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Search Engine Friendly Redirects
As webmasters, we've all been there: We need to update the structure or design of a web site, and it is necessary to change some file names. We know some of the pages rank well on the search engines, so will changing the file name destroy those rankings? The answer is yes. So we need to instruct the search engine robots to index the new page's name and content as the replacement for an old one. There are three popular ways of doing this, and only one is search engine-friendly:
Method #1: Meta Refresh (not search engine-friendly)
This is an old method that involves adding a meta tag to the header of your page telling the web browser to refresh the page using a new URL. We won't even tell you how to implement it because this method should never be used if you care about search engine rankings in the least.
The meta refresh has been the target of search engine spammers over the years and is easily red-flagged by the major search engines. Usually, the spammers put this tag on a page completely unrelated to the page they want to redirect you to.
Method #2: Custom 404 Error Pages (not search engine-friendly)
Showing an error page to a visitor of your site is never a good idea. Even if it uses the same template other active pages of your site use, it looks unprofessional to see links not working or messages saying you've reached a wrong page. All the visitor did was follow a link - they don't want to be scolded for that!
The search engines will also see the error page as just that; an error page, no matter how fancy you've designed it. A 404 page does not transfer information, only human visitors (and that's only if they feel like following the link you've given them on the error page). For the search engine friendly alternative, use the next method.
Method #3: Permanent 301 Redirect
The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that uses the .htaccess file on Apache servers and using IIS on Windows web servers. The .htaccess file is very powerful and can tell visitors and search engine robots alike how your site is navigated. For detailed instructions on how to implement this kind of redirect, please read our 301 Redirect Help page.