We are back with our Front Desk SEO Series, and this time we are talking about redirects. Redirects, in their simplest definition, are signals – signals to users and signals to Google bots. You might be asking yourself, “Why do I need to care about redirects? I am not a website developer or SEO manager.” But if you moved homes, you would give your new address to friends and family, right?
In the world of redirects, that is exactly what you are doing; you changed your address (url), now let the people (your site visitors and google bots) know! There are multiple kinds of redirects, but I am going to share some commonly used types and share the importance of understanding their uses.
What is a 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect is used when you remove a page or pages from your website and want to permanently send that traffic to a different page.
A few instances where you would use a 301 redirect include when you build a new website, remove pages from your site, or restructure your website’s navigation. A 301 redirect indicates to users and to search engines your page has permanently moved. When removing a page from your website and redirecting the traffic, it is possible to see a temporary dip in traffic. Another major benefit of using 301 redirects is they help pass the authority you built on the original url to the new one.
The important aspect of a 301 redirect is while it redirects traffic and search engines to another page, it passes some of the authority you built on that original url to the new one.
When and why use a 301 redirect?
Domain / URL Level Redirect
Whether you are transitioning from a brand.com only online presence, getting rid of your independent website and going back to a brand only presence, or rebuilding your existing independent website, 301 redirects will be an important part of this process. If your hotel has been affected by the new Hilton brand standards that no longer approves the use of independent websites, you will want to listen up.
Your website may have anywhere from 15-30 pages on it, and while redirecting each individual url may sound tedious, in the long run, this will help users and google bots understand your signals better. When a site is taken down, it is, more often than not, redirected at the domain level as opposed to the url level.
www.oldsiteurl.com/anything-after-this is redirected to www.newsiteurl.com
One of the benefits of a 301 redirect is it will help pass authority to the new page. If you are taking down a website you’ve spent years building authority for, why not put some effort into salvaging what you’ve done?
Writing the most efficient 301 redirects not only helps create a better user experience, but signals an important change to google bots as well. Examples of a 301 from your independent website to your brand.com website would be:
www.oldwebsiteurl.com/contact-us traffic to your www.newwebsiteurl.com/contact-us page.
The 301 redirect will look something like this:
Redirect 301 /contact-us http://www.newwebsiteurl.com/contact-us
In order to complete this url / domain level redirect, you need access to your old domain’s .htaccess file, which means you will need to do this in preparation for your site’s takedown.
Deleting A Webpage
You can also use a 301 redirect to remove pages that are on the same domain. Let’s say for example your hotel had one page dedicated to promoting the rooms in your hotel and a separate page promoting the suites.
Recently, all your hotel’s rooms were converted into suites, making the rooms page obsolete and inaccurate. Since Google knows the rooms page url, how do we get Google to forget the rooms page and forward traffic to the suites page? In order to give users the best possible and most accurate experience the rooms traffic needs to be redirected to the suites page using a 301 redirect.
This helps signal to users that you have a new, more relevant place on the web for them to find content they were looking for. By implementing this redirect you’re also indicating to Google and other search engines this page has permanently moved to a new place and from now on, come to this new suites page for anything related to rooms.
What is a 302 redirect?
A 302 redirect is used when a page of your website is temporarily unavailable but will return in the future.
A 302 redirect is considered a temporary redirect with the idea in mind that you will either bring this page back in the future, or you are waiting on a better place to permanently send the traffic. One important aspect about 302 redirects is that, unlike their 301 counterparts, they do not pass any link authority, so the time you have spent building links to your url and creating buzz around the page will be lost.
This is important to remember when choosing between a 301 and a 302 redirect; if you choose a 302 incorrectly, you’ll be loosing all the link equity you’ve spent time building to the original url. 302 redirects send signals to Google bots saying, “hey stay here on this page of information, but send users to the new (temporary) page for a short period of time until the redirect is removed.”
When and why use a 302 redirect?
Temporarily Unavailable Page
For example, say your hotel has an amazing outdoor pool that is a big selling point to guests, and your website has a landing page dedicated to the amazing amenities offered at the pool. Your hotel is also undergoing pool renovations that will make your pool temporarily unavailable.
To avoid upsetting guests, you implement a 302 redirect to temporarily send your pool traffic to your renovations page detailing the temporary pool shutdown as well as other on property related renovations. You are temporarily redirecting the pool page to avoid upsetting future customers who are expecting a pool upon arrival.
The 302 redirect signals users that have landed on the pool page to go directly onto the renovations page, but signals to google bots to stay at the pool page.
The 302 redirect will look something like this:
Redirect 302 /pool http://www.yourhotelwebsite.com/renovations
With a 302 redirect, Google will not de-index the page, and your site will continue to rank for keywords related to the pool amenities, allowing you to provide the latest information to the guests without sacrificing your site’s rankings.
What is a rel=”canonical” tag?
A rel=canonical tag an html element used to help prevent duplicate content issues. Duplicate content is a big no-no in the eyes of Google, and the best way to avoid being penalized is by using the rel=canonical tag.
Does your website have multiple pages discussing similar content? If so, you will want to organize these pages and choose the page that most holistically conceptualizes the content. Think of this page as the end all be all for content on that topic. You’ll then take that url and add a <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://blog.example.com/dresses/green-dresses-are-awesome” /> to the <head> section of the duplicate content pages.
This tag tells the google bots to stop considering other resources on this topic besides the url linked because the rel=canonical tag tells Google bots this is the best resource our site has on the topic. The important thing to remember about the rel=canonical tag is that it is used to directly send signals to Google bots, not to users on your site.
When and why use a rel=canonical tag?
User Targeted Content
You are having a 4-day flash sale on a particular special offer and are combining your efforts to promote your flash sale with a social campaign, email marketing blast, and ppc campaign to sending visitors to a particular landing page.
Since you only have a small window where this landing page’s special offer is going to be live, this is a perfect opportunity to use the canonical tag. What happens when you add the canonical tag to this flash sale page is you are telling the google bots to go onto our special offers page and use that information as the authority but leave users at this flash sale page.
The canonical tag is telling the robots to keep the original special offers page as our authoritative page on all things specials, deals, and promotions, but we only want to serve users our flash sale page for the duration of the 4-day sale.
The main thing to remember ist we want the specials page to be the main page Google ranks, indexes, and uses as authority. What the rel=canonical tag does is tell the bots, “Hey, I know we have a few similar pages, but I am telling you this is the main one I want ranking, whereas this other page is where I want users to go to.”
What Signals Are You Sending?
The importance in understanding rel=canonical tag and 301 and 302 redirects lies in defining the signals you want to send to users and ultimately to Google bots. You may not be the person implementing the technical side of the redirect, but you do have a responsibility to understand the important impact proper redirects can have as well as the potential negative effects that can come from a wrong or missing redirect.
When you are changing the structure of your site in any way, ask yourself, “What signals is our website sending?” and “What signals do we want our website to send?”
Do you have questions about redirects? We’ve got you covered. Reach out to our team at Blue Magnet Interactive for more information.
To learn more about SEO basics for hotels, check out our other Front Desk SEO articles on our blog.