The main problem is that the more redirects you layer on a site the more difficult it is to find your way back later. Keep everything documented so that you have a map of what you’ve done, it can be difficult to remember a year down the road when you need to redirect things again…

      Good luck!

      1. Adam

        Hi Ricardo, thanks for taking the time to reply, I appreciate that.

        Just on my question, the reason I ask is because I have a BlogSpot blog with about 130 posts on it which I want to move to its own hosting. I want the structure to be like “/category/post-name” rather than the default “/2016/08/post-name.html” which it currently has. I was just trying to work out the best way to do that without losing any SEO juice.

  10. Jay Jurasevich

    When I transferred a clients HTML site to a wordpress site, I had to implement a few redirects to achieve the look I wanted (at the time). So I added a 301 for lets say the /about.html page to /services/bio. Saved the link juice, kept rankings pretty steady, all good, right? Well, now I’m changing the site again into a newer/ better theme and that theme doesn’t require the /services/bio feature. I can just add .html to the about page like from the original site.

    My question is, will this mess up my rankings going back to the original URL string? Or will it maybe help? Any insight will be much appreciated.

    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      It shouldn’t hurt your rankings to go back to the original URL, but it may not help either. I would probably add a new redirect, now pointing from /services/bio/ back to /about.html. That would be more to cover any links that may have been created to the new page. Nothing is guaranteed with Google, but you should be fine doing that. Good luck!

  11. Jay Jurasevich

    Are you familiar with redirect loops though? Where redirect A points to B and B points back to A…This can cause an error message: “This Webpage has a Redirect Loop,” and the specific page will not be shown…?

    1. Ricardo Figueiredo Post author

      Hi Jay, no problem. You’re right, you don’t want to end up with a loop. So you would undo the first redirect from /about.html to /services/bio. Then, I would just as a safety measure, redirect /services/bio to /about.html. It shouldn’t create a loop if you undo the first one, but check it out, you definitely don’t want to end up with a loop. Good luck again, hope it works out.

  12. Melanie Fisher

    Great blog post!
    I am trying to explain to friends/clients who own an online business that having two almost identical sites to sell the same products is not a smart thing to do. Both sites list the same physical address and actual business name.
    Currently only one of the sites is indexed through search engine sites (Site A). This site’s domain name is a business name reflecting their last name. The non-indexed site’s (Site B) domain name describes what they sell.. Depending on what you search for, both sites come up on page one – or Site A on page one and Site B on page two.. But in most cases, only Site A appears. Basically they have some SEO work to do.
    I have recommended they stop working on two identical sites and instead put in 301 redirects from Site B to Site A. Also, not list Site B through search engine sites, but just keep it for existing customers and to not let the domain turn into a competing business.
    At the same time, on Site A, do everything they can to up their SEO game. This includes cleaning up their listings on search engine sites, keywords, links, etc..
    I would love your second opinion on my redirect recommendation and if this is the best way to deal with two identical sites for a company that is just about to do some SEO updating..
    Thank you,


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