Detailed Guide to 301 Redirects for SEO

by Danielle Canstello May 18, 2019

An essential Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skill is knowing how to execute a 301 redirect.


The simplest definition of a 301 is that it redirects the user from one webpage to another. The more complex part is figuring out how they relate to SEO, and determining how to do one.


We’ll look at everything you need to know in this 101 guide to 301 redirects.


What is a 301 redirect?


A redirect is a method to send search engines and users to a different URL or website location than the one they entered.


A 301 is one redirect method, basically a signal to search engines that a page has been permanently moved to another page. It will also take users to the new page when they enter the previous web page. “301” refers to the HTTP status code of the page.


Creating a 301 redirect tells the search engine that page ABC is now page XYZ, and it won’t be moving back to ABC. It also tells users by automatically redirecting them to the new page.


The search engine or browser then responds by sending the user to the new site. If the user types in ABC, the browser sends them to XYZ instead.


A 301 is usually the best way to implement a permanent redirect, because up to 99% of the ranking power of the page will pass to the redirected or new page. That transfer of link weighting is why it’s an important skill for SEO.


After all, you want to maintain your rankings for SEO and solidify the reputation you’ve already built through your backlinks and content efforts.


Basically, the search engine removes the old page from their index and transfers the link value to the new page. Just realize that it can take some time for search engines to find the 301, recognize it and give the new page the rankings of the old page.


Why would you want to do a 301 redirect?


There are several reasons a redirect may be necessary, such as when you have a new website or webpage.


For instance, let’s say you purchased a domain and want to redirect traffic from it to your primary site. Perhaps you bought a variation of your brand, or sites with a misspelling of your brand. Or perhaps you got a site that’s relevant to your site and already has a high domain authority.


A permanent redirect is also appropriate if you merge two sites.


You can even implement a 301 when establishing your default site. In this instance, a permanent redirect will ensure that people who don’t bother to type “www” will still get to your site.


If the redirect is temporary, such as during page maintenance, a different method is used. But we’re here to talk about a 301.


How do you accomplish a 301 redirect?


Implementing a 301 redirect depends on the technology of your site.


If you’re using WordPress, you have the choice of using one of three plug-ins to accomplish redirects.


  1.   Simple 301 Redirects. As its name indicates, it’s only for a 301.
  2.   Redirection. Can accomplish redirects, including a 301.
  3.   SEO Redirection. Can also accomplish redirects, including a 301.


If your site is running Apache, you access the server’s .htaccess file to implement a 301. The most common way to do this is by editing the .htaccess file, which is located in your site’s root folder.


This can get quite technical, but we will give a few common examples of redirects in Apache:


  1. Redirect an old page to a new page:


Redirect 301 /old-page.html /new-page.html


  1. Redirect an old domain to a new domain:


RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301,NC]


  1. Redirect entire domain from non‐www to www:


RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301,NC]


  1. Redirect entire domain from www to non‐www:


RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301,NC]


This is technical coding, so be sure to test your work before implementing on your site. Apache does provide a tutorial and a URL rewriting guide. If your site isn’t running on an Apache web server, you may need to contact your host for direction.


What About 404 Errors?


While we’re discussing redirects, we should talk about 404 redirects. A 404 code is an error that means “not found,” and it impacts SEO. It happens when a webpage is deleted from your site or even from your server, but links to that page still exist.


A user will type in the page, or click on a link to the page, and the “404 Page Not Found” error message appears. This isn’t great for your users or your site’s user experience. A 301 redirect will solve those 404 errors so users won’t arrive at a dead page.


Google’s Search Console will display any 404 errors in its Coverage section. By identifying these URLs, you can do 301 redirects to rectify the problems. It’s probably worth checking regularly to ensure your page doesn’t suffer from 404 errors.


Be Proactive with 301s


If users can access your site in several ways, it’s a good idea to be proactive and use 301 redirects to send them all to the same destination.


Here’s an example.


Let’s say your home page can be reached at,, or


It’s best for you to choose one of those URLs as the main destination, known as the “canonical” destination, and use 301 redirects to send users from those other URLs to the main one. Google’s search console will allow you to set your main destination.


The same is true of content that targets the same keywords. If you have several relevant content pages that address the same keywords, you can determine which is the most important one, consolidate the content on that page, and then redirect other content pages to that main page. Use 301 redirects to get users to the main content site.


In this way, you won’t have multiple content pages based on similar keywords, which can make your SEO less effective.


When you drive users to one content page, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Your content will be deeper, rather than having your knowledge spread out over several different content pages.
  • Your content will be longer, and increased word count can lead to better search engine rankings.
  • Your content may be found more often by search engines, because it has one page to choose from rather than several.
  • Your main content page will benefit from all the backlinks on the page which now have a 301 redirect.


Final Thoughts


Understanding when to use 301 redirects and how to implement them properly can be a big benefit when it comes to SEO.


Our guide to 301 redirects will ensure search engines find your site and users get to where you want them to on your site. It will also help eliminate errors and consolidate content, meaning your website could see big SEO benefits.




Danielle Canstello
Danielle Canstello is part of the content marketing team at They provide enterprise-level analytics and business intelligence software. In her spare time, she writes around the web to spread her knowledge of marketing, business intelligence, and analytics industries.