As an SEO or website owner, you must have heard about 301 redirects. But do you know what it is and how it works?

In this post, we will discuss a lot of important things about 301 redirects that webmasters and newbie SEO professionals should know.

What is a 301 redirect?

A 301 redirect is an HTTP status code that refers to moving a web page from one location to another permanently

For instance, when a user lands on a web page that is no longer available, the 301 redirect tells the browser about the new location of the page. The browser, in turn, redirects the visitor to the new location of the page.

A 301 redirect can be used for many purposes, e.g., redirecting the HTTP version of your website to the HTTPS version, boosting organic traffic of certain pages, reducing the number of 404 errors on your website, etc.

Additionally, a 301 redirect is also considered a relatively safer option because Google can crawl 301 redirects more effectively than some other types of redirects.

In 2021, Google updated its Advanced SEO documentation with the following: “A server-side redirect has the highest chance of being interpreted correctly by Google.”

This confirms that Google can crawl 301 redirects more reliably and effectively. In addition, another benefit of a 301 redirect is that it does not lose PageRank anymore (more on that later!).

301 redirects vs. 302 redirects

301 redirects can often be confused with 302 redirects. However, there is a difference between the two types.

As mentioned earlier, a 301 redirect is used when pages are moved permanently. On the other hand, a 301 redirect is used for temporary redirection.

In other words, if you intend to move the page back to its previous location (original URL), use a 302 redirect. An example could be moving landing pages for the Holiday season.

On the other hand, if the redirection is permanent and you don’t intend to move the page back to its previous location, use a 301 redirect, e.g., moving from HTTP to HTTPS.

How to set up 301 redirects

There are multiple ways to set up a 301 redirect. One is more manual — by using .htaccess. The other method is relatively easier for non-technical people — that is, by using plugins.

Here are a few guides on how to set up 301 redirects using .htaccess:

You can also use a simple plugin to set up 301 redirects in WordPress. For example, Yoast has an excellent setup that allows you to set up 301 redirects automatically. Here is a guide on how it works.

In addition, there are self-explanatory and easy-to-use WordPress plugins that can help set up 301 redirects.

How long should 301 redirects be kept intact?

Although Google notices a 301 redirect fairly quickly and reacts accordingly, it is recommended to keep 301 redirects in place for at least one year. 

That is because Google likes to revisit a redirect multiple times in order to be certain, and that can happen every few months.

Google’s John Mueller share more insights into this process:

“At Google, we try to reprocess all pages at least every few months. Most pages are checked more often. However, the amount of crawling is limited, and there are many pages that we’d like to crawl, so we have to prioritize.

When a URL changes, our systems need to see the change in the form of a redirect at least a few times in order to record that change.

To be certain that a redirect has been seen a few times, we recommend keeping the redirect in place for at least one year.”

Therefore, the next time you create a redirect, make sure to keep it in place at least for one year — even though you may see the desired results well before that. 

This also means that if you have moved to a different domain, you should keep the old domain for at least one to two years to ensure that all redirects remain intact and in place.

301 redirects and PageRank

Google PageRank is a metric that Google still uses to ascertain the value of a page. It also helps determine the search rankings of a web page. This was confirmed by Google’s John Mueller in a tweet last year.

PageRank is an important topic to talk about in the context of 301 redirects.

That’s because a few years ago, 301 redirects didn’t pass 100% PageRank to the new location. Matt Cutts, Google’s former Head of Webspam, talked about it in 2013 that roughly 15% of PageRank was lost with each redirect.

However, it has changed since then.

A few years later, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that 301 redirects do not lose PageRank anymore.

This is important because previously there was a sort of a penalty for using a 301 redirect. But now there is no such penalty. It means the new location of the page will have just as much PageRank and “power” as the old URL had.

And that’s why webmasters often use 301 redirect optionally — to merge pages, consolidate link authority and PageRank, and boost organic traffic.

301 redirect chains

If 301 redirects do not lose PageRank, how liberally can we use it?

It is easy to go overboard and start abusing 301 redirects — which can lead to creating 301 redirect chains and 301 redirect loops.

That’s something that you should avoid.

According to Google’s recommendations, Google search crawlers would just give up if it finds too many hops or redirects. The limit is usually five hops.

“You have less than five hops for URLs that are frequently crawled. With multiple hops, the main effect is that it’s a bit slower for users. Search engines just follow the redirect chain (for Google: up to five hops in the chain per crawl attempt),” according to John Mueller.

301 redirects and SEO: When to use 301 redirects?

As mentioned earlier, there are multiple ways SEOs can use 301 redirects to their advantage. Here are a few scenarios.

1. To avoid keyword cannibalization

If too many pages are competing with each other for the same keyword phrase, that can potentially lead to a problem we commonly refer to as keyword cannibalization.

Keyword cannibalization is when multiple pages on a site are optimized to rank for the same search query. As a result, they start competing with each other, and ultimately it is you who lose.

It’s a better idea to merge those pages by creating a 301 redirect.

2. To boost organic content

Similarly, if you have multiple topically related pages — that may or may not be cannibalizing each other — you can merge them to give them an organic boost.

Merging two pages consolidate their link authority and traffic. That can make two average-performing pages join hands and become one authoritative page that ranks at the top of the search results.

3. To minimize 404 errors

If you delete or remove a page, it will create a 404 error. A 301 redirect can help minimize the number of 404 errors on your site — which is good for website visitors as well as search engine crawlers.


301 redirection is an important tool for SEOs. Strategically using 301 redirects can help improve your website as well as boost its search rankings.

We hope you learn something valuable from this article. If you have any questions or comments, please do let us know.