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The Perils of 301 Redirects: Why the Boring Stuff is Important

Old map and compass
 
 

Online businesses have gone bust by forgetting to implement 301 redirects when launching a new website. 301 redirects are the signposts that tell Google and other search engines where to take users when new URLs replace old URLs.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) forums are awash with posts like this one:

We recently launched a redesign/redevelopment of a site but failed to put 301 redirects in place for the old URLs. It's been about 2 months. Is it too late to even bother worrying about it at this point? The site has seen a notable decrease in site traffic/visits.

Today I googled “think tank events washington DC”. Google led me straight to “Glenn’s list”, where Glenn has helpfully blogged a list of various think tanks in DC with links to their respective events pages. Instead of having to navigate each think tank individually, one can open each event page up straight away in your browser and see what they have going on.

That would have been very useful except for the fact that many of them had not implemented 301 redirects when launching their slick new websites.

Of the 14 think tank links on the list (bar a few I removed - see notes below), only five (!) had implemented 301 redirects. I was met with nine dead pages.

Not only is this annoying for the user but this is bad for the think tank. They could be getting really good traffic through from Glenn’s blog (and the many hundreds of other blogs that link to them), a steady stream of event participants, and thus increased influence. Instead people leave their website thinking “these guys don’t run events anymore" and/or "their website doesn't work”.

We've all got that blog post that generates loads of traffic from search engines - hopefully you've got several. Think of that blog post when you redevelop your website. Make sure that you have 301 redirects in place to ensure that when people click on a link to that blog post, they actually reach it.

When businesses don't implement 301 redirects it results in lost revenue. When think tanks don't, it's lost influence.

Tom Hashemi
tom@weareflint.co.uk

 

The Think Tanks That Did

  • Aspen Institute
  • Cato Institute
  • Center for Strategic and Int’l Studies
  • Elliott School of International Affairs
  • The Carnegie Endowment for Peace

The Think Tanks That Did Not

  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Int’l Studies
  • National Press Club
  • New America Foundation
  • Progressive Policy Institute
  • The Brookings Institution
  • The US Institute for Peace
  • The Wilson Center

Notes

  • Glenn’s list was last updated in 2009
  • I have assumed that every think tank on the list has updated their website since 2009 (I hope they have!)
  • I’ve removed think tanks if the link was just to their homepage or if the think tank has closed
 
Tom HashemiComment