Will a 301 redirect save my traffic?

You may be asking yourself: Will a 301 redirect save my traffic? This is quite a common question among webmasters and the average website owner. You may have been hit by the Google EMD update that made if much more difficult to rank your site if your domain name matched a specific search query. I personally was hit by this filter and lost a large amount of traffic to my website. I went from getting an average of 15,000 visitors a month to just under 7,000.

If your website has low quality information and you think you were hit by an EMD update you have a few options:

1. You could delete all your low quality content and make sure your website meets the Google webmaster guidelines. This is based on the idea that you suffered from Google Panda and the EMD filter I mentioned before.

2. You could try all kinds of silly link building techniques with the hope of overshadowing your negative ranking. "Not recommended"

3. Lastly, you could try do a 301 redirect from your old "exact match domain" to a better brand name website.

I will be discussing option 3 purely because I believe building a "brand name website" is far better than relying on any type of exact match domain.

What is the Goal of a 301 Redirect?

The goal of a 301 redirect is simple, you want to transfer your website and all the traffic you are receiving to another domain name. If you have many clients and have built thousands of pages you want the search engine to be able to find those pages on your new domain - since if the search engine cant find your pages you will loose many of your new and existing visitors. What we intend to achieve with this type of redirect is a simple transition for our visitors "including the search engines" from our existing website to our new one. This should also allow you to keep your traffic numbers steady and your page rank somewhat intact.

Difference between a 301 and 302 Redirect?

You should be aware of some jargon that developers use. A 301 Redirect is permanent, by that I mean a search engine will eventually stop indexing your old site "once it knows everything about your new site" so there is really no going back once this has been done.

A 302 redirect is often mistaken by some people as a 301 redirect, when in fact they are seen as 2 different things by a search engine. A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect, with the idea that you will go back to that old page within a few days or weeks. This is rather important to Google since they need to know what pages to discard from their index and which pages to keep.

If you mistakenly used a 302 you can seriously hurt your page rank since you may eventually end up with duplicate content across websites, and we all know what search engines thinks about duplicate content.

What limits are there for a 301 redirect?

Remember that this is a permanent change so if you are not absolutely certain you want to change your domain name, perhaps you should look at other options before you make a decision. There is no limit to the amount of pages you can redirect - meaning you can redirect thousands of pages from one website to another without violating any Google terms or guidelines, the search engine will simply map your past location to your new location.

Send Google to new site

Also keep in mind that in a video by Matt Cutts about using 301 redirects you should try and redirect in 1 hop and not use chained redirects, do not redirect from one page to another by using more than 1 redirect since Google will not fully crawl more than 1 or 2 levels deep. So keep it simple and you should have no problem.

Does a 301 Redirect help with traffic?

We have to be careful when we use the word "help", it will not increase your website traffic but it should assist you in moving your current traffic to a new domain, this type of move can help regain trust from the search engines and hopefully regain visitors you had lost before the updates.

You also need to make sure your new website follows principles before you do any form of 301 redirect.

1. Do not use a 301 redirect to any low quality pages, rather fix up your content for each page first or remove it entirely. "This could be time consuming for a website with thousands of pages but who said this was going to be easy"

2. Do not try move poor pages across, ask yourself "Is this page adding any value to my website, should it even appear on my new domain?"

3. For each webpage, ask yourself "Does this page follow the Google webmaster guidelines?" If it does not perhaps you should get rid of it or fix it up.

How to implement a 301 Redirect?

Most website hosting companies can help you preform a 301 redirect since you need to put an htaccess file in the root directory of your website. You could also directly place the following code in each of your PHP pages.

Header( "HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently" ),
Header( "Location: http://www.newwebsite.com" ),

But for more information about the technical side of doing this please read how to redirect a webpage.

How to notify Google about the changes?

From your webmaster tools account you can easily notify Google that you have done a 301 redirect. When inside your account click the small gear icon and click Change of Address.

Change of Address WMT

Then simply choose the name of the website you are redirecting to. This new site also needs to be verified by Google webmasters before you can see it in your list.

Notify Google of 301

How long does the entire 301 process take?

Having gone through this process myself It did help me get my traffic and rankings back - I am not totally back to the numbers of visitors I received before but I am on track, and more importantly my content is better, my domain is much more of a brand name and I can see the benefits of the hard work and long hours doing content evaluation.

It does not take Google long to start crawling and indexing your new page locations, in fact most search engines recommend that you leave your old domain up for about 6 months so that everything can be redirected correctly, my site had 8,000 pages and they were all indexed by Google in less than 3 months.

Good Luck.

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