According to a survey carried out by VTEX and Semrush in 2017, in markets like Brazil, where e-commerce has reached a higher level of maturity, almost 50% of the traffic of a virtual store comes from search engines.

Indeed some stores, mainly large ones with a high level of domain authority, can generate more than 40% of their total traffic organically.

In this context, redirect 301 is an essential part of the strategy of a virtual store, in that it ensures the quality of the links, avoiding penalization by the search engines and poor user experience.

However, after dozens of years of experience of e-commerce projects, we have come to realize that this issue is still one of the key errors in platform migration projects, and that this increases the risk of failure.

In addition to the migration scenario, another time when redirect 301 is useful is in managing links internally, reducing the number of 404 Not Found errors and increasing domain authority.

Redirect 301 in the migration process

In more than 500 projects analyzed three months after platform migration, failings in the use of redirect 301 created a problem which:

  • in 4% of cases led to bankruptcy for the store;
  • in 31% of cases resulted in a drop of more than 15% in traffic;
  • in 47% of cases, left traffic unchanged, with small upward or downward variations;
  • and in only 18% of cases, increased traffic by more than 20%.

Even though it is highly likely that your project will suffer some negative effects, redirect 301 is an essential resource. Therefore the choice isn’t whether to use it or not, but whether you can use it intelligently so that the risks are minimized. Good managers always follow the following steps:

Using Pareto technology for mapping URLS

It is highly likely that 80% of your traffic comes from 20% of your URLs. You can use Google Analytics or any other similar tool to obtain these figures.

In some projects, the 20% of the URLs analyzed also generate a large nominal amount of URLs, sometimes into the thousands.

We see some managers trying to cut the project time drastically by using resources with dynamic values such as {category}, {brand}, {products} and so on. And it is precisely in these cases that problems arise.

Using dynamic parameters to format a FROM or TO URL means increasing the risk of possible errors, either from the platform dynamics or as a result of some exception. Therefore we recommend that you design the URLs which are going to account for 80% of your traffic manually. Project managers have got to take the long-term view, simply to ensure that this stage is accurate.

Don’t stick just to the URLs which attract the most traffic, but also think about the ones that account for organic sales or shared URLs, such as affiliates.

For the remaining URLs, the ones that will account for 20% of the traffic, we recommend using dynamic parameters.

But watch out: even if the remaining URLs, the ones that account for 20% of total traffic, add up to less than 10 thousand lines, we still suggest manual mapping. It is unlikely that this will affect the deadline for your project.

But there is a caveat: watch out for the special cases, such as URLs with dynamic parameters or with parameters that the new platform cannot identify, or other URLs where dynamic mapping is not possible. From the start you must keep these URLs separate from the others, to ensure that there are no errors.

Using a hybrid team

Someone who is familiar with the product, either from the sales area or the products area, must be directly involved in this activity, as well as the performance (SEM/SEO technician for the virtual store.

When only one of these people is involved, lack of familiarity with the product can lead to the redirect strategy being inaccurate, just a lack of technical knowhow can result in failure. A quick check shows that there is a 35% chance that the redirect function will be implemented wrongly, and so it seems sensible to employ a specialist.

Validation process

In the case of the more important URLs, we suggest revising each one that you have mapped manually to check for errors. A good idea is to use a different team for the final audit. For the other URLs, checking a sample should be enough. However if there is a large number of mistakes, it is best to repeat the exercise.


After go-live, you should use your analytics system (GA, Semrush, etc.) to check that traffic is stable. But remember to compare similar periods, because seasonal effects can make a difference.

Using the Search Console is another fundamental strategy to find out which URLs give 404 Not Found or a 500 Internal Server Error, so that you can quickly correct them.

Even if you follow the four steps listed above, some common errors will still persist. The first is due to human error. When you are dealing with thousands of URLs, your eye and your mind may overlook simple mistakes. Therefore the team should consist of more than one person, and everyone should be there from the start of the project so that there is time to set up the system and test it. In this way you should be able to avoid looping and redirects to non-existent pages.

The second common error is related to URLs for sponsored link campaigns. Some managers make the mistake of using redirect 301 for links, thus losing the tracking and making monitoring difficult.

We suggest a direct alteration of the ads, with the help of an SEM specialist, and the store’s sponsored links.

Redirect in internal catalog management

The speed of change in today’s market has led to product innovation at a pace not seen only a few years ago. Whereas formerly anyone could choose the color of their car, provided that it was black, today we find countless variations in products.

This dynamism is one of the key success factors in e-commerce. For example, the ratio of searches for Iphone 5s to Iphone 7, according to Google Trends, is still 1 to 3. For Iphone 5 to Iphone 7, it is 1 to 5.

But if your store has indexed the product Iphone 5 and has no more to sell (discontinued), one possibility is to use redirect 301 to a similar product, a category or to the Landing Page.

Note however that this can make users confused if not properly set up. A user clicks on a link expecting to see the Iphone 5 and in fact is taken to a different page. If this happens, we shall probably have a significant increase in the bounce rate.

Therefore, if you are redirecting from a discontinued product, the new destination page, even if it shows a similar product, must explain to the user the reason why he is being shown something different. For this reason it is best to redirect to the Landing Pages.

Now using redirect in the case of a category is easier, since the user has no previous knowledge of what products will be shown. So the rule is to redirect to a different category.

The involvement of the commercial team (purchases) is essential for successful conversion when deciding what product or category the redirect should lead to. They can indicate which products, collections, categories or search results are similar to the FROM page, so that the TO page can be selected.

We suggest always redirecting to a page on the same level as the FROM page, or one level above, according to the hierarchy: product >> collection/landing page >> category/search >> home.


Today’s digital market requires every store manager to understand the technical side, which is amply covered in the IT Mirror article written by the CEO of VTEX, Mariano Gomide.

When we see our store traffic being increasingly directed to internal links, the market must understand the key resources available for improving its positioning. Traffic and profitability are two elements which can be exploited better when we start using resources such as redirect 301, redirect 302, error 404, and so on.

In the years ahead there will be a major competitive advantage for stores with managers that understand every aspect of the business.