Website Redirects - A Vital Element Of Website Redesign
By Gavin Kilgallon on Thursday, 18 January 2024
Quite often, the area of page redirects is overlooked when redesigning a website. This can be a painful oversight as it plays a crucial role in ensuring a good user experience, maintaining SEO rankings, and preventing the loss of site traffic. In this article, the ID Studio web design team explains what redirects are, how they work, how best to implement them and the often unrecognised important role they play.
What Is A Redirect?
A redirect is a way to guide website visitors and search engines from one webpage URL to another. This method is used when significant changes or entire redesigns are implemented on a website. Redirects ensure visitors don't end up on non-existent pages or '404 Not Found' error messages. Instead, they are smoothly guided to the newly updated or relevant page. This helps to maintain the visitor's interest, preserve the SEO rank, and ensure a seamless online experience.
Permanent Or Temporary Redirect?
There are two main types of redirects: permanent redirects (301) and temporary redirects (302). The former is typically used when a page has been permanently moved or removed, while the latter is used for more temporary situations.
Temporary redirects are used in short-term situations such as website maintenance or A-B testing. For example, during website maintenance, you may want to redirect your visitors to a "maintenance mode" page. In A-B testing scenarios, where you are comparing two versions of a webpage to see which performs better, a temporary redirect may be used to guide certain users to the different versions. It is important to note that using a temporary redirect in these instances helps maintain your site's SEO value because search engines understand that this is a temporary change and the original page will eventually be restored.
Why Are Redirects So Crucial?
Redirects are, at their core, an essential tool for managing online traffic, preserving SEO authority, and improving the user experience on your site.
When you move a page, all the traffic that would have gone to the original URL will be automatically forwarded to the new location via the redirect. This ensures that users, irrespective of how they found your link (via social media, a blog post, or the search engines), are taken to the correct page.
Page redirects are crucial in maintaining SEO authority. As time passes, web pages gain SEO value through high-quality content, user engagement, and backlinks. However, if the URL changes without a proper redirect, the hard-earned SEO value will be lost. By implementing a 301 redirect, most of the SEO value can be passed onto the new page, ensuring that your page ranking remains intact.
In addition, redirects play an essential role in improving user experience. They prevent visitors from encountering frustrating '404 Not Found' errors and guide them smoothly to the new or relevant page. By maintaining the user journey on your site, you encourage longer visits, lower bounce rates, and, ultimately, higher conversion rates.
How To Implement A Redirect
There are several ways to implement redirects, including using Content Management Systems (CMS) such as ProcessWire or WordPress, server-side methodologies, and plugins.
Using a CMS
Most modern CMS platforms, such as WordPress and ProcessWire, offer built-in functionalities enabling you to set up redirects easily. For WordPress, navigate to the 'Redirects' section under 'Tools' in your dashboard and add the old and new URLs. In ProcessWire, the 'ProcessRedirects' module allows you to manage and create new redirects directly from the admin interface.
For those with technical knowledge, setting up a server redirect manually may be necessary. This method requires a deeper understanding of server operations.
Some content management systems do not natively have built-in redirect functionality and require the use of third-party plugins. These plugins often offer additional features, not only enabling the easy setup of redirects but also providing additional features such as tracking 404 errors and managing 301 redirections.
Redirect Best Practices
Due to the importance associated with redirects, it is essential to get it right the first time. Below are some practices that can help with the process. Not all points will be relevant to all situations.
- Use a service like Screaming Frog to map our your existing website before you put the new site live. This will make adding redirects so much easier.
- Make sure to select the right type of redirect - permanent or temporary.
- Try not to have 'chains' of redirects, as too many can create a delay. Be as direct as possible to the source page.
- Make sure also to update any internal links that need changing.
- Update the site map to reflect the changes in the URLs.
- Make sure to test the redirects.
- Create a custom spreadsheet where you record all redirect information, especially if you are making regular redirects to your website.
In conclusion, redirects are not just a technical detail but a crucial aspect of website management. They play an important role in maintaining a good user experience, safeguarding SEO rankings, and preventing potential loss of site traffic. Whether you are using a CMS, server-side methods, or plugins, implementing redirects requires careful planning and execution. By following best practices, such as choosing the correct type of redirect, avoiding redirect chains, and updating internal links and sitemaps, you can ensure a smooth website transition.