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What is a 301 redirect and why should ecommerce stores use it?

A 301 redirect is a vital continuity tool for businesses that move from one Web address to another. In simple terms, the 301 redirect sends visitors who have typed in an old website address to the current location of an ecommerce store. This small change maintains customer continuity and removes the possibility of past shoppers not finding a store after it's been moved to a new location on the Web.

How does a 301 redirect work?

The 301 code is one of the many hypertext transfer protocol response status codes, often called HTTP codes, used by Web browsers to send users to specific locations, relay information about an entered address and provide other useful data. One of the most commonly encountered HTTP codes is the 404 code. Found when a user enters an address that results in valid communication with a server but the lack of the specific webpage requested. As compared to the 404 error code, which in essence only tells a user that the page they want to visit can't be found, the 301 redirect code sends visitors to an active page. These redirects work both for customers who enter an outdated Web address or use a bookmark containing the same while visiting a website as well as for those on an active website who click an outdated link.

What are the benefits?

By using 301 redirects, ecommerce store owners make sure customers have a positive experience and are easily able to access the online storefront. The 301 redirect is also a powerful search-engine optimization tool, as it tells Google that a page hasn't been removed or otherwise gone down. Instead, the various algorithms and bots Google uses to trawl the Web will realize a site has changed its location and update accordingly. Proper use of 301 redirects maintains search engine ranking position and avoids problems on both the SEO and customer ends.

Using 301 redirects is certainly a technical process, and one that ecommerce store owners won't have to worry about on a day-to-day basis. However, understanding the usefulness of this tool helps stores maintain continuity when it comes time to change domains or update individual webpages.

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