Change Page URLS with Redirects

Redirecting URLs is the practice of resolving an existing URL to a different one, effectively
telling your visitors and Google Search that a page has a new location. Redirects are
particularly useful in the following circumstances:

  • You’ve moved your site to a new domain, and you want to make the transition as seamless as
    possible.
  • People access your site through several different URLs. If, for example, your home page can
    be reached in multiple ways (for instance, http://example.com/home, http://home.example.com,
    or http://www.example.com), it’s a good idea to pick one of those URLs as your preferred
    (canonical)
    destination, and use redirects to send traffic from the other URLs to your preferred URL.
  • You’re merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected
    to the correct pages.
  • You removed a page and you want to send users to a new page.

Overview of redirect types

While your users generally won’t be able to tell the difference between the different types of
redirects, Google Search uses redirects as a strong or weak signal that the redirect target
should be canonical. Choosing a redirect depends on how long you expect the redirect will be
in place and what page you want Google Search to show in search results:

  • Permanent redirects: Show the new redirect target in search results.
  • Temporary redirects: Show the source page in search results.

The following table explains the various ways you can use to set up permanent and temporary
redirects, ordered by how likely Google is able to interpret correctly (for example, a server
side redirect has the highest chance of being interpreted correctly by Google). Choose the
redirect type that works for your situation and site:

Redirect types
Permanent

Googlebot follows the redirect, and the indexing pipeline uses the redirect as a
strong signal that the redirect target should be
canonical.

HTTP 301 (moved permanently)

Set up server side redirects.

HTTP 308 (moved permanently)
meta refresh (0 seconds)

Set up meta refresh redirects.

HTTP refresh (0 seconds)
JavaScript location

Set up JavaScript redirects.

Crypto redirect

Learn more about
crypto redirects.

Temporary

Googlebot follows the redirect, and the indexing pipeline uses the redirect as a
weak signal that the redirect target should be canonical.

Server side redirects

Setting up server side redirects requires access to the server configuration files (for
example, the .htaccess file on Apache) or setting the redirect headers with
server side scripts (for example, PHP). You can create both permanent and temporary redirects
on the server side.

Permanent server side redirects

If you need to change the URL of a page as it is shown in search engine results, we recommend
that you use a permanent server side redirect whenever possible. This is the best way to
ensure that Google Search and people are directed to the correct page. The 301
and 308 status codes mean that a page has permanently moved to a new location.

Temporary server side redirects

If you just want to send users to a different page temporarily, use a temporary redirect. This
will also ensure that Google keeps the old URL in its results for a longer time. For example,
if a service your site offers is temporarily unavailable, you can set up a temporary redirect
to send users to a page that explains what’s happening, without compromising the original URL
in search results.

Implement server side redirects

The implementation of server side redirects depends on your hosting and server environment, or
the scripting language of your site’s backend.

To set up a permanent redirect with PHP, use the header() function. You must set
the headers before sending anything to the screen:

header('HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently');
header('Location: http://www.example.com/newurl');
exit();

Similarly, here’s an example of how to set up a temporary redirect with PHP:

header('HTTP/1.1 302 Found');
header('Location: http://www.example.com/newurl');
exit();

If you have access to your web server configuration files, you may be able to write the
redirect rules yourself. Follow your web server’s guides:

  • Apache: Consult the
    Apache .htaccess Tutorial, the
    Apache URL Rewriting Guide, and the
    Apache mod_alias documentation.
    For example, you can use mod_alias to set up the simplest form of redirects:

    # Permanent redirect:
    Redirect permanent "/old" "http://example.com/new"
    
    # Temporary redirect:
    Redirect temp "/two-old" "http://example.com/two-new"

    For more complex redirects, use mod_rewrite. For example:

    RewriteEngine on
    # redirect the service page to a new page with a permanent redirect
    RewriteRule   "^/service$"  "/about/service"  [R=301]
    
    # redirect the service page to a new page with a temporary redirect
    RewriteRule   "^/service$"  "/about/service"  [R]
  • NGINX: Read about
    Creating NGINX Rewrite Rules
    on the NGINX blog. As with Apache, you have multiple choices to create redirects. For
    example:

    location = /service {
      # for a permanent redirect
      return 301 $scheme://example.com/about/service
    
      # for a temporary redirect
      return 302 $scheme://example.com/about/service
    }

    For more complex redirects, use the rewrite directive:

    location = /service {
      # for a permanent redirect
      rewrite service?name=$1 ^service/offline/([a-z]+)/?$ permanent;
    
      # for a temporary redirect
      rewrite service?name=$1 ^service/offline/([a-z]+)/?$ redirect;
    }
  • For all other web servers, check with your server manager or hoster, or search for guides on
    your favorite search engine (for example, search for “LiteSpeed redirects”).

If server side redirects aren’t possible to implement on your
platform, meta refresh redirects may be a viable alternative. Google
differentiates between two kinds of meta refresh redirects:

  • Instant meta refresh redirect: Trigger as soon as the page is
    loaded in a browser. Google Search interprets instant meta refresh redirects as
    permanent redirects.
  • Delayed meta refresh redirect: Triggers only after an
    arbitrary number of seconds set by the site owner. Google Search interprets delayed
    meta refresh redirects as temporary redirects.

Place the meta refresh redirect either in the head section of the HTML or in the
HTTP header with server side code. For example, here’s an instant meta refresh redirect in
the head section of the HTML:

<!doctype html>
<html>
  <head>
  <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=https://example.com/newlocation" />
  <title>Example title</title>
  <!--...-->

Here’s an example of the HTTP header equivalent, which you can inject with server side
scripts:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Refresh: 0; url=http://www.example.com/newlocation
...

To create a delayed redirect, which is interpreted as a temporary redirect by Google, set the
content attribute to the number of seconds that the redirect should be delayed:

<!doctype html>
<html>
  <head>
  <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5; url=https://example.com/newlocation" />
  <title>Example title</title>
  <!--...-->

JavaScript location redirects

Google Search interprets and executes JavaScript using the Web Rendering Service once crawling
of the URL has completed.

To set up a JavaScript redirect, set the location property to the redirect target
URL in a script block in the HTML head. For example:

<!doctype html>
<html>
  <head>
    <script>
      window.location.href('http://www.example.com/newlocation')
    </script>
    <title>Example title</title>
    <!--...-->

Crypto redirects

If you can’t implement any of the traditional redirect methods, you should still make an
effort to let your users know that the page or its content has moved. The simplest way to do
this is to add a link pointing to the new page accompanied by a short explanation. For
example:

<a href="https://newsite.example.com/newpage.html">We moved! Find the content on our new site!</a>

This helps users find your new site and Google may understand this as a
crypto redirect.

Alternate versions of a URL

When you redirect a URL, Google keeps track of both the redirect source (the old URL) and the
redirect target (the new URL). One of the URLs will be the
canonical; which one,
depends on signals such as whether the redirect was temporary or permanent. The other URL
becomes an alternate name of the canonical URL. Alternate names may appear in search
results when a user’s query hints that they might trust the old URL more.

For example, if you
moved to a new domain name,
it’s very likely that Google will continue to occasionally show the old URLs in the results,
even though the new URLs are already indexed. This is normal and as users get used to the new
domain name, the alternate names will fade away without you doing anything.

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