301 redirect for a URL denotes the fact of moving a domain to another new domain permanently. This is not a relative domain movement, you may call 301 redirects of a blog or of a URL as an absolute redirect.
The first and foremost motto of such a permanent redirection is to inform the world of visitors as well as to the search engine bots that the content of the domain or the URL content has been moved permanently to the new URL. When a visitor opens the old URL to see the content then that visitor automatically be redirected to the newer domain where the actual domain is moved. It also sends a signal to search engines informing the fact of moving the content to the new domain. In a word, this is called 301 redirections for a URL.
The main two summarize point for a 301 redirect:
- Automatically redirect the old URL to the new URL where the content has been moved and it is applicable for a visitor or for a reader of that content. Many occasions users never notice the change or redirection of URL because they do not notice the content URL of the content they are looking for. Normally search engine removes the old URLs after complete indexing however it takes around one to 3 months for removing all the old URLs from the search engines.
- Second thing is that it not only redirects the visitors to the new URL but also guides search bots to index the new URL rather than indexing the old one.
This 301 redirect is only applicable when someone has moved a domain or update content to a new URL on your same domain which is better-optimized one.
But using rel=” canonical” tag is nothing but giving the advice to search bots to select the preference of a similar content having more than one separate URL’s. This canonical tag is very much effective only for the same domain and sub-domains.
Sometimes 301 redirect is more effective rather than using the canonical tag. And in case of a Pagerank issue of a website one should use 301 redirects. Let me give an example.
Suppose you have a domain, named www.askblogger.org and similarly you can open the website with only askblogger.org URL (without any www). In that case, if you use canonical to the www version of your site then it could bypass the duplicate content issues from the search engines but the page rank issue would not be solved unless you redirect non-www version to www version. Those who give a link to your website might use both www and non-www version for linking purposes and actually this is not such an issue that you can handle. So just redirect non-www version to www version so that it always opens the www version.
When you use a canonical tag, both of the similar URLs can be opened whereas one can’t open the URL if you create a 301 redirect. When the same articles are published on different websites and if anyone of them doesn’t use a cross-domain canonical element then all those domains will be considered as duplicate content and of course will be suffered for search rankings. Remember rel=” canonical” is a suggestion to the search engine for canonizing a URL.
When multiple URLs are redirected to a new URL then sometimes it looks something suspicious to Google and might slightly damage your search ranking considering the above fact as a spammer’s activity. Some SEO experts say that the canonical tag is a little bit slower compared to 301 redirects. The reason is something acceptable because according to the experts:
When Google crawl and index a webpage he understand the canonical tag only after completely indexing the full page where as in case of 301 redirection Google bots is redirected automatically to the newer url even before crawling the older one. So it takes relatively less time for search crawler’s to understand the actual situation.
According to Matt Cutts if anyone uses 301 redirects he loses his website’s search ranking and SEO juice only a little bit. So according to the situation, one should select what is most applicable to use. But most of the cases we prefer 301 redirects. But sometimes if anyone uses free hosting plans 301 redirects might not be possible to implement those cases. Then rel=” canonical” is the only solution. But if you have weak tracking code in the URL that can’t be removed then one should force using rel=” canonical”.
Important things you should follow and remember:
When should I use a 301 redirect?
- For old pages to newer ones
- For non-www to www
- Changing non-SEO friendly URLs to a friendly one
- For cross-domain purposes
When should I use a rel=” canonical”?
- Ascending vs descending product lists for a website
- Print-friendly and non-friendly version
- If you use different themes for different devices
- When URL contains tracking codes, session ids, etc
However, for the SEO field, both the canonical and 301 redirects have their own place. One should gain proper knowledge before implementing those ones to your website URL.