301 Redirect Best Practice FAQs

301 Redirect Best Practice FAQs

301 redirects are commonly misunderstood components of a website redesign project. To alleviate that stress, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions we get during website redesign projects.


Who should be involved in creating 301 redirects?

People often ask, “Who should be responsible for creating 301 redirects?” It depends on the type of knowledge required.

  • Web content – You’ll need someone with a thorough understanding of your web content. Blindly redirecting all pages to your home page won’t suffice, so you’ll need someone to connect the old pages with the new. The person who understands or can understand your web content is essential.
  • Technical knowledge – Different content management systems require different formatting and procedures for placing 301 redirects. Having someone with technical knowledge is always helpful.
  • SEO – You’ll need someone who understands which pages are currently ranking for various keywords to make sure you redirect the pages that drive the most organic traffic. While you can plan to create redirects for every page, having someone with SEO insights could save you time and effort.
  • Web analytics – Another role that could save you time is someone who understands your current web traffic. For large websites, there are typically few pages that receive most of the traffic. Alternatively, there are a large number of pages that receive a small amount of traffic. Having someone who can access your web traffic and decide which pages need to be redirected and which can be removed is another helpful skillset.

Do I need a developer to implement 301 redirects?

Maybe. Most content management systems – including enterprise options and open source options WordPress and Drupal – provide easy-to-use interfaces for a non-technical user to create and maintain 301 redirects. You don’t need to know any coding language to do the job.

However, it’s always nice to have a developer on hand just in case you have questions. Additionally, if your CMS does not have an easy-to-use interface, we suggest having your web content owner drive the strategy and work with a web developer to create the syntax and implement.

What’s the first step in creating 301 redirects?

The first step is building a 404 page with some form of utility. Your website will have 404 errors. Period. You cannot and do not want to create a 301 redirect for every 404 you see, but you do want to keep users on your site, regardless of their entry point. Any steps you can take to keep the user on your site are steps in the right direction. To keep the user engaged, you can add a list of popular links, related searches or other components that are on brand.

[Tweet “Your website will have 404 errors. Period. You don’t want to create a 301 redirect for every 404.”]

Which pages do I need to redirect?

There are two ways we recommend identifying which pages to redirect:

  • Look at your analytics traffic and only redirect pages with a certain amount of traffic. This suggestion pre-supposes you have reporting and analytics properly installed. If that’s the case, you should be able to export a list of all web traffic within a certain time period and use that as the starting point for your redirect list. We recommend a year, but you could make the case for other durations depending on your situation.
  • Look at SEO rankings and only redirect pages in the top xxx of search engine results. This option requires you to have access to an organic SEO tool like Google Search Console, Moz or Spyfu. If you do, it’s a simple export into Excel and you’re off.

How long should we keep 301 redirects active?

There are two prevailing thoughts on how long to keep 301 redirects active:

  • Keep them active until you see the updated link in the Google search results. Once you begin receiving independent confirmation Google has indexed your new page, you can remove the 301 redirect. The key here is independent. This requires a tool like Google Search Console, Moz or Spyfu. With one of these tools in place, you can easily identify which pages are receiving traffic and adjust your 301 redirect list accordingly.

Need help with your website redesign project? Let us know how we can help!

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Andy Sulhoff
Andy Sulhoff
October 19, 2016