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Written by Nick Yorchak. Posted in Blog
As experienced SEO practitioners, we’ve all gone through enough website launches and transitions by now that you should have this whole 301-redirect process down. While 301 redirects are prone to causing friction among SEO practitioners and Web Developers, there has been one question we can agree on – how long should you keep 301 redirects?
Why does it matter? Because there’s always been debate about how long to keep them – and you have to consider the business case. For instance, if you’re a company working through your third or fourth website iteration in the last 8 years, should you be keeping redirects intact from the original version (your “1.0” website) from 6 six years ago?
From a usability perspective yes, but from a technical standpoint, you also have to consider server load and resources. You don’t want users hitting 404 pages or parked domain pages, but you also can’t preserve everything all the time. Search engines will also often include “old” and “new” pages in their results, so it’s something you have to address.
So oftentimes the answer isn’t so simple. Google stated that it can take up to 6 months for a new site to be fully recognized, so Big Footprint’s “Transitional SEO” process is one of critical importance. We feel the absolute minimum amount of time you’d want to preserve your redirects would be one year – but in the case of most sites you should preserve them until you have a more compelling reason not to.
We’ve run our own tests on BigFootprintDigital.com and witnessed a lot of different implementations across clients, and we often recommend keeping your 301 redirects in place as long as you can. While the value certainly diminishes as time goes on and layers are added, there is still value there – albeit in some cases more than others. Take for instance a “content” site which might be bookmarked, linked to, etc. – those legacy redirects will probably be more important than an e-commerce site with a low cost product. The decision surrounding redirect value should be driven the value of your traffic. In a B2B example, if a company has an extremely high CPL for an extremely expensive product then that traffic is highly valuable, especially within the context of a multi-touch sales funnel – meaning redirects should be preserved.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t just layer redirect upon redirect. Instead, you need to update the chain. Let’s say you have an A–B redirect and then a B–C redirect. You should instead make the first one an A–C redirect versus the alternative. This is also true when dealing with another variable or layer – you want your redirects pointing to the latest and greatest iteration of content.
Need help determining your redirect strategy or navigating the murky depths of Transitional SEO? Contact Big Footprint.