About 301 Redirects
Some websites claim that a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link juice. Well, we both know this is not true since you were searching for this website and found it :)
Other websites even claim that 301 redirects ensure search engines and browsers of all kinds give "full credit" and once again you can see that traffic to your website is dramatically missing.
What they heck happened?
Okay, so here is what happened. You took advice from an agency that told you how you can maintain all of your great SEO as you moved your website from one platform to another. They told you that Google said to implement 301 redirects and this will maintain 90-95% of your link juice or link ranking and all will be okay. So, you did what they said and created a redirect file and handed it over, just like they said, right?
So, here is where you are at now. Screwed. Yep, you guessed it, they were wrong and all of your non-branded traffic is gone. Sure the traffic for your brand name still exists but not the non-branded. And when you asked the agency what happened they said that this never happens and that you need to spend more time focusing on SEO. Remember, you didn't need to work on this harder before, right?
And now they are offering their seo service to try to get your non-branded organic rankings back. Let me tell you a little secret. The non-branded traffic will come back all on it's own... in about 3 or so years! Keep in mind you are taking advice from the same people that messed it all up to begin with. Like the saying goes, "Those that make the mistake can't be part of the solution because they have too much pride to admit they were wrong".
I have worked on so many websites and watched too many competitors and read too many reasons why websites lose their traffic. And the number one reason I see over and over again is moving to a new platform incorrectly. And all of the smart people put their heads together and can never figure out what exactly what when wrong.
Here is what went wrong. Watch this video. And notice because this guy works for Google and because he did not lose traffic for his branded search term the rest of the planet has been doing this entire 301 redirect thing all wrong. Wrong.
google matt cutts video goes here
The reason... a 301 redirect is telling the search engines to remove the page from their index. There you have it. You told the search engine this page is no longer here and will never return so what do you think the search engine is going to do? It will remove the page from the index, ASAP. This is the job of a 301 redirect.
Look, ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a 404 page not found or a 500 server error in the search engine listings? Yeah, back in 1999 this was common. I was there in the 90s working on websits so I know. But, engines have gotten much better at providing relevant results and your 301/302 redirects most likely are not relevant so they drop to the bottom of the results if they appear at all.
So, the moral of the story: "Those that make the mistake can't be part of the solution because they have too much pride to admit they were wrong".
Here is what happened to me over a decade ago. I was managing a website and we were making money hand over fist just crushing it in our industry. We were a scroungy bunch of characters if you ask me and this is why the machine all worked out so well. A real team with love for what we were working on.
We were undergoing a major website revamp and were considering a couple of major platforms to help take us to the "next level". I was working on the site for years and helped grow sales while many of our competitors weren't too happy with all of the great organic search results we were getting. We were crushing our competition basically taking traffic away from their websites. It was awesome.
Anyway, a couple of "smart people" were going to lead the project of moving to the new platform. They pretended they were smart but in my opinion they were not and were not open to listening from those that had real-life experience. Their plan was to implement "301 redirects" to maintain our organic search traffic. It didn't matter how much proof I had showing that 301 redirects don't work nobody would listen. Note to self: please never become a "smart" person. Always be a good listener.
So, you guessed it. The website was launched and the 301 redirects were implemented and our traffic dropped dramatically. Keep this in mind. Everyone in the C-suite was expecting traffic and revenue to increase and continue the upward trend that I created which would help pay for the implementation of the new platform and take things to the next level. Well, that was not going to happen. Traffic was tanking quick.
Next, instead of correcting the situation and doing things the right way what does every "smart person" do? Double down on their mistake. You see folks. This is why those that make huge mistakes should never be in charge of turning things around. They have too much pride to admit their mistakes and will not listen to facts.
So, where are you at with your organic traffic? Did it drop after implementing those 301 redirects? Are you ready to do something productive about it? Well, if you are still reading I suspect you are ready.
Here is another example of a different website I worked on. This is a success story.
We were just two weeks away from launching onto a completly new platform. I was brought in to complete the launch. And I found that the plan was to use 301 redirects to maintain the organic search traffic. No, no, no I said. Let's do this the right way.
Once again I encountered a web agency with a bunch of "smart people" working there. Wow, what a nightmare. Meeting after meeting and explanation after explanation I was giving a tutorial of the basics of how search engines work. What a huge waste of time. Remember that note I made to myself earlier? Beware of smart people.
So, at the end of the day we did not use 301 redirects, transferred the traffic and link juice the correct way, and not only did we maintain our branded and non-branded organic search traffic but it skyrocketed! No, I mean it really took off. It took off so much that we all received Christmas bonuses IN JULY for meeting our goals for the year. We were crushing it.
But this is not the end of the story...
You see, too many companies change their website every few years to either save money or believe a change will make them more money.
Okay, now it's time to check the data. What does Google Analyitcs say? I mean, where is your traffic coming from? Most importantly where is your converting traffic coming from? All of the retail websites I have worked on and those that I reviewed all had one thing in common... most of their converting traffic is from organic search.
Converting traffic for a website usually looks like this: Organic search 50%, paid search 16%, email broadcasts 10%. There you have it. 76% of the converting traffic only comes from a few sources. The rest of the traffic is from typing in the direct URL, referring sites, social, and banner ads. Hmmm, let me see, where should I be focuing my time?
All traffic is not the same. It's easy to get a lot of traffic but if it's not from those that are highly likely to purchase then why bother? I have found that 100% of the time the traffic I receive from social channels have the lowest conversion rate just above banner ads but below everything else.
You see, when someone is searching they have more intent to spend money with your website. High intent. But, when people are keeping up to date with friends in social channels they are keeping up to date with frinds and no intent to make any purchases. This is why high converting search traffic is so important. First it's high converting and second it can be about half of your revenue. Go look at your analytics and see for yourself.
So, back to the high converting traffic. This is why transfering traffic to the new platform has to be done correctly otherwise it will take 3 years to get your high converting organic (and free) traffic back.
Well, remember the success story I was talking about? They eventually moved to another platform and used 301 redirects. And, you guessed it. All of their awesome organic traffic is gone except for their branded search terms. Remember what I said earlier about Matt Cutts at Google? He too thought 301s worked because he was only getting traffic using branded terms so of course he didn't see much of a drop.
The HTTP response status code 301 Moved Permanently is used for permanent URL redirection, meaning current links or records using the URL that the response is received for should be updated 301 Redirect SEO Instruction Code. The new URL should be provided in the Location field included with the response. The 301 redirect is considered a best practice for upgrading users from HTTP to HTTPS.
If a client has link-editing capabilities, it should update all references to the Request URL. The response is cacheable unless indicated otherwise. Unless the request method was HEAD, the entity should contain a small hypertext note with a hyperlink to the new URL(s). If the 301 status code is received in response to a request of any type other than GET or HEAD, the client must ask the user before redirecting.