301 Redirects – Do They Work and How Long Do They Take?

By on October 1, 2013

301 redirects are not really as complicated as they seem. As long as I have been a webmaster, I have always asked three fundamental questions: Do 301 redirects actually work? How long do the take to come into effect? And, will you lose your current position in the search engines?

Before I begin to answer these questions, I have to clarify the platform I use for my websites and the tools I use to make things happen. I, like many people who work online, use wordpress for all my sites. I use many excellent plugins for different functions. One, in particular, I use for SEO is called “Yoast All in One SEO.” Within the advanced tab there is a specific section for 301 redirects. If you are not using wordpress, you are best to consult another post written by an author more familiar with your platform.

Having said that, I will address the redirect questions in order.  The answer to the first questions is “yes.” Indeed, 301 redirects work well if they are done properly.  With the Yoast plugin, it’s simply a matter of  entering the exact path of the forwarding url within the field provided.

In reference to the second question (How long do they take to come into effect?), I run a few separate diagnostics. First, I need to mention, the 301 redirects begin to function immediately. To test this,  I usually cut and paste the url into the top of the browser, and it should open up in the new url where it is redirected to. I also do another test to determine the functionality of the redirect and the post’s current ranking position. To do this, I open up the three top search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) in separate tabs in my browser, key in the post name, look at the positions, and write them down.

In other words, your will probably want to know the posts current ranking in the search engines versus its future ranking. For example, even though you have redirected http://mysite/post/muffins.com to http://yoursite/post/muffins.com, it will still show in the search engines as http://mysite/post/muffines.com; although, it will redirect upon clicking it to http://yoursite/post/muffins.com. At this point in time, your question is probably when will it list, in the search engines, under the new url? The answer to this question is, it depends on the search engine. Yahoo and Bing seem to take a couple of weeks. On the other hand, Google will list the 301 redirect, under the new url, within a week.

In terms of lost ranking, in my experience, you will probably drop 5 or 6 positions in Google. This really depends on the link juice of the new site or url. I have redirected posts to a brand new site and only lost 6 positions. On the other hand, sites with more link juice, have remained the same. With Yahoo and Bing, you will probably lose very little in terms of positioning.

In conclusion 301 redirects do work, they take effect immediately, and very little is lost in terms of search engine ranking positions. You will have to wait a few days or weeks, however, to see the posts show up under the new url.

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