Using a 301 redirect can help you grow your website.
As a website investor, once you’ve bought a website, you will want to grow it (or at least maintain it). There are many tricks to growing your site, and I go though many of them on this site. But one of my favorite tricks — because it’s easy and quick — is to buy domain names with authority and merge them with my existing sites. The authority transfers over and helps the sites increase in Google search rankings.
Table of Contents
- What is authority?
- What is a 301 redirect?
- How to use 301 redirects to increase authority
- Buying a website? Get the Website Investing Beginner’s Kit
- Key points
There are many tactics that I go through on this site which help you grow websites that you have invested in. They span from content changes to outreach and everything in between. These tactics have varying value and provide varying results, with some being absolutely amazing and others being pretty minor.
One of the better tactics is called a 301 redirect. It’s a very simple tactic that is based on the idea of a merger, and it can mean a quick and significant boost to your site’s authority, which then results in a boost to your site’s search results ranking, your traffic, and finally, your bottom line.
301 redirects are great because they can be applied to any site — affiliate, ad supported, or e-commerce, and can be a way of increasing authority before you sell. They work regardless of whether you built or bought the site.
What is authority?
In the paragraph above, I mentioned authority. What is authority?
Authority is a made up concept which quantifies the importance of a website on the Internet. Each site has an authority score, with ultra popular websites like facebook.com and cnn.com having high scores and brand new sites having low scores. The authority a site has is determined by its quantity and quality of backlinks.
Although Google denies using such a score in their rankings, they are very open about using quantity and quality of backlinks to a site as a measure of its value. So, at least indirectly, authority is something that is important in how you rank in Google search results.
To increase authority, you must get new high quality backlinks to your site.
There are several methods of doing this. The most basic one is outreach: you can contact other sites and request that they link to one of your articles. There are also black hat techniques, which you should avoid, as they may get you banned from Google. One example of a black hat technique is buying links.
What is a 301 redirect?
One tactic that may seem black hat but is specifically sanctioned by Google is the 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is a technical term that describes how a server responds to a URL (see below). But that’s not very important to us.
What’s important to us is that a 301 redirect takes all backlinks to one site and connects them to another site. So if you can find a site that already has a lot of backlinks, you can use the 301 redirect to move them over to your existing site.
Businesses often use this method in mergers and acquisitions. For instance, if Coke buys Pepsi, it will want to merge the coke.com and pepsi.com websites. It may add a 301 redirect from pepsi.com to coke.com/pepsi, combining the two sites under the coke.com domain.
Because there is an important and valid reason why 301 redirects need to happen (and it happens often), Google can’t ban them.
You can find domains to use for 301 redirects in many places, but one thing to make sure is that the domains are of good quality. It’s important to do your due diligence when using this method.
How 301 redirects work (in case you care)
The term “301 redirect” comes from the HTTP status code for redirection. When a browser makes a request to a web server, the server responds with a set of HTTP headers and the content (if any). One of the HTTP headers the server sends is the status code. The status code is a number which tells the browser what happened with that request. For example, if the status code is 404, it means the page requested wasn’t found. And if the status code is 500, it means that there was some processing error.
One of those potential status codes is 301. The 301 tells the browser that the page requested has been permanently moved. In the response, the server also sends the new location of the page. When the browser receives that, it stops processing the current response and tries to fetch the page from the new location.
Google operates similarly: when crawling the web, it may see a 301 status code. It then updates its internal links database to the new page location, so any of the backlinks that were pointing to the old URL get updated.
How to use 301 redirects to increase authority
Using 301 redirects to increase your site’s authority is a 2 step process: first, you find domains with a lot of good backlinks in your space, and second, you redirect those sites.
I have written an extensive article on how to find domains with good backlinks. I suggest you read that carefully, as well as my guide to how to perform due diligence on expired domains before reading on.
Once you have a site with good backlinks, what you need to do is set up your server to respond with 301 redirects when a request for that site arrive.
Setting up a Cloudways mini server for 301 redirects
I have found that the best and easiest way to do 301 redirects for all of my sites is using Cloudways. In this section, I will walk you through setting up redirects for sites with Cloudways. Note that you don’t actually need to have your main site hosted at Cloudways for this to work.
Cloudways lets you have multiple sites on the same server, regardless of the size. So I create one server for all of my redirects. The total cost is $10.00 a month — you can’t get much better than that.
Step 1: Create a server for all of your redirects
The first step is to go to the Cloudways dashboard and click Add Server. It will send you to a page that allows you to create the first application and set up the server parameters.
For this example, I will be redirecting IndonesiaTravel.biz to one of my travel sites. I choose the latest version of WordPress, name the redirect (this one will be Redirect IndonesiaTravel.biz), and name the server (Redirect Server).
I select the lowest spec server on DigitalOcean and then click Launch Now to launch it.
I will only do this the first time I create a redirect. In the future, I will skip this step, and simply add another “application” to the same server.
Step 2: Launch WordPress
The next step is to click the Applications link at the top of the page and select the new application you created (for me, it’s Redirect IndonesiaTravel.biz). It will take you to a page like this:
Click the link under Admin Panel to open up the WordPress interface. You can use the Username and Password under Admin Panel to login to WordPress.
Step 3: Install 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager
Once you have logged into WordPress, click Plugins on the right and Add New below it. Enter the search term “301 redirect” in the search box at the top right of the page. Then hit enter.
You should see 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager at the top of the results. Click the Install button (marked in red below) and then the Activate button.
Once you have installed the Easy Redirect Manager plugin, go to Settings on the left menu and then 301 Redirects.
Under Redirect Rules, add the old links (how can you find which links to add? click here) on the left and the full URL to the corresponding page on your main site on the right. If you want to redirect the homepage, leave the left box blank and add the URL of your main site on the right.
How to make the most of 301 redirects
In order to get the maximum search engine boost with 301 redirects, you will need to recreate the most popular pages from the origin site on your main site. You then can link individual URLs from the origin site to the similar page on your main site.
Ideally, you should rebuild most of the origin site on your main site so that when Google looks at the 301 redirects, it doesn’t think the page on your main site is entirely new. Google needs to think that you actually have merged the origin site into your main site.
For a complete guide on how to build a version of the origin site on your main site, check out my article.
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301 redirects are a great way to increase the authority of your site, and we have empirical evidence of that. If you can find and acquire a site with good backlinks in your space, you can use the method in this article to make the backlinks point to your main site. This increases its authority and helps in search rankings.