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What is a 301-redirect?

Technically speaking, a 301-redirect returns the HTTP status code 301 Moved Permanently.

The webserver answers the client requesting the page, for example the Google-Bot or a web browser, with the HTTP status code 301 if the requested resource (for example a URL, a HTML document) has been permanently moved and is now available on a new URL. By returning the 301 status code, the webserver redirects all requests for a certain source-URL to the new target-URL.

For the user as well as clients, the 301-redirect has the advantage of not sending them to a 404 error page, but redirecting them to the (requested) resource (the URL). A 301-redirect is almost invisible to the user, as only the URL in the address-bar of their web browser will change.

Easily explained: The way of a 301-redirect

In the following chart you can see the technical steps of what happenes during a 301-redirect.

Graphic explanation of the technical steps of a 301-redirect

What happens during a 301-redirect?

  1. The Google-Bot would like to get the file “abc.html” from the domain “”
  2. The Google-Bot sends a request to the webserver of the domain “” and asks for the file “abc.html”
  3. The webserver notices that the file “abc.html” does not exist anymore on the URL “”. In addition, the webserver realises that there is an existing 301-redirect for the file “abc.html” to “xyz.html”
  4. The webserver returns the HTTP status code 301 (Moved Permanently) to the Google-Bot and points to the new URL, “”
  5. The Google-Bot understands that the content of the file “” can now be found at the URL “”. From now on, when trying to access the file “”, a user will be redirected automatically to “”

When should I use a 301-redirect?

Having a 301-redirect is always useful when URL-structures of a website or even the entire domain name are changed. They are also useful when two websites are merged together, or when the content of a website can be accessed through two different URLs.

301-redirects do not have a high dampening factor

A redirect using the HTTP status code 301 (Moved Permanently) does not, according to Matt Cutts, Head of Googles Webspam-Team, dissipate more PageRank than links do. That is why redirecting internal and external links using a 301-redirect is a good idea.

Additional information on this topic:

Video explanation on this topic

Is there a limit on how many 301 redirects one can use in a row without getting a crawling problem?

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