So you’ve decided that you want to freshen up your site, maybe by adding or removing a few pages, moving to a new domain, changing your permalink structure, whatever it might be. While researching how to make those changes you also came across instructions saying that you need to follow the changes up with redirects. Suddenly you find yourself lost as to how that is done.
Maybe you’ve only heard about redirects, maybe you know a thing or two about them, but what you don’t know is how to implement them in WordPress. Since a lot of people find themselves in the same situation of lacking both theoretical and practical knowledge on redirecting, we’ve decided to make this article somewhat of a crash course.
Here, you will learn the basics of redirects and the easiest method of implementing them in WordPress. Without further ado, let’s get started.
The basics of redirects
A good definition for redirects that doesn’t go into too much technical detail is that redirects are basically mapping one URL to another one. Now, why is that mapping necessary? After you make a change on your website that involves changing a URL you end up with broken links.
Setting up a redirect in that spot is what will fix the broken links and tell a browser that the old URL is no longer available and that a new one is going to be used, permanently or temporarily. After seeing a redirect, a browser knows not to send traffic to the old URL anymore but to the new one instead.
Redirects are used for both internal and external links since both types are affected by the changes in URLs, but are especially important for external links. When it comes to internal links you can try your best to manually fix them if you have the time, but with external links, you can only hope that the person who runs the site that is now displaying one of your broken links will answer your email in which you are asking them to repair it.
Redirects are also crucial for maintaining your site’s SEO and traffic rates. When they aren’t put in place, your visitors get stranded in 404 pages meaning less traffic is reaching your site and its online reputation and SEO are deteriorating more and more with every non-redirected visitor.
But users aren’t the only ones hitting the 404 pages. Without redirects, search engine crawlers are also getting the “404 page not found” error while doing their regular checkups. When that happens, they notify Google which will then reconsider if your site deserves its current SERP rank, since it obviously isn’t serving its visitors with the proper user experience.
At this point in the article, I think you have an idea of why redirects should be used. To help you better understand when they are to be used here are some specific use cases.
- You changed the name of a page, moved it to another section, maybe added a keyword that will improve its SEO, and now its URL is no longer the same.
- The names of some of your pages get constantly misspelled and you want your visitors to end up on your page regardless of the misspelling.
- You deleted a page or merged it with another one.
- A page/site is under maintenance and shouldn’t be accessed until the maintenance process is finished.
- You moved from HTTP to HTTPS.
- You changed your domain name.
Now that you know why and when redirects are used, the last thing you need to know about them before jumping into the implementation aspect is that redirects come in different types. The following are the most known and commonly used redirect types.
A 301 redirect is used for permanent changes when you aren’t planning to use the original page again. 301 redirects might be the most frequently used ones which besides visitors also transfer 90% of the SEO and traffic from the old page to the new one.
302 redirects are used for redirecting traffic to a new page but only for some time, not forever since the change you made is not going to be a permanent one. This type of redirect keeps the SEO and rank on the old page and doesn’t transfer any of it to the new one. They are used for sites/pages that are under maintenance, when doing updates or tests, and also for pages displaying temporary content like sales and special offers.
These redirects are sort of a replacement for the 302 redirects but can also prevent refreshing, resubmissions and bookmarking of pages. 303 redirects are very useful for sites accepting online payments which have a need to redirect people to external resources such as PayPal.
Very similar to 303 redirects, the only major difference is that 307 redirects don’t change the information of POST method requests when redirecting. 307 redirects also fall into the category of temporary redirects.
308 redirects are closely related to both the 303 and 307 redirect type since they are permanent but can also do everything 307 redirects can.
For you, it’s important that you know about and understand the use of 301 and 302 redirects since those two types are the ones you will be using 99% of the time.
Redirecting using a plugin
Redirecting in WordPress can be done in two ways, manually and using a plugin. Since the plugin method is faster, less complicated and more commonly used, in this article, we will only cover that method. The manual one is more for the people who know how and like to deal with code.
The plugin we would recommend for you to use is WP 301 Redirects. WP 301 Redirects is a popular plugin by WebFactory Ltd that was created with the aim of helping you resolve all issues related to redirects and 404 errors in the easiest way possible. Besides being very user-friendly and easy to use, another great thing about this plugin is that it has the ability to monitor your site for changes in the URLs of all its posts and pages.
If a change is registered, the plugin will automatically set up a redirect rule for it without requiring any action from you, meaning that when you have this plugin activated it’s virtually impossible for your visitors to end up on a 404 page. The 404 pages will be reserved only for the bad bots trying to reach your site since this plugin will simply ignore them by turning off automatic redirection in their case. But you don’t have to worry that Google’s bots will be treated the same, they are whitelisted so they will be free to crawl your site even if this plugin is activated.
Along with all the help this plugin will give you when it comes to redirecting, it will also give you a detailed insight on the traffic that is going on your site through its built-in charts, so you can quit using any external analytics tools. For any problem or issue you might face while using this plugin, on disposal you have an in-house support team ready to give you fast answers and guidance at any time. To learn more about the plugin and find a price plan best suited for you, visit https://wp301redirects.com/.
Implementing the redirects
Since this is a method executed using a plugin, logically the first step will be to install the plugin. Once you have it installed, a section dedicated to the plugin should appear in the Settings section of your WordPress dashboard.
The process of setting up redirects using the 301 Redirects plugin is very simple. Using a spinner box, you will first choose the type of redirect you want to implement. Next, in the “redirect from” input field, you will enter the old URL, and in the “redirect to” field, you guessed it, the new URL.
Because this plugin wants to make the process of redirecting as simple as it can be, it will also give you a list of your site’s pages from which you can simply select a page(and not have to manually type in its URL) in case you wish to redirect to or from one of them.
After saving the redirect rule, your work is done, and your redirect has been implemented. All redirect rules can, of course, be easily deleted or edited if necessary. Also, using this plugin you have the option of uploading redirect rules in a CSV file and with that set up multiple redirects at once.
Making changes to your site is something that has to be done and that will ensure your site is an up-to-date and highly functioning one. But as much as making the changes is important so is following them up with redirects, otherwise, they might bring more harm than good to your site’s valuable traffic and online reputation. That is why we hope, that with the information this article gave you and with the assistance of the WP 301 Redirects plugin, redirect issues, broken links, loss of traffic and other redirect related issues will be a thing of the past at least in the case of your own site.