It was recently discovered that 301 redirects, whilst useful when you are making changes to your site, can have a big effect on your traffic volumes and Google Page Rank. Here we discuss the possible impact on your business and provide some suggestions regarding what to do about these issues.

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The scale of the challenge

The most recent tests determined that a regular redirect of large numbers of product pages caused a traffic loss of around 15 per cent on average. Imagine that you have a large product catalogue online and your merchandising team is busy doing what they should be doing, including changing product naming standards regularly. This can cause the products to change names and update the URLs of those products, triggering a 301 redirect for all of them and a subsequent loss in traffic. The drop could be immediate or it might take a little time, but in most cases, those pages will drop by the 15 per cent cited and recovery will be almost nonexistent.

What it means

A 15 per cent traffic loss is significant by anyone’s definition, and the loss will become greater with every hop in a chain of redirects. This does not mean a 15 per cent drop in organic traffic; if you rank number one for your most competitive terms, a redirect could perhaps change that to second or fourth position. That would be a cost of far more than 15 per cent of organic traffic. Of course, your page might be so strong that you don’t see any losses at all after a redirection; individual outliers could perform much better or significantly worse than the average.

To read more about the implications of 301 redirects on SEO, see this article on SearchEngineWatch. You can also find a great visual representation of the issues on SEO-hacker. If you’re confused about what this might mean for your business, consider the expertise of a Web Design Maidstone company, who can assist you with your SEO challenges.

301 redirects for changed pages or those that are no longer required may have been previously described as good practice, but now best practice is to leave your URLs firmly unchanged and watch your traffic stack up.