301 Redirect The SEO Way To Rename Or Move Files Or Folders

301 Redirect The SEO Way To Rename Or Move Files Or Folders

In this article I will discuss page redirection techniques,​ what works and what to​ avoid.

What is​ page redirection and why would you​ want to​ use it?

Let’s say you​ rename a​ page on​ your website,​ for whatever reason. Perhaps you​ decided to​ revamp your entire naming convention,​ perhaps you​ decided to​ restructure your site and need to​ move pages into different folders,​ or​ you​ just realized that you​ are missing valuable keywords.

Let’s elaborate a​ bit on​ the​ keywords issue,​ since it​ is​ part of​ your search engine ranking success.

Let’s say the​ page in​ question is​ about customized USB drives and you​ named it​ page1.htm. Then you​ read some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) articles and you​ found out that some search engines use words in​ the​ actual file name as​ search keywords. Next time you​ do a​ Google search,​ take a​ look at​ the​ results,​ most will have words in​ the​ actual file name (in the​ URL section) bolded,​ denoting a​ keyword match. Your USB drives page will definitely benefit if​ named something like custom_usb_drives.htm instead.

Now that you​ renamed your page,​ you​ just created a​ symphony of​ issues for yourself,​ for your users and for your position in​ search engine results.

Linking issues:

You will have to​ point every link on​ your site to​ the​ new page name. if​ your site is​ small,​ it​ should not be a​ big deal,​ but if​ your site is​ large,​ you​ will inevitably make mistakes,​ mainly forgetting a​ link or​ two. This will result in​ visitors getting the​ dreaded “404 page not found” error when clicking on​ your links,​ robots (also know as​ crawlers or​ spiders) avoiding you,​ etc. Also,​ if​ you​ are heavily relying on​ visitors from search engines,​ then again,​ people will get a​ “404 page not found error”.

Let’s use the​ previous example,​ for a​ long time your page1.htm was indexed by major search engines. if​ someone types “custom usb drives” in​ a​ search engine box,​ your page shows up on​ the​ first search results screen. That is​ fantastic,​ only if​ someone clicks on​ the​ link,​ they will be pointed to​ page1.htm,​ not to​ custom_usb_drives.htm,​ because the​ first page is​ the​ one in​ the​ search engine’s index. it​ will take time,​ sometimes months,​ before the​ search engines update their indexes with your new page name.

Lost Page Rank (PR) issues:

Google developed a​ proprietary algorithm that assigns a​ Page Rank (PR) to​ every page on​ the​ web. PR is​ a​ number from 1 to​ 10 (10 being the​ ideal) and is​ intended to​ be a​ representation of​ how useful and popular a​ given page is. PR is​ influenced by many factors,​ one of​ the​ crucial ones being Link Popularity. Link Popularity is​ a​ representation of​ how many “quality” or​ “relevant” sites link to​ your page. Without getting into too much detail,​ it​ is​ increasingly difficult and time consuming to​ achieve a​ high PR for your pages,​ especially if​ you​ don’t have a​ really unique website with exceptional and highly sought after content. if​ you​ are merely operating a​ commercial site,​ in​ a​ competitive market (such as​ selling custom branded USB drives,​ as​ in​ our example),​ then it​ takes a​ lot of​ time and hard work to​ build a​ good page PR.

When you​ rename a​ page and discard the​ old page,​ you​ also discard the​ PR of​ the​ page. Your renamed page will be seen as​ a​ totally new page,​ with 0 PR.

What is​ the​ solution?

I will start by enumerating some of​ the​ methods used by the​ non-initiated.

Not recommended solution 1: Duplicate content.

First thing that probably comes in​ you​ mind is: well,​ why can’t you​ just duplicate the​ page and let nature take its course. in​ other words,​ you​ will have two identical pages,​ one named page1.htm and one custom_usb_drives.htm. This gives you​ time to​ update all links and the​ search engines will eventually index the​ new page.

This solution is​ not viable because search engines will penalize you​ quite badly,​ ‘thinking’ that you​ are trying to​ scam them by using the​ ‘duplicate content’ technique.

Not recommended solution 2: Custom error message.

You could create a​ custom error page. However,​ you​ will lose rankings on​ the​ next search engine update as​ the​ file will appear to​ be non-existent. as​ discussed above,​ it​ could be some time before the​ page with the​ new name will be indexed and will appear in​ people’s searches. Also,​ your web site visitors will be frustrated by the​ fact that they now have to​ dig through your site to​ find the​ desired information.

Not recommended solution 3: an​ HTML Meta redirect.

You could implement a​ so called Meta refresh in​ a​ blank or​ customized page that has the​ name of​ the​ old page (in our example,​ page1.htm) that points to​ the​ new page. the​ redirect can be instant,​ or​ delayed by a​ predetermine amount of​ time. the​ delayed redirect has the​ advantage that you​ can place an​ extra message,​ such as​ “please be aware that the​ page you​ are looking for changed location….. etc.,​ etc…. you​ will be redirected automatically to​ the​ new location”

In the​ past,​ this was probably the​ most used technique.

