Updating Your Website? Don’t forget the 301 Redirects

It is not uncommon for companies to give their website a facelift from time to time. For some it may be to reflect the needs of a growing business. For others it could be an updated product line or changes to services offered. Still for others it could be that their website is old and not as responsive to current technology such as mobile devices.

As you’re designing the new website, make sure you have a plan for changes in link structure.

Overtime links to your website and its interior pages build on the internet. Additionally, visitors book mark pages of interest for later use. Properly handling how your new or updated website responds to these outdated links is important to maintaining a positive user experience.

Ideally, the URL / Link structure of the new or updated website will match the URL / Link structure of the previous website. In simplest terms, the “Widget A” URL from the old website http://mybusiness.com/Widgets/A.html will be the same as the “Widget A” URL found on the updated or new website. This way any links or bookmarks that point to the “Widget A” page will still bring the user to the expect page.

But what if “Widget A” is no longer being offered by your company? What if it has been superseded by “Widget A1”?

This is where the 301 redirect come into place.

The 301 redirect is to the internet what a forwarding address is to the Post Office. It tells the search engines “we’ve moved, and here is where we live now”.

By setting up 301 redirects for pages that will no longer reside on your website, you can direct users to appropriate interior pages.

Now when someone clicks on a bookmarked link for the outdated http://mybusiness.com/Widget/A.html link, instead of getting a 404 error, they will be redirect to the http://mybusiness.com/Widget/A1.html page.

What if Widget A and Widget A1 are not even close to being the same product? Then the user can be redirected to a more top level page such as http://mybusiness.com/Widgets.html.

It is important to remember that if any part of that URL structure changes, a redirect needs to be created to maintain link integrity.

For example, changing a website from an .html format to a .php format will mean that http://mybusiness.com/Widget/A.html will not bring a user to http://mybusiness.com/Widget/A.php unless a 301 redirect is used.

How do you 301 redirect a URL?

Most commonly it is handled by your web developer on the server side, using re-write rules. These rules tell the search engines where to direct the user in the case of a legacy or broken link.

On some platforms, such as WordPress, there are apps like Simple 301 Redirect that make it easy to handle redirects without writing rules on the back end.

Not sure if you’re 301 redirects are properly set? Let Search Marketing Corporation perform a free audit of your 301 redirect efforts and help ensure that you are not losing any traffic. Contact us today!

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