301 Redirects are a MUST with new websites

  • 301 Redirects - At the very least, have a 404 error page

You could loose your websites page authority & history if you do not have 301 redirects.

What to walk away with in this article: If you are creating a new website, or having one built for you make sure your website developer or designers uses 301 redirects.

301 Redirects - Detour Ahead301 redirects are redirections from your old URL to your new URL. Think of a 301 redirect as if you were driving down the interstate or road and there are signs relating to construction.  You see a sign “Road Closed” or “Construction ahead, please exit and follow the signs”.  The same can almost be said about a 301 redirect because your users will still land (or arrive) on the same page (or destination) thats been active for years, but with a different URL (or different path).

You see, when we talk about building a completely new website, we are talking about a complete redesign of your website including (and most importantly) its structure. What page may have been there now, the new structure may reclassify its importance with categories.

What was once a portfolio landing page for a graphic designer, may need to be updated. Why? What type of graphic designer are you? What are your specific graphic design skills? If you are a website graphic designer, but you also are a print graphic designer than we’ve just made two primary categories. Category 1.) Website, Category 2.) Print. If that is the case and you want to highlight both portfolios, but slimmed down so that you don’t overwhelm your users than you now use those as your primary categories. What was once yourwebsiteurl.com/graphic-design could now be yourwebsiteurl.com/portfolio/print/graphic-design. If you giving more detail about a service and not a portfolio than the URL & structure would change.

Now that we’ve talked about structure, lets take a look at a very basic example of a URL 301 redirect:

If your old website “Contact Us” page had a URL of websiteurl.com/contact-us.html than Google now has that page and its URL stored in their cache. If you update your website using WordPress for example, you’ve changed the page URL. Why? You see, WordPress simplifies the URL from /contact-us.html to /contact-us. Notice something? We’ve lost the .html extension in the URL, however as I just mentioned Google has the URL /contact-us.html stored in its cache.

When you change a page, Google doesn’t know that you’ve changed the page even if you do submit a new sitemap through their Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmasters Tools has something very helpful for error reporting. It will actually detail the error including the old URL /contact-us.html.

How do I create URL 301 redirects in WordPress?

To edit this go to your ROOT directory within your websites main FTP server. If this is a WordPress installation, look in the root you should find a filled called “.htaaccess”. This is a text file that is editable. If you do not have one than you can create one using a text editor. I like “TextWrangler” for MAC and “NotePad ++” for Windows. If you are using WordPress and you do not have this .htaaccess file than you’ll probably want to create one and then add this code inside the file:

# BEGIN WordPress
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ – [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress

Then save the file .htaaccess to have it automatically upload to your FTP server or save it locally on your computer and upload it via an FTP program. I like Filezilla Client for both Windows or MAC.

Here is how to incorporate 301 URL redirects in the same .htaaccess file.  Enter the code below, but replace the URLs specifically for your own website:

301 Redirect /contact-us.html/ http://www.yoururl.com/contact-us

You can continue to do this until you have resolved all old URL issues.

How do I know I have old URL’s to redirect?

There are actually two ways that I would probably go to if the company didn’t use an automatically created sitemap. If the company did use a CMS there may be a good chance that you can find the sitemap that way.

1.) Use Google Webmaster Tools error reporting, by creating an account, linking your website and then navigating to the Google Webmaster Tools website.

2.) Use a sitemap creation website where for free have another website gather all of the webpages that you have within your website.  Here is one free website generator website out there.  This one limits you to 500 pages though: https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ , there are many others too if you do some Googling around.

One more thing: With a 301 redirect, you should also consider checking to see if you have what is called a “404 error page”. A 404 error page will be a landing page whenever someone has landed or typed in something that may not be in your websites URL. Typically you will see something with the words “404” if you have landed on a page within a website that is not visable.  This would also be the case if you had an old page that has not been redirected, at the very least your website should have a 4o4 page error.

So, there you go now you know just enough about 301 redirects to be a little more educated than before you landed on my website. If you are creating a website and changing its structure you’ll now know how to do this part correctly. As you can see it is very important to understand these key steps in creating any website. If you fail to do just one of these things there may be a chance that your website will loose its valuable ranking its been able to build over the years.

If you would like to know more about 301 redirects or need some help establishing whether or not your website needs them, feel free to contact me!