301 Redirects and Your SEO

You’ve taken the plunge and purchased the domain name you’ve wanted for years. All is well, till you have to redirect your current domain name to the new one. A series of questions start to rise to the surface; questions like “will the change in URL massively affect my SEO?”, and “what’s going to happen to the pages that receive a lot of traffic from the SERP?”

The good news is that the JAYPAY SEO Team is here to help you out in the 301 redirects affecting your SEO department.

We decided to put together this journal because we’ve been asked this question a lot of times by our clients. In fact, one of their main concerns is that all the hard SEO work we’ve been doing for them over the years will go to waste.

What is a 301 redirect?

A 301 redirect is a short line of code (or an HTTP status code if you want to be exact) which sits on your web server. When you browse a website and your browser spots a 301 redirect, it obeys. A 301 redirect basically signals a permanent redirect from one URL to another. So, when a user clicks on a link which is https://JAYPAYagency.com/schedule-a-call, the 301 redirect we’ve set up automatically sends the user to our Schedule a Call’s new home, https://JAYPAY.co.uk/schedule-a-call.

When would you use a 301 redirect?

We use 301 redirects when the following situations call for it:

  • We’re moving a client from HTTP to HTTPS. And yes, your website needs to be on HTTPS.
  • We’re either moving our website, like we did from JAYPAYagency.com to JAYPAY.co.uk, or a client’s website from an old domain to a new one.
  • When you’re optimising your URL slugs. For instance, we changed JAYPAY.co.uk/about-us to JAYPAY.co.uk/us. You can do this for blog posts too.
  • You’re moving to a new CMS or an entirely new server structure where your old pages may have had .html attached to the end, and now they’re what we like to call “clean” URLS, e.g. https://JAYPAY.co.uk/test.

The great news, where SEO is concerned, is that the 301 redirect you’ve set up does pass all its ranking power and juice from the old URL to the new one.

Great, so we can stop this journal there and you can get on with your day.

Or, you can continue reading to see if a 301 redirect actually affects your organic search rankings.

Still with us? Great!

Can 301 redirects affect your organic search rankings?

Quite a few SEO specialists claim that 301 redirects are a ranking factor, and the central discussion is if 301 redirects affect your PageRank, and if your PageRank will transfer itself from your old URL to your new one. The same goes for backlinks, or inbound links to your website, page, or post. Does the juice these inbound links bring transfer over to the new URL?

Google’s history with 301 redirects

The truth is, Google has kept a bit tightlipped over the years when it comes to 301 redirects being a ranking factor. We have to go way back to 2012 to when Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of their Webspam Team, said – and I paraphrase – that Google does follow an unlimited number of redirects from one page to another. He went on to add that Google would even make multiple hops. “Multiple hops” basically means that you redirect a redirect and redirect those redirects. Still with me?

Cutts did say that the Googlebot may stop following redirects after four to five hops. In 2013, Google, via Cutts, did confirm that there is a small percentage of PageRank lost when you create 301 redirects. This opened up the entire 301 redirect can of worms again and SEO specialists put this to the test. Some results showed that there was a loss of up to 15% in some cases. When users pressed Cutts on this number, he said that there was no specific percentage.

In 2016, Google’s John Mueller came to further confirm the beliefs about HTTPS. Technically speaking, what he said gave any webadmin, or as we like to them here at JAYPAY, the web gurus, the peace of mind they were looking for. John Mueller assured that the move from HTTP to HTTPS is “usually good.”

Of course, he said that no promises and no guarantees can be given in full confirmation, but fluctuations happen in websites, and they’re very aware of that at Google, so they’ve built their systems to be capable of maintaining a very good PageRank after 301 redirects, specially moving from HTTP to HTTPS.

Later in 2019, John came back with more news about 301 redirects, and he confirmed that a move to HTTPS is the best way for a website’s redirection to preserve its ranking factors.

At that point, people behind well functioning websites were pretty at peace with creating redirects for their websites or a few web pages. However, in 2020, when everything else in the world was going down, Google’s John Mueller decided to drop a bomb, too. He admitted that, to a certain extent, 301 redirects could affect the speed of the website.

He also mentioned that Google will not go on endlessly crawling redirect chains. Google is only willing to crawl up to five “hops” in a redirect chain.

2020 was already full of surprises, but that was the cherry on top for the web admins!

Finally, in 2021, 301 redirects finally got the recognition they deserved when Google updated its guide and mentioned that out of all the types of redirects, 301 redirects are your best chance at ensuring a web page is redirected correctly and safely!

The Final Word

Simply put, if 301 redirects were done properly, your PageRank would not be affected. After several confirmations about this topic by different Google superstars, you shouldn’t be concerned about affecting your Google ranking and SEO if you do your 301 redirect properly.

Specifically, moving from HTTP to HTTPS has little to no effect on your ranking and SEO. It’s confirmed to be a lightweight ranking factor.

If you’ve been contemplating moving from one domain name to another, and the idea of redirection has been holding you back, we encourage you to take the leap. We don’t only encourage you, but we’ve done it before you. So it’s now tried, tested, and trusted! We assure you it’s safe and simple.

Moving from JAYPAYagency.com to JAYPAY.co.uk was way easier than you’d think. Stop second guessing and go for your redirection! If you’re having trouble doing that, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ve got you!

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