Without getting into the​ mechanics of​ the​ Meta redirect,​ which is​ basically a​ META tag statement you​ ad to​ your HEADER section,​ know that there are also Java Script techniques that achieve similar results.

What is​ bad about this is​ that this is​ a​ technique often used by spammers to​ trick search engines and it​ should be avoided,​ unless the​ page is​ in​ a​ section of​ your site that isn't indexed (also known as​ spidered or​ crawled). Search engine spammers create a​ page that is​ optimized for certain keywords and phrases - it​ usually has no real content. the​ page is​ then picked up by some search engines,​ but when a​ visitor clicks on​ the​ search engine entry,​ they are redirected to​ another site,​ often unrelated. Most search engines have filters to​ detect this. Using this form of​ search engine deception will see a​ site eventually banned or​ penalized by major players such as​ Google.

The recommended redirect strategy - 301 Redirect

A 301 redirect is​ the​ most efficient,​ visitor friendly,​ robot (spider,​ crawler) friendly and search engine friendly solution around for web sites that are hosted on​ servers running Apache. if​ you​ are not sure,​ check with your hosting provider.

A 301 redirect is​ just a​ set of​ commands you​ type into your .htaccess file.

When a​ visitor (whether human or​ robotic) requests a​ web page via any means,​ your web server checks for a​ .htaccess file. the​ .htaccess file contains specific instructions for certain requests,​ including security,​ redirection issues and how to​ handle certain errors.

The code "301" is​ interpreted as​ "moved permanently". After the​ code,​ the​ URL of​ the​ missing or​ renamed page is​ noted,​ followed by a​ space,​ then followed by the​ new location or​ file name.

First of​ all,​ you'll need to​ find the​ .htaccess file in​ the​ root directory of​ where all your web pages are stored. if​ there is​ no .htaccess file there,​ you​ can create one with Notepad or​ a​ similar application. Make sure when you​ name the​ file that you​ remember to​ put the​ "." at​ the​ beginning of​ the​ file name. This file has no tail extension.

Some hosting providers offer redirect services through their “control panels”,​ so you​ don’t have to​ perform low level changes on​ the​ .htaccess file itself. Instead,​ they provide a​ user friendly interface for this. Check with your hosting provider to​ see what the​ optimal way to​ perform a​ 301 redirect is​ in​ your case. I will continue the​ article with the​ barebones solution.

If there is​ a​ .htaccess file already in​ existence with lines of​ code present,​ be very careful not to​ change any existing line unless you​ are familiar with the​ functions of​ the​ file.

Scroll down past all the​ existing code,​ leave a​ line space,​ then create a​ new line that follows this example:

redirect 301 /folder/page1.htm http://www.you.com/folder/custom_usb_drives.htm

It's as​ easy as​ that. Save the​ file,​ upload it​ back into your web and test it​ out by typing in​ the​ old address to​ the​ page you've changed. you​ should be instantly and seamlessly transported to​ the​ new location.

Notes: Be sure not to​ add "http://www" to​ the​ first part of​ the​ statement - just put the​ path from the​ top level of​ your site to​ the​ page. Also ensure that you​ leave a​ single space between these elements:

redirect 301 (the instruction that the​ page has moved)

/folder/page1.htm (the original folder path and file name)

http://www.you.com/folder/custom_usb_drives.htm (new path and file name)

The same format applies not only to​ renamed files,​ but also to​ files moved to​ a​ different location.

The 301 redirect is​ the​ safest way to​ preserve your rankings. on​ the​ next indexing (crawling,​ spidering),​ the​ search engine robot will obey the​ rule indicated in​ your .htaccess file and index the​ new page name every time a​ link or​ its internal database tries to​ access the​ old page. in​ the​ next update (again,​ this could take months),​ the​ old file name and path will be dropped and replaced with the​ new one. Sometimes you​ may see alternating old/new file names during the​ transition period,​ along with some possible fluctuations in​ rankings as​ things settle. Don't panic,​ this is​ normal.

What if​ your site is​ hosted on​ a​ Microsoft IIS server instead?

If you​ have access to​ the​ server,​ do this: in​ internet services manager,​ right click on​ the​ file or​ folder you​ wish to​ redirect. Select the​ radio titled "a redirection to​ a​ URL". Enter the​ redirection page,​ check "The exact url entered above" and the​ "A permanent redirection for this resource". Click "Apply".

If you​ do not have access to​ the​ server,​ ask your host to​ point you​ into the​ right direction.

In conclusion,​ the​ best and the​ most transparent way (to both human and robotic users) to​ rename and move files on​ your web site,​ while preserving your search engine ranks is​ the​ 301 redirect.

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