What Are 301 Redirects?
In the simplest terms, a 301 redirect is a piece of code that sends one page to another automatically, where one URL gets redirected to another URL.
Moz.com defines it as “…a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested.”
Why Are They Important When I Am Redesigning My Site?
When sites typically get a makeover, new pages are added, content gets changed, site architecture changes, and current pages get a refresh. Usually when this happens, developers change the names of the current pages to either reflect a new site structure or to give it a better name.
Could become PointItIsTheBestThing.com/to-happen/since-sliced-bread, when there is an architecture change.
Or it could become PointItIsTheBestThing.com/since/sliced-bread-and-the-mariners
All of these pages are the same, but their URLs have changed.
For users, the old page PointItIsTheBestThing.com/since/sliced-bread will become result in a 404 error, not allowing them to get to the content that they were looking for.
Any links, one of Google’s strongest ranking factors, that were pointing to PointItIsTheBestThing.com/since/sliced-bread are no longer passing any “link juice” or value onto the site.
Rankings for the keyword terms that were relevant to that page will begin to drop, causing a loss of traffic and/or a loss of revenues.
How To Plan for Redirects:
1. Run a crawl of the entire site. We recommend using a program called Screaming Frog.
2. Once you have a list of all of the pages on your site, decide ifL:
- Any of the URLs will be changing with the new site redesign
- If any of the pages will be combined
- If any of the pages will be deleted.
3. After you have this figured out:
- Map out the new URLs that will be replacing the old URL
- Map out any pages that will be combined into 1 page
- Map out which deleted pages will need to be redirected to an existing page that is most relevant to that deleted page:- For example, if PointItIsTheBestThing.com/since/sliced-bread is no longer needed on the site, then it might be a good idea to redirect this page and its link power to the category it falls under, PointItIsTheBestThing.com/since. That page would be the most relevant page for user to want to navigate to find other pages or products that might be of use to them.
How To Implement A 301 Redirect:
1. Find out what type of server your site is on. You can use a free simple tool like https://www.salescart.com/products1/netcraft.htm.
2. If you’re on an Apache server, you can:
- Open a text editor like Notepad and name it htaccess
- Enable the Apache mod_rewrite module.
Enable the ReWriteEngine in the mod_rewrite module.
Add the following two lines of code to do this:Options +FollowSymLinks
- For a single page to page redirect rule, add this to the
Redirect 301 /since/sliced-bread http://PointItIsTheBestThing.com/since/sliced-bread-and-the-mariners
- To redirect an entire directory and everything within it:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/since/ http://PointItIsTheBestThing.com/newdirectory/
- Then save your htaccess file and move it over to your server. Once it is on the server, rename the file .htaccess
3. If you’re on a Windows server:
- This guide is a great resource http://www.howto301redirect.com/iis-301-redirect/
Here is a site that has made the code creation simpler:
If your site is on WordPress, here is a handy plugin:
Not properly planning a site redesign can be incredibly detrimental for a business. We have had sites come to us that have had thousands of product pages, who’s URLs have changed, that weren’t 301 redirected to their new pages.
This oversight causes these sites to lose thousands of dollars a day because they could no longer run their PPC ads because the did not know which new URLs to update in the campaign, and their strong organic rankings dropped from the top positions that they had.
Luckily (and maybe unfortunately), we have experience with these types of issues and are able to take quick action to rectify this error. For a site that had 3600+ pages, which had all 404’d, we were able to map out all of the pages for their IT team to redirect within a week using some excel ninja tactics and some creative thinking.
Moral of the Story:
Be sure that you plan a site redesign from top to bottom. Before any changes are made, make sure you have a list of all of the current pages on the site. Having a list of all of their title tags and meta’s will also be important to (this is what Screaming Frog is great for!). Map out all URL and page changes and use that as a guide for your redesign process.