301 Redirect Those Babies!
Have you ever moved from one house to another? If so, what did you do with your mail? Did you let it pile up at your old address?
I didn’t think so! Instead, you told the trusty USPS to forward your mail to your new address!
But I’ll bet you didn’t think about what happens when you move or redesign your website’s pages. In essence, the same thing occurs.
If you remove pages from your website, or rename your pages (which we often do when redesigning a website), you need to let your visitors know and you want to make it easy to send them to the new page on your site.
Otherwise, you run the risk of them getting that dreaded 404 Error Message: OOPS! Page Not Found!
The good news is that the web world has its own equivalent to mail forwarding:
Using a 301 Redirect.
What’s a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. When you use a 301 redirect, you send your site visitors and also search engines to the new URL other than the one they originally typed into their browser or selected from a search engine results page.
Not only is this better for a visitor’s experience to your site, but it also tells search engines like Google that the page moved and to find it somewhere else. This helps to retain some of your SEO “juice” that you may have gained since you launched your site.
How Do I Add This 301 Redirect to My WordPress Site?
If you’re a web designer, you can do some fancy stuff like change the .htaccess file in your site’s PHP.
But who wants to do that? At MavroCreative, we like to show you how to do things the easy, non-techy way and fortunately, there’s a free plugin that will help you get those pages and posts forwarded in a quick and simple way!
You can download and install the Redirection Plugin:
Once installed and activated, you can find it in the Dashboard under Tools, Redirection.
When you click on the word Redirection, you’ll see a screen where you can enter the old URL (source URL) and the new URL (target URL):
If the deleted page doesn’t have a corresponding new page on your website, you can simply set the target URL to go to your home page. That way, your visitor will go to your website instead of getting that “OOPS – Page Not Found” error!
How to Find Pages That No Longer Exist
The great part of using the Redirection plugin is that once installed, it will start tracking your 404s, which are your pages that no longer exist that visitors tried to get to.
You can periodically check this page to see if you have any 301 redirects that need to be set up.
Just open up the Redirection page and look for the tab at the top that says “404s”:
The better way is to be proactive about it. If you’re redesigning your website or deleting pages from your site, keep track of the old pages and make note of their new URL. If there isn’t a new page that’s replacing the old, use your site’s homepage as the target URL.
There are a few tools that you can use to help you quickly find all of the URLs in your existing site.
One that I just started to use is called “Screaming Frog”! (The names these developers come up with cracks me up sometimes!)
Anyway, this is an application that you download to your computer that will scan your website for free for up to 500 URLs. If you have more than that (which some of my clients with robust blogs have), you can upgrade to the premium plan.
But for many of you, the free, basic plan will suit your needs.
The good part about Screaming Frog is that it’s not a WordPress plugin, so if your current site is on, say, Wix, and you’re moving it to WordPress, you can use Screaming Frog to run a scan on your Wix site before you make the move. That way, you’ll capture all of your existing URLs and you won’t have to manually make a list or try to remember what your old pages were.
And, once it completes the scan, you can download the results as a CSV file so that you have a spreadsheet to work with. Pretty cool!
I’m still playing around with it to see what else it can do as it looks to be a pretty powerful tool for SEO tracking and more! I’ll report back with another blog post after I’ve had time to really work with it.
Until next time!