What is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect sends a message to search engines that a website or page has been moved permanently – permanent means around a year or longer. After a year, it’s good practice to check to see if people are still being redirected to your site. If they are, try and figure out where the traffic is coming from and fix the source before you cancel any redirects.
When do you use a 301 redirect?
301 redirects are highly recommended if your goal is to transfer the SEO ranking and authority of an old web page to a new one. But simply changing the URL without updating content can have a negative impact on the indexation of new changes. Think about it: You send a new signal to search engines that you want the new page to come up in search, but since the old URL has a lot of authority, Google won’t want to replace it with the new page.
Many people also use this type of redirect when they purchase domains that they forwarded to their primary domain (misspellings of a brand, variations of your brand, or relevant domains with high “Domain Authority”). It’s also helpful to use a 301 when establishing which domain is your default site: “www.yourwebsite.com” or just “yourwebsite.com”.
Its common practice these days for folks to leave out the “www” when writing or typing out website names, so a permanent redirect will guarantee they end up on your site even if they forget to type “www” in the browser. It’s also appropriate to use a 301 if you’ve merged two websites together or have outdated URLs for any other reason.
When you use a 301, Google removes the old page from their index and transfers the value (link equity) from that old page to the new one. That being said, it’s important to note that anytime you move a page from one URL to another, it will take search engines some time to notice the change and to reflect any potential impact/change in rankings.
What is a 404 error?
Websites are ever-changing. Content moves, links break, and pages get renamed. Any of these items can cause a 404, or ‘Not Found,’ error to occur. A 404 status code indicates that even though your browser was able to connect to the server, it was not able to locate the requested page. Usually, when a page is removed from a website, it takes some time for Google’s index to be updated. Since the page will remain accessible through Google’s search results for a time after the page is removed, clicking on it will trigger a 404 error.
How do you fix a 404 error?
There are two ways to fix a 404 error. The first is to correct the spelling of links leading to the desired page. If that’s the main reason for the problem, that’s enough. Track down where your links are to that page and update them.
The second way is to set up a redirect with a 301 redirect website plugin or perform configuration updates in your cPanel or hosting account for your website. With the redirect, people will be led to the new page, even when they type or click on the old permalink.
404’s are a normal part of the web; they are going to happen. New content will always be added and old or outdated content will always be removed. Just be sure that your 404 errors are justified and that any redirects implemented are done so with semantics in mind.