Archive | SEO for Web Designers

WordPress Plugin > Redirection

wordpress-plugin-redirection-new-install

Another post in our series on helping website designers with SEO. This one is about the WordPress plugin Redirection.

Plugin: Redirection

Price: Free (and the developer offers you the oppotunity to make a donation to help him out)

Source: WordPress Plugin respository

Thanks to Webucator for the videocheck out thier WordPress courses here

The Redirection plugin is a bit like the 404 to Start plugin in that it’s purpose is to redirect visits going to a URL and send them to a different one.

Like the 404 to Start plugin, this helps harness all the links coming into a site, that would be wasted by not sending them to a new page on the website. If the person is monitoring for broken links on their site and see your apge no longer exists (because you’re not redirecting the old URL), then they will remove that link, and you loose the SEO benefit of it.

Where this is particulary handy is when you’re updating a website for a client. Often when changing from another CMS to WordPress there is a need to change the way URL’s are named. This also happens when refreshing sites and the content is being overhauled.

And it’s in this case where pages no longer exist, which can cause SEO trouble if not handled.

As an example, we hand a client referred to us by their Ad agency because the phone calls had pretty much stopped. Previously they used to get loads of calls every day as a result of people finding their website in Google.

Another firm (not the Ad agency) had updated their website. The new site was completely different from the old site, and pretty much all the URL’s were different.

What the web designer had failed to do was note down all those old URL’s and then set up redirects from the old one to the new related / equivalent page. Plus as you an imagine, they hadn’t set up a catchall plugin like 404 to Start either.

The result was that all but links to the home apge now had 404 errors. And to make matters worse, the cheap them they used just showed a blank white page instead of a useful 404 error.

Their customers and prospects actually thought they had gone out of business.

What we did was use a mix of the Google Cache and Wayback Machine at Archive.org to work out what the old pages were. The we used the Redirection plugin to set up 301 redirects for each old page URL to point to the new equivalent URL. Then added the 404 to Start plugin as a catchall in case we missed any old pages, and redirected these to the home page of the site.

Givent he urgency of this, we worked well into the night to get this fixed.

To the client’s delight, the phone started ringing again the very next day (which of course also made the Ad agency look good for introducing the two of us).

This plugin can do a whole range of extra things over and above what is mentioned here. The key configuration info here is about how we use the plugin for SEO and website migration.

Installation and Configuration

Install the Redirection plugin is straightforward:

  1. Within Wordress, go to the Plugin page and press the Add New button
  2. In the plugin search, type in Redirection and press Enter
  3. The Redirection plugin should be the top left one that shows in the search results
  4. Press the Install Now button
  5. Activate the plugin after the install completes

Removing it is just as straightforward, Deavtivate it on the Plugins screen and then click the Delete link to remove the files. Note that in doing so all the redirects you’ve set up will stop working.

To configure the Redirection plugin go to Tools > Redirection.

On the Redirects tab is where you add the old URL (Source URL) and where you want to now send traffic trying to access it (Target URL).

As an example, lets say that the old page was was called About+Us.html and the new page you’ve created is about-us. When filling in the Source and Target, you leave of the domain name, so they start with a / followed by the path and page name. In this example the source is /About+Us.html and the target URL is /about-us/

wordpress-plugin-redirection-add-new-redirection

There are other options in the Match drop down, however all we ever need for this process is to match the URL only. Likewise the Action is simply to Redirect to URL, rather than the other options that aren’t going to be that useful for helping with SEO.

After adding the Source and Target, press the Add Redirection button to activate this redirect.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-redirection-added

You’ll nee to repeat this process for each of the old pages.

When there’s an old page with no equivalent new page, what we do is typically redirect these to the home page. If it was a blog post, then we send it to the Blog page.

After you’ve added the redirect, test it to make sure it works. Browse to the old page name and verfiy you are instead shown the new page to confirm it is working correctly. The Hitss will now show 1, along with the date that the last redirect was processed.

