On-Site SEO for Lawyers: 301 Redirects for Law Firm Websites
Chris Dreyer | July 31, 2016
What are They?
As it relates to websites, a redirect is simply sending visits from one page to some other page (either on the same domain or from one domain to another). These traffic changes often go unnoticed by the user and virtually all websites have at least a couple redirects. Redirects have codes to let search engines and other software programs know how to handle them. There are a few different kinds of redirects and all have a specific impact on SEO.
- 301 Redirect: The 301 indicates that the resources at this location have been moved permanently. 301 redirects are the only type that allow PageRank to flow from one page to another. PageRank is also diminished from a redirect just like it is in a link from one page to another.
- 302 Redirect: The 302 indicates that the resource has moved but only temporarily. 302 redirects do not pass PageRank.
- 307 Redirect: The 307 also means the resource at the URL has moved temporarily and this is the successor of the 302 redirect for the update to version 1.1 of the HTTP protocol.
- The Meta Refresh: Another way to redirect a user using a meta tag. Also known as “the poor man’s redirect”. This method is not ideal.
Redirects are used for a variety of purposes such as changing website domains, moving content from one page to another, moving an entire website, and other similar scenarios.
Redirects are a great way to maintain a healthy site when it comes to SEO1. Lawyers should be careful how they are used and that the proper redirects get used for the proper situations.
301 Redirects: Permanent redirects should be used when a page actually moves for good. This is the best redirect to use when moving to a new domain, moving copy from one page to another because the old page is being taken down, or another scenario where content is moving and the old page will no longer be there.
302 and 307 Redirects: There is a lot of information on the internet saying to only use 301 redirects. It is true that in many cases, a 301 is the best bet but it is not as if the 302 is useless. If a resource truly is only moving for a temporary time period, a 302 is best. For example if content is moved to another page because the current one is under construction.
Meta Refresh: This method is executed on the page level (not on the server like other redirects). While this method is available, it is not ideal because of poor usability for visitors. It can take a long time (1 second or more) for a meta refresh to load and eventually send people to the correct page. While that may not seem like a long time, it is enough for the user to notice and wonder what is happening.
Depending on the type of redirect, they can be implemented manually on the server via FTP, in an HTML page or through a plugin in a CMS (for example in WordPress).
Redirects using WordPress (most lawyers will be able to do this)
There are a few really great plugins that allow you to set up redirects on your site without having any programming knowledge.
Here are the basic steps to follow after installing the Redirection plugin.
Visit Tools > Redirection and click on redirects
In the Add new redirection section start by entering your source URL (the page you want to redirect visitors FROM).
Next select how you want to match the URL and what you want to happen once a match is achieved. Note that in most cases lawyers will want to select ‘URL only’ and ‘redirect to URL’.
Next put in your target URL (the page you want visitors sent to)
Then click ‘Add Redirection’.
Test out your new redirection to make sure it’s working. Simply visit the page that you redirected and make sure it sends you to the new page.
Redirects using meta refresh (advanced)
There aren’t very many scenarios where attorneys would need to do this but a meta refresh can be another tool in your redirect tool box. Examples of where this might be useful include not having access to your website’s server or wanting visitors to see a message before they get redirected.
The syntax for a meta refresh looks like this:
Paste the meta tag portion of the snippet into the head section of the page you want to redirect. Note that if you are using WordPress, you will not be able to use the meta refresh option without some more advanced coding.
Redirects using .htaccess (very advanced)
This method is for those people who are familiar with accessing their site via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and can follow direction on editing their site’s .htaccess file. This file is meant to be instructions for how to handle certain behaviors on a server. A common permanent redirect will look something like this:
Lawyers should be very careful if attempting to edit a .htaccess file on their own. A mistake in programming can cause a site to not work any more. This tutorial5 has a lot of great information on how to redirect pages using .htaccess.