Did you just launch your first website? Congratulations! Did you just have your site rebuilt so it’s responsive? Even better! In both cases, you need to make sure your website is technically on par with SEO standards. But, what does that mean? Simple things like 301 redirects, permalinks, and sitemaps can play a big role in how your website is found, crawled, indexed, and presented via search engines. These three items can also greatly affect how your users interact with your website among other technical maintenance and implementations. Below you will learn about three technical website tips that can affect your SEO and user experience.
Oh, and here’s the TL;DR breakdown for those super skimmers looking for bite-sized chunks of information.
301 and 302
- A 301 redirect is an HTTP status code that permanently changes the path from one URL or page to another URL or page.
- If a specific page 404s or is no longer relevant, you can 301 redirect it to fix the error or guide the search engine bot and user to the correct page and content.
- SEO is all about signals, and your pages have content signals, which mean if you have 404s, duplicate content, or a website with broken links, you need to implement 301 redirects to ensure search engines can crawl and index as much of your website as possible.
- 302 redirects are temporary so that website managers and developers can update pages without them being indexed.
- A 302 redirect communicates to crawlers that the page is temporarily unavailable, but will return soon. This code also redirects the user and search engine to a different page.
- Permalinks are the static hyperlinks to your individual website pages.
- With an optimized link structure, you can make it easy for users and search engines to consume, crawl, and index your content
- Readable content is a major signal in how search engines determine how your website and its pages rank organically, so it’s imperative that your permalinks are user friendly and search engine optimized.
- Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to navigate your site while crawling it for indexable pages.
- Sitemaps enable search engines to crawl your site faster, and if search engines are getting your content easier, you can see quicker results in rank improvement when it comes to blogging and website content.
What is a 301 and 302 redirect?
Simply put, a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. As an example, if you were to move your website from domain A to domain B, you would need to implement a 301 redirect. Once the code is implemented, anyone who clicked on or visited site A would be taken to site B automatically.
If you come across a 302 redirect, that means the page you’ve visited is temporarily unavailable due to the web manager updating or changing something at that URL. This does not permanently remove the page, but it does communicate to the search engines that the unavailable URL will be available again at a later date.
How do these codes work?
Think about it like this: you can parallel the 301 redirect to a “change of address” form with USPS. The concept is the same, but it applies to a website URL (domain) or a website page. If you’ve moved to a new domain or moved a page to a different URL, you need to assist both search engines and users in finding that new location. They will eventually find the new location of your content, but it’s more efficient for all three parties (you, users, and search engines) if you direct them.
Page A —> Page B
A 302 redirect does the same thing as a 301, but it’s temporary, so the main elements of the unavailable page still register with search engines, even though they are redirected to a different page. This type of redirect is seen frequently in A/B testing, since one URL is the main location and the other is used to test a different version of a design, layout, or a piece of content.
Why is this important to SEO?
How can not using 301 redirects affect your website and online presence in the SERPs? As the examples above mentioned, at some point in time you will move or adjust the content on your website. You will eventually rebuild and/or redesign your website as new trends and standards surface. What this means is that your URLs may need some technical maintenance to guide search engines and users to the correct pages.
If you rebuild your site, move domains, or update your link structure without implementing the proper 301 redirects, you may lose current traffic from all of the links you’ve already established to your old site/page. Google in particular does not use 404 errors as a ranking signal, but if you have a 404 error for long enough due to the lack of a 301 redirect, that page will be pulled from the SERPs. This means you’ll lose all current traffic and potential traffic to anything linking to that page. The big picture shows that as a loss overall, even if it’s a single page on one website.
What is a permalink?
The short answer: a static page hyperlink. For example, if you take a look at the URL bar at the top of this page, you’ll find the permalink for this blog post. To save you the trip, here’s an image as an example:
How do they work?
Permalinks are simply hyperlinks that denote a single page URL. If you have a blog post, the direct URL to that post is considered it’s permalink. If you have a service or product page, it would also have its own permalink.
Permalinks can come in different formats:
- day and name (http://test.com/2015/01/02/sample-post)
- month and name (http://test.com/2015/01/sample-post)
- numeric (http://test.com/archive/12345)
- post name (http://test.com/post-name-goes-here)
Why are these “links” important to SEO?
If you were to take any one of the link structures above, which do you think would be the best for the user? How about the search engine? Which structure would benefit your SEO efforts? You may think there’s a different answer for each question, but consider the “post-name” option over all of the others.
The “post-name” offers quiet a few advantages over the others. The first is that you can include keywords related to your post in the URL. The search engine will see the URL as having keywords that relate to the content. The second reason is purely for the user. It’s easier to read the URL when words are used instead of random numbers, characters, and symbols. The third and final reason is for your content creation team. Implementing names for posts makes life easier when it comes to keyword research, topic brainstorming, and delving into analytics.
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is the list of a pages available to the user or search engine on a website. It’s a hierarchal map of how pages branch off from one another like a family tree.
How does it work?
A sitemap is an intentional organization of the pages on a website. It allows for crawlers and users to see how pages link to one another across the site. In most cases, websites have a single homepage. From the homepage, you can click through various links that lead to a second level of pages, usually the general service pages. Any links on the service pages tend to lead to the third and final level that offers detailed information on specific services.
“A sitemap is like a road map for the structure of your website.”
Why is it important to SEO?
A sitemap allows easier access to the pages on your website. Although a website without a sitemap can still be crawled and all pages indexed, the sitemap helps search engines find your content more quickly and more efficiently. In this regard, when you add new content to your website via a blog or a new service page, it’s easier for search engines to target this update via the sitemap. Also, a sitemap employs a page hierarchy or importance that the search engines tend to respect, since site maps don’t just appear on your website; they have to be implemented.
Content creation is first on the list of importance. Technical maintenance and SEO is a real close second. Without the mechanics of your website functioning at full speed, your content has no where to hang out and be found. 301/302 redirects help users and search engines find your content, which is how your site gets ranked and how your brand awareness increases. Permalinks and links structure are like the street names to your website city, so title them originally and clearly. A sitemap is a hierarchal map of your entire website that helps search engines and users find your content.
And for your content to be found, experienced, and/or indexed, it needs a home. That home is your website.