There are many ways to boost your productivity and help your clients achieve results at the same time. Learning how to use 301 redirects is an important part of your toolbox and simpler than you think. By employing 301 redirects you can manage links to frequently-used elements on the site, in addition to passing link credibility in search engine optimization.
Setting up 301 Redirects on Your WordPress Website
So there are a couple of technical ways to do this, including editing the website .htaccess file directly. I would advise against this. I’ve done it and .htaccess files don’t always behave as expected.
Instead, let’s use a free plugin called Simple 301 Redirects. If you don’t like this one you can always find a few others. But I’ve found it to be lightweight and stable for the many years I’ve used it.
If you are setting up a new website and want to map old site pages to new ones, this provides a simple way to do it. Download it and install it.
What are 301 Redirects
As the name implies, a redirect is a way to send users from a URL they requested to a different URL. For instance, if you were going to a page inside a website called myrestaurant.com/menus and the page on the site was renamed to menus-new, then a redirect allows you to tell the web server that if someone asks for menus, they will be redirected to the page menus-new.
The 301 part is an HTTP status code that identifies to a browser or search engine the type of redirect you are using. In this case, 301 is a code for “moved permanently.” There’s also a 302 code for “moved temporarily”. There are other server codes you probably encounter frequently, such as 404 (file not found) and 500 (internal server error).
Good Uses for 301 Redirects
An obvious use for a 301 redirect is when a page name changes. This is especially important for both users and search engines because some websites will link to an internal page of a website. From a search engine perspective, that link provides credibility, or “link juice” to the page that can help in rankings. If that page has been renamed then the user and search engine will see a 404 error instead. The search engine will not pass the link juice and the user may leave the site entirely. By creating a redirect, you preserve both the link juice and, most importantly, the user experience.
Another common use is when you are launching a new version of a website. An established website will have page credibility and you don’t want to lose that credibility because of a change in the page name. So when you are launching a new website, create a text file with the names of the current pages on the old site and map them to their corresponding pages on the new site. See the screenshot below. Now you can easily cut and paste them into the 301 redirects plugin. For more items you need to consider, please take a look at our WordPress website launch checklist.
I also use 301 redirects with helping to manage things like documents on a site that change regularly, for example, menus. There are links to .pdf menus throughout the site and instead of replacing the pdf file, I simply upload the new file and change the path on the 301. This allows me to preserve a copy of the file in case I need it later. Here’s an example of what that looks like in the plugin:
When You Should Not Use 301 Redirects