What Are Redirects?

If you’re running a website, you might have heard of something called redirects. What exactly are redirects, and what do you need to know about them in order to make sure you’re using them well?

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What Are Redirects?

Redirects are a really common way of managing traffic for website owners and administrators. They essentially provide a way for a web address to be “forwarded” to another web address.

This is much the same as forwarding post, for example! When the browser tries to access the URL, the server actually sends the page for a different URL.

The process should be as seamless and unnoticable as possible for the actual user of the page. However, under the hood of your website, redirects can be an extremely powerful and useful tool for a few reasons.

Why Are Redirects Used?

As previously mentioned, there are a number of reasons why a website owner or administrator might want (or need) to use redirects on their website.

We’ll have a look at some of the most common reasons here. Perhaps one of these is a reason why you should use redirects on your website!

Website Merging And Consolidation

If you’re in the process of merging or consolidating websites together, then using redirects can be the perfect way of making things a lot easier for both you and for users of your website.

For instance, if you have multiple domains that you’re trying to consolidate under a single domain, then it can be very useful to use redirects instead of deleting and recreating pages under the new domain.

This can not only save work on your end, but can also minimize disruption to users of your site, as redirects can make sure that they don’t lose important pages while you’re merging your domains.

Avoiding Duplication

Duplication is something that there’s no need for if we can avoid it! For instance, you don’t need to create or recreate pages multiple times if you can simply use a redirect to ensure that a user of your website gets put in the right direction every time.

This can be useful, for example, for making sure that users who go to www.yoursite.com and users who use just yoursite.com can both see the same pages, without them having to be recreated.

Keeping Old URLS

If you’ve been working on your site for a while, and have some popular pages, then you don’t want the valuable “link juice” you’ve earned for that URL to go completely to waste, even if you find you need to update your website.

Using redirects can make sure that the old URL can be used, even if the URL only ends up being redirected to another page in the end.

This also makes it easy for users of your website to keep their bookmarks if you ever do any reorganizing, as their old bookmarks will simply be redirected by the server to the new page when they’re put to use.

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Types Of Redirect

Now that we’ve had a quick look at what redirects are, and why a website owner or administrator should learn about them and make good use of them,w e can look at some types of redirects and how they can be used!

HTTP Redirects

HTTP redirects are by far the most common type of redirect in use. There are a few reasons why they’re the most used type of redirect.

Firstly, of course, there’s the fact that they’re relatively simple to understand, set up, and use, and generally provide no noticeable interruption to the end user of your website.

Also, this is the type of redirect that is most friendly to search engines. Most search engines will have no problem with any HTTP redirects that you do. However, some other types of redirect can cause problems between your website and some search engines.

An HTTP redirect works when the web browser requests a page from a server using a URL.

The server tells the browser to go to a different URL instead, and the browser then connects to that URL and displays the page without the user having to take any extra steps.

HTML Redirects

A HTML redirect doesn’t happen at the time a connection is made using HTTP. Instead, this type of redirect is created by a special tag that’s actually in the HTML code of the website.

As such, these redirects don’t actually kick in until the HTTP request has already been received, acknowledged, and responded to by the server.

The web browser actually has to download the HTML code that contains the correct tag before the redirect actually works.

These types of redirects aren’t recommended for general use in the same way that HTTP redirects are. They’re less useful for search engines, and in fact can potentially cause your website to be penalized when it comes to search rankings.

They’re also not seamless for users, as their browser will essentially download a webpage and then reload for another page, rather than simply being forwarded to the correct address as with a HTTP redirect.

JavaScript Redirects

JavaScript redirects are yet another type of redirect. Similarly to HTML redirects, JavaScript redirects rely on the server actually sending snippets of JavaScript code to the web browser when a page is requested.

When the relevant piece of code is sent and processed by the browser, the browser then transfers to the new page/URL. These are often considered to be even worse for most use cases than using HTML redirects.

For one thing, they rely on JavaScript, which some users disable for many security and privacy reasons. So, with JavaScript redirects, you can’t even rely on them working for all users!

Conclusion

While many aspects of owning, running, and maintaining a website can be confusing, redirects don’t have to be. In fact, using redirects wisely can actually help your website keep running smoothly!

They let you keep old sites working even when you make major changes, and also let you keep all of that valuable link juice even if you do decide to make major changes to your site.

Hopefully this guide has helped you to learn about them!

Justin Shaw
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