What Are Redirects? Definition, Types, and How to Use Them

Have you wondered how to maintain your website's traffic and SEO value when updating pages or changing domain names?

Redirects ensure your visitors don’t reach a dead end when trying to access a webpage. And your search engine rankings don’t suffer due to broken links.

In this guide, you'll learn how to implement redirects effectively. From choosing the right type for your needs to best practices that keep your site running smoothly.

What Are Redirects? Definition, Types, and How to Use Them:

What Is a Redirect?

A redirect is a web server function that automatically forwards an old URL to a new one. In other words, it’s a way to direct visitors and search engine crawlers to the correct URL address.

Redirects are crucial to direct traffic to a new location without losing much SEO value (if any). 

Especially in the following cases:

  • Adjusting the URL structure of individual webpages. Or integrating changes like category tags that modify URLs.
  • Removing outdated pages. Or combining multiple similar pages into one.
  • Transitioning your entire website to a new domain. Or upgrading from HTTP to HTTPS for better security.

Let’s say you’re rebranding your website, and several old URLs no longer fit the new structure. Setting up redirects helps ensure anyone clicking on the old links will still reach the appropriate content on your new site.

If you move or delete a page without implementing a redirect, users will see a 404 error response whenever they visit the link.

Like this:

404 error page

Redirects maintain user experience and site authority by preventing access to broken links or outdated content. This approach supports your SEO strategy. And keeps your website's navigation efficient.

Quickly check your website's redirect issues with Semrush's Site Audit tool. Including pages with load problems. And the total number of issues per page. (More on this later.)

site audit crawled pages redirects

How Can a Redirect Impact SEO?

Redirects can maintain your site's SEO during a transition by promoting continuity and user satisfaction. But if you misuse them, they can harm your site's SEO.

Preserves Link Equity

Preserving link equity helps you maintain the authority and search rankings of your website and individual webpages after you change URLs.

Link equity is the cumulative value a page receives from internal and external links.

how links pass equity

Redirects help transfer the value from an old URL to a new one. Helping prevent loss in SEO strength when the URL structure changes.

For example, say you moved a linked blog post to a new URL. A 301 redirect from the old URL will help preserve its search engine ranking by passing the link equity to the new address.

Implementing a 301 redirect is vital when permanently moving content from one URL to another. This URL redirect ensures that most link equity is passed to the new URL to maintain your site's authority.

Reduces Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content can harm your rankings on search engine result pages.

Redirects help you ‌group similar or duplicate content under a single URL. This approach simplifies content management. And avoids potential SEO challenges associated with identical or similar content across multiple pages. 

Like issues with choosing the right page to rank.

You can use a 301 redirect to guide search engines and users from duplicate content pages to the primary page. This is often necessary after you update or merge old articles into more comprehensive new posts.

Suppose you have two older blog posts that you've combined into one comprehensive article. Redirecting the old posts to the new one prevents SEO issues related to duplicate content. It also strengthens the new article's visibility.

Avoids SEO Pitfalls of Redirects

Incorrectly implementing redirects can lead to many SEO problems. Including broken links, lost page rankings, and negative user experiences.

Technical SEO issues often arise from:

  • Redirect chains (multiple consecutive redirects)
  • Redirect loops (one page redirecting to another, which redirects back to the original)
  • Using the wrong type of redirect. Such as using a temporary redirect when a permanent one is needed.

A best practice is to perform regular SEO audits of your website's redirect setup. This approach can help you identify and resolve any technical issues before they impact your SEO.

For example, say a chain of three redirects leads from an old product page to the newest version. Simplify the chain by replacing it with a single redirect. This improves load times and SEO performance.

Permanent (301) vs. Temporary (302) Redirects

There are many types of redirects, but the two most common are 301 and 302 redirects. In all likelihood, these are the two you will need to choose from in most cases.

Implement the right type of redirect based on whether you’re moving your webpages temporarily or permanently.

  • Permanent redirects (301): Tell search engines and users that a page has been moved for good
  • Temporary redirects (302): Inform search engines that the move is only short-term

Consider this when choosing between a 301 versus a 302 redirect: 301 redirects help you pass most of the link equity to the new page (because it’s a permanent move). 

But the original page retains its SEO value and link equity for 302 redirects.

Here’s how to choose:

  • Use a 301 redirect when you permanently move content—like a domain change or after merging duplicate pages
  • Use a 302 redirect for temporary situations. Like when a page is under maintenance. Or when testing new pages for user feedback.

For example, if your business changes its domain name from oldsite.com to newsite.com.

