The Critical Role of 301 Redirects
So you have worked very hard over the years for good solid search engine rankings and you are getting ready to launch a new website but you or your developer have not done 301 redirects.
STOP THE LAUNCH!
What is a 301 redirect you say?
Well if you have made changes to your website or are launching a new website and the page URLs have changed, for example:
and it has changed to:
You will need to do a 301 redirect. The redirect serves a number of purposes including automatically taking site visitors who may have bookmarked the old link or clicked on a Google search result link over to the new page. This redirect also tells Google that this content has moved and Google will automatically update the link on their search results. This will also preserve your page ranks in search results.
Without a 301 redirect the site visitor will get a 404 error page and Google will eventually depopulate that link from their directory. Once that link is gone getting it back may be difficult at best.
The image below shows what can happen when a new website has been launched with no regard for old URLs and 301 redirects. This is a website we worked on for a number of years with an average keyword placement that put most targeted search terms at the top of page one. All of that organic placement was lost within 2 weeks when another developer launched a new site for this client.
The web developer did not document old URLs and did not implement 301 redirects for them. Within two weeks of the new site launch the site’s SERP ranks dropped dramatically with most old URLs being de-indexed (removed from Google search results). Along with that their organic search traffic flat lined (see image below from Webmaster Tools).
So if you are talking to a web developer about a new website and they do not bring up 301 redirects you may want to ask them about it.