What is a 301 redirect? It’s a term in SEO and web development, used to describe sending website traffic from one url to another. The web server will check a file called .htaccess which is located on the root level of a website. This file is used for many other web development things, but is also normally used for redirects, since it’s the 1st place a web server checks and can reduce website load speed, as opposed to using CMS plugins that handle redirects. The problem with plugins managing redirects is that making searchbots and the web server spend that much extra time loading the resources for said plugin add seconds to load speed. When they could otherwise, get those redirects faster in the .htaccess and save a few users from clicking the back button.
Anytime you change an existing webpage url, you should setup a redirect, so that you don’t lose any keywords and thus website traffic. If you don’t setup a redirect when you change a url, unless you have a plugin that handles that, there is now no connection to that webpage you just changed the url of and any other webpage on the site that was linked to. When this happens, any keywords, website traffic you recieved from that webpage, will begin to stop. Since that webpage might of been the only place on the website, searchbots saw the keyword relevancy in order to rank your website in the 1st place. No 301 redirect means searchbots cannot crawl past that url and this will hurt crawl budget and website indexing.
Do I Redirect Every 404 Webpage Not Found?
In short, no you don’t, however it’s not often, since almost every 404 webpage error should be redirected. There are a few cases when you want to leave a 404 webpage, alone, when that webpage is no longer valuable to users, it’s ok to not redirect that, since you don’t want to confuse searchbots with redirecting to an irrelevant webpage. Often you won’t have another relevant webpage to redirect too, like a product that is discontinued and no other product closely can compare. But ultimately, if you can find another webpage, that will benefit the user to replace a 404 webpage, then by all means, redirect that webpage, since it will benefit the user more, which in the long run, will benefit the website.
There are also issues when you use a CMS, where a lot of webpages are created dynamically by the CMS, that aren’t really needed, then anytime you add or remove plugins, change urls, other webpages will become obsolete and redirecting these webpages could break the CMS functionality or even cause a redirect loop! A redirect loop, is exactly what it sounds, and can actually have the same affects as a 404 page, to a website. Fixing them is a bit more trickier and involves a 301 redirect audit to be resolved.