You’d use a 301 redirect to permanently guide users and search engines from the old domain to the new one. Ensuring the link equity from oldsite.com transfers to newsite.com.

3 Best Practices for Redirects

The following best practices can help you implement redirects effectively to maximize their SEO benefits. And provide a smooth user experience.

Create a free Semrush account now (no credit card needed) to follow along with the steps in this guide. And check your website's redirect issues with the Site Audit tool.

1. Always Redirect to Similar Content

Redirecting to a relevant page helps you ‌preserve the original URL’s authority and trust. This is critical for maintaining your website’s SEO standing.

This practice prevents user confusion and dissatisfaction when a redirect takes them to unrelated content.

Set up redirects that lead users and search engines from an outdated or removed URL to a new page with content that closely matches or relates to the original.

For example, suppose you have a detailed tutorial on an older software application version. If this version becomes obsolete and you create updated content for the latest version, you should redirect the old tutorial page to the new one.

This ensures that any links or bookmarks that users have saved will still lead to valuable, relevant content.

By always directing to similar or related content, you prevent issues like soft 404 errors. In this case, a page technically doesn't return a 404 error. But search engines may treat it as such due to irrelevant content.

2. Avoid Redirect Chains

Avoiding redirect chains helps you maintain fast load times and efficient SEO. Users and search engines can interact with your site optimally.

A redirect chain occurs when multiple sequential redirects occur from one URL to another before reaching the final URL. 

Redirect Chains

Ideally, a single redirect should lead directly from an old page to its new location.

url redirect

Redirect chains create multiple unnecessary steps in the path from the original URL to the final destination. This can slow down page loading, dilute link equity, and complicate search engines' crawl processes.

Audit your website regularly to identify and eliminate redirect chains. By ensuring redirects take the most direct route possible, you can simplify the user and search engine path.

For example, say “page1.html” redirects to “page2.html.” Which then redirects to “page3.html.” Adjust this so that “page1.html” directly redirects to “page3.html.”

Use Semrush’s Site Audit Tool to detect redirect chains.

Once you’ve created your free account, go to Site Audit. If you’ve never set up an audit before, you'll see the following page.

Site Audit Tool

Input your domain name and hit the “Start Audit” button.

If you’ve used the tool before. Enter your domain name and click the “+ Create project” button.

Site Audit Tool / Create project button

Now, you’ll come to Site Audit settings. The limit of checked pages depends on your Semrush subscription level. 

For example, free users can crawl up to 100 pages per audit. Those with Pro and Guru subscriptions can crawl up to 20,000 pages per audit. 

Follow this Semrush configuration guide to set up the tool for your website if you need more help. 

Then, click “Start Site Audit.”

Semrush Site Audit Settings

After the tool audits your website, you’ll see an “Overview” report like this:

Overview report Semrush

Click on the “Issues” tab. Then, search for “redirect chain.”

Issues tab / redirect chain

The “X redirect chains and loops” signifies your website's number of redirect chains and loops.

Click “Why and how to fix it” for more details about the issue and a solution.

Why and how to fix it tab

Implement the recommendations to resolve the issue. And rerun the Site Audit tool to ensure you properly fixed the issue.

3. Prevent Redirect Loops

Redirect loops can prevent pages from loading, lead to a poor user experience, and make it impossible for search engines to access the content.

A redirect loop occurs when a URL redirects to another URL that then redirects to the original URL. Creating an endless cycle. 

This situation results in an error because the browser gets stuck in an infinite loop trying to resolve the URL.

Redirect Loop Semrush

Suppose URL A redirects to URL B, and URL B redirects back to URL A. This results in a redirect loop, causing browsers to display an error message.

Like "This webpage has a redirect loop" or "ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS."

Perform the previous walkthrough to use Semrush’s Site Audit tool to identify redirect loops. Redirect the old page to the correct new page and delete unnecessary redirects.

Types of Redirects

Understanding the different types of redirects and how they’re implemented will help you ‌implement them correctly. This way, they serve your needs without compromising site performance or SEO.

Server-Side Redirects

Server-side redirects ensure users and search engines get to the correct page without manual intervention. This approach preserves user experience and SEO integrity when URLs change.

You can execute server-side redirects by the web server before the webpage loads. They involve a server sending a specific HTTP status code to the browser. This signals that the requested URL has been moved to a new location.

Configuring these redirects on the web server involves using rules in the server configuration files (like .htaccess for Apache or web.config for IIS).

