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What is a Redirect?

A redirect is a web development technique that sends users and search engines from one URL to another.
what is a redirect

Whether you’re a seasoned web developer or a curious internet user, understanding redirects is essential to comprehend the inner workings of the online universe.

What Does a Redirect Do?

A redirect is a web development technique that sends users and search engines from one URL to another. Essentially, it acts as a signpost, guiding users to a new destination when they attempt to access a particular web page. This can serve various purposes, including:

 

Page Changes: When a webpage has been moved to a new location, a redirect ensures that visitors are seamlessly directed to the new URL, preventing them from encountering a broken link.

 

Rebranding: Businesses may change their domain names or restructure their websites. A redirect helps maintain user experience by steering visitors from the old domain to the new one, preserving SEO efforts and preventing confusion.

 

Maintenance:  During website maintenance or updates, a temporary redirect (or a “302 redirect”) can inform visitors that the site is unavailable while directing them to a temporary page.

What is an Example of a Redirect?

Consider this scenario: you click on a link to an article you saved a while back, only to be greeted by an error page. This is where a redirect comes into play.

 

Without a redirect, users would stay on the error page and likely visit a competitor’s website for the same information. However, with a properly implemented 301 redirect, users are automatically forwarded to the new URL, and the content they seek remains available to them.

 

Permanent redirects (301 redirects) signal search engines that a page has permanently moved to a new location. This preserves the SEO rankings and authority of the original page and transfers this to the new page.

How Do You Create a Redirect?

Creating a redirect involves modifying the server configuration or adding code to your web pages. There are several ways to achieve this, but the most common methods include:

 

  • Server Configuration: If you can access the server, you can use configuration files (like .htaccess for Apache servers) to set up redirects. This method offers granular control over different types of redirects and their behaviour.
  • Meta Refresh Tags: For simple redirects, you can use HTML meta refresh tags within a webpage’s <head> section. However, this method could be more efficient and SEO-friendly than server-level redirects.
  • Programming Languages:  Web developers can use programming languages like JavaScript, PHP, or Python to implement programmatically redirects. This is especially useful when creating dynamic redirects based on specific conditions.
  • Third-Party Plugins: Most CMS offer third-party plugins that allow us to add redirects easily without developer involvement.

How Do I Redirect to a Domain?

Redirecting to a new domain involves a similar process to redirecting within the same domain. However, domain-level redirects usually deal with entire websites or sections. To redirect to a new domain:

 

  • Choose the Type:  Decide whether you need a temporary (302) or permanent (301) redirect. The latter is preferred for SEO advantages.
  • Modify Server Configuration:  Access your server’s configuration files or control panel to set up the redirect. This might involve using .htaccess files, server-side scripting, or specialised control panels provided by hosting services.
  • Test Thoroughly:  After implementing the redirect, thoroughly test it on different devices and browsers to ensure it functions as intended.
  • Update DNS Settings:  If you’re migrating your entire website to a new domain, update your DNS settings to point to the new domain’s server.
  • Analyse: Monitor your analytics to see how search engines and users interact with the redirects and find the new domain. This way, you can easily spot if there are any issues you might need to act upon.
Picture of Nikki Halliwell

Nikki Halliwell

Based in Manchester, UK, Nikki is a freelance Technical SEO Consultant. She has worked at several agencies and in-house and has worked across the health, hospitality and fashion industries and more. Nikki enjoys working with eCommerce websites and beyond to ensure that websites are easy to find, load quickly and work efficiently. 
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