Redirections plugin - 404s tab

 

The Log tab shows a list of the redirects that have been processed, so you can see how active there are.

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On the 404s tab, the Redirection plugin keeps a track of all the 404 errors. You can use this to find other pages you may have missed or may have existed prior to your involvment with the website. If legit pages are showing up on the 404s tab, then it’s likely that they are either still showing in the Google search results and people are clicking on them, or there are links on other sites pointing to the now non-existent page.

Note that in addition to legit pages, you’ll spot how people are trying to hack your site, as they try to access pages that don’t exist on your site as in the following example.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-404s

This is where having the right security configuration is exremely important. Note a good look if your client calls up saying the site was hacked.

On the Options tab, we generally leave time to keep the logs as is at a week.

The Monitor changes to posts is useful to leave on and set to Modified Posts as that will pick up changes to Post URLs. That way if a client edits the Permalink, then the Redirection plugin will pick that up and automatically set up a redirect of the old one to the new one.

wordpress-plugin-redirection-options

One last point, it’s best to only Activate the Redirection plugin after you’ve completed the build of a website. Having it on while building can result in a bunch of redirect getting created that you then have to go through and delete.

In summary, the Redirection plugin is a great one for both helping with website migrations and with keeping the value of incoming links to pages who’s URL’s have changed.

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WordPress Plugin > 404 to Start

wordpress-plugin-404-to-start-settings

As part of a series of blog posts to help web designers use SEO best practices, this one focuses on the how and why of using a WordPress plugin called 404 to Start.

Plugin: 404 to Start

Price: Free

Source: WordPress Plugin repository

What the 404 to Start plugin does is redirect 404 errors to either the home page or a page of your choice.

So rather than visitors or the Google bot seeing an error page, instead they are redirected to the home page. This makes both for a better user experience and helps your SEO effort.

The reason why it’s beneficial for SEO, is that it doesn’t let backlinks go to waste. Say you have some powerful backlinks to your site, however, these are to a page that no longer exists on your site and you’re unable to get the source of these links change to point to somewhere else on your site. Without some form of redirect, they result in a 404 error.

If the site providing the link monitors if the links on their site are still working, then when your site shows a 404, chances are they will delete the link. On the other hand, when you put a redirect in place, it’s less likely they will delete the link, and you’ll still receive it’s benefit.

Installation and Configuration

It is very easy to install and configure the 404 to Start plugin.

  1. Within WordPress, from the Plugins page click Add New.
  2. Type 404 to Start in the Search Plugins field and hit Enter.
  3. Locate the plugin (it should be located in the top left of the search results) and click the Install Now button.
  4. Activate the plugin.

If you’re wanting to remove the plugin in the future, it is straightforward, just Deactivate and the Delete from the Plugins screen.

To configure the plugin, navigate to its settings page at Settings > 404 to Start.

The settings are really straightforward, and you set them once and you’re done.

My preference for the settings are:

  • Select 301 – Permanently moved
  • Leave the Email alert unticked
  • Set the Target URL to the URL of the home page

By choosing a 301 (permanent) rather than a 302 (temporary) redirect, it is telling the source, primarily Google in our case, that the new destination is the Target URL aka the home page.

I leave the email alert off, because I don’t need to know each time a visitor or bot is redirected (especially when you multiply this out across all your sites).

This is a simple redirect plugin, with just one destination, which is I why I set it to the home page. An alternative is you could send it to the businesses contact or about page, or potentially a sales landing page.

If you’re looking for a solution to handle more complex redirection scenarios, then check out the Redirection plugin. This is also a useful plugin for SEO, mainly though it is a must have for when you’re rebuilding a client’s website and the URL’s are changing.

To sum up, the 404 to Start plugin is a great catchall for links you don’t know about linking to pages that don’t exist any more on your site. So instead of the links being wasted, or giving a poor user experience, instead send them to a useful place on your site such as the home page.

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