Use server-side redirects for:

  • Website restructuring
  • Merging multiple websites
  • Temporarily relocating content during maintenance

Types of server-side redirects include:

  • 301 redirect (moved permanently): Best used when you have deleted or permanently moved a page. It passes most of the link equity to the new URL.
  • 302 redirect (found/moved temporarily): Ideal for temporary changes, like during A/B testing or when a page is under maintenance. It keeps the original URL indexed.
  • 307 redirect: Similar to 302 but ensures the method and body of the original request are the same when the request is sent to the new URL. For example, a POST request remains a POST request after the redirect. A 302 redirect might change the request to a GET request. This is useful for forms and other scenarios where the request method must be preserved.
  • 308 redirect: Similar in permanence to a 301 but with the functionality of a 307. It guarantees that both the method and body of the request are not modified during redirection. It’s suitable for situations where a permanent move requires the retention of these elements. Such as API endpoints or post-login redirects.

Meta Refresh Redirects

Meta refresh redirects play a role in specific scenarios where immediate client-side redirection is necessary. They’re less optimal than server-side redirects.

Meta refresh redirects are client-side redirects that occur directly in the browser through an HTML tag. Meta refreshes are embedded in the page's HTML code. Unlike server-side redirects handled by the server.

Add a meta tag to the HTML head of a webpage to implement these redirects. They're helpful when server-side redirection isn't possible. 


  • On platforms where you don't have server access
  • For pages hosted on systems that do not support server-side logic

A common use case for a meta refresh is when a specific page is temporarily down for maintenance, and you want to redirect visitors to an announcement or a redirect page after a few seconds.

A meta refresh redirect can look like this:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5; url=https://www.newsite.com/">

This tag tells the browser to redirect to “newsite.com” after waiting for five seconds.

Consider these limitations of meta refresh redirects.

  • Aren’t the best for permanent solutions due to their slower response times
  • Can potentially confuse search engines and users
  • Can be a temporary fix. But use them sparingly to avoid hurting your site’s performance and SEO.

JavaScript Redirects

JavaScript redirects are client-side redirects that use JavaScript code. They direct users to a new URL from the client, not the server.

Use JavaScript redirects in cases where traditional server-side redirects are not feasible. Such cases include single-page applications. 

Or when the redirect logic depends on certain client-side conditions (like browser type or user interaction).

Say you need to redirect users to different landing pages based on their geographic location. JavaScript can detect the user's region and redirect accordingly.

A JavaScript redirect can look like this:

window.location.href = "https://www.semrush.com";

This line of JavaScript changes the current window's location to “semrush.com” to redirect the user.

JavaScript redirects are not always the best choice for SEO. Search engines may not always follow them as reliably as server-side redirects. 

Use these redirects when other types are impractical. Or when dynamic client-side behavior is required.

Check Your Website for Technical SEO Issues

Identifying and fixing technical SEO issues—like redirect problems—helps ensure search engines can easily crawl and index your website. This can significantly impact your site's visibility and user experience.

Technical SEO helps search engines access, crawl, interpret, and index your website without any problems.

Common issues include:

  • Broken links
  • Improper redirects
  • Slow loading times

Use Semrush's Site Audit to perform a technical SEO audit. This tool helps you identify and resolve your website's issues.

The “Issues” tab allows you to view all your website’s technical issues.

Issues tab

The Site Audit tool groups these issues into three types:

  • Errors: Your website’s most severe issues. Like 404 errors.
  • Warnings: Mildly severe issues. Such as duplicate title tags.
  • Notices: These are not major issues, but fixing them can help your website’s performance. For example, links with no anchor text.

Filter the issues by each group. Starting with “Errors” first. 

site audit filter issues

Work through the list to improve your site's health. Then, rerun Site Audit to ensure you’ve properly fixed each issue. 

Maintain an SEO-Friendly Website

Redirects can be a helpful tool when used properly. Ensure your site is running optimally by scheduling regular site audits. So, you’ll be automatically notified about redirect chains and other site issues. 

Before they impact your rankings. 

Create your free Semrush account to monitor your site’s technical health. And maintain an SEO-friendly website.

About the Author
Nadica Naceva, Head of Content at Influencer Marketing Hub, is a seasoned writer and reviewer with in-depth expertise in digital and content marketing. Leveraging her extensive experience in guiding content creation and strategic direction, Nadica brings a critical eye and analytical approach to reviewing articles and educational pieces. Her commitment to accuracy, integrity, and innovation with each review helps IMH grow as a leading source in influencer marketing. Her insights are backed by first-party data, ensuring content meets the highest standards of relevance.