Archive | Website Design & Build

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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Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

Hey! If Your Website Isn’t Mobile-Friendly, You’re Losing Customers (And Money)

Our economy is recovering…slowly. However, these are still difficult times for consumers. Here’s what that means to you as a business owner: You simply can’t risk making it more difficult for customers to buy your products or services. The fact is that, many local businesses aren’t making things easy with regards to their websites. As more and more consumers are trying to find nearby businesses on their mobile devices (according to Google, 1 in 3 searches are for local information) companies are still running antiquated sites that look like crap (let’s be honest) on smartphones and tablets.

Losing customers one click at a time

At first blush, this might seem like a small problem. It’s not, unfortunately. As the folks at MarketingVOX recently outlined, there are very real financial penalties for having a mobile-unfriendly website. And as increasingly more consumers use mobile devices to access the web, the penalties are becoming stiffer. In a recent post, MarketingVOX highlighted research from Google showing that:

  • A majority 61% of consumers say that they’ll leave a website if it’s not optimised for small touch screens.
  • A whopping 96% of consumers say they’ve had bad experiences on websites that were not designed for non-desktop screens.
  • 50% of respondents said that even if they liked a business, they’d be less inclined to buy in the future if the business’s website isn’t mobile friendly.

Those are startling statistics. Here’s the silver lining: Nearly 3/4 say that they’re more likely to go back to a mobile-friendly website. So your mission is clear…

Your challenge

What sort of mobile experience have you been offering for your prospects and customers?

If it’s bad, the research from Google is unequivocal: you’re losing customers. If it’s a good experience, you’re probably taking them away from your competitors.

It’s not hard to see why mobile website optimisation is important. Look around you. Chances are good you’ll see someone hunched over a mobile device, swiping away at their iPhone, Android tablet or Kindle e-reader. This isn’t a passing fad. In reality, a recent report from Morgan Stanley projects that web surfing on mobile devices will outpace browsing the web on desktop computers within the next year.

And according to a joint Google/Ipsos study, after consumers look up a business via mobile, 61% say they make a phone call and 59% say they will navigate to the business! Can you guess which businesses are more likely to hear the phone ring? Yes, those with mobile-ready websites.

For those who have a smartphone, here’s your homework: pull up your website using your mobile browser. If your site looks cramped or unreadable, you know what you need to do: fix it. Get help if you need it! Otherwise, you’re at risk of losing what every business depends upon. Paying customers.

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Don’t Delete Old No Longer Required Web Pages Yet

One of the many things the search engines use to rank your web pages is how old they are. (See the recent update at the end of this post)

All things being equal old pages rank better than new pages. Just like old sites rank better than new sites. Its all part of the what pages are considered by the search engines as an authority on a particular topic.

Those old pages you want to delete are (if you’ve been actively promoting your site) are likely to be in the indexes of the search engines. If you go deleting them people may get an error page when they click on the search engine link to get to your site. This makes you look bad.

“The page doesn’t have relevant info anymore or is outdated” you say. That is fine, just change the content on the page and leave it named the same.

Even though the content may change, what is important is the length of time it has been in the search engine index, especially so with Google.

Alternatively you can redirect people when they try to get to the old page and send them to the new one you want them to see.

Doing either of these alternatives means you’re not wasting the time an effort that has previously gone into promotion a page on your site, and of course means a good user experience rather than a poor one of potentially seeing a 404 error page.

If you’d like help working out how to best reuse an old page within your site then get in touch and we can chat about how to best do it for you.

Update:

With the rececnt Google search algorithim changes, “Freshness” is becoming more relavent – this relates to both new content and pages / post being added plus freshness of existing pages.

So how do keep all thos blog posts or “corporate” pages fresh, when there’s no need to change them?

Do something like in this blog post – where I’ve added a an update that is relavent to the original post. It only takes a few minutes. This strategy can be applied to normal web pages too, add to the existing article, update the directions on how to find your office, add more photos of projects / job / products and include a write up to go along with these.

Go now and make some changes and keep your website content Fresh to benefit from Googles latest updates.

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Don’t Pay $10K for a New Small Business Website Until Understanding These 5 Essential Rules

Here are my 5 Rules to Small Business Websites.

Rule # 1, Use a content manangement system for your website, this means your web designer is focusing on the content and not infrastucture to make it all work. The thinking behind doing it this way is that you can log in to the site and make changes yourself without having to pay lots to your website designer to make small tweaks to the wording on your website. Plus you get the benefit of thousands of development hours that have gone into building the content management system, meaning cool features that if built from scratch would cost the earth. Remember, the main things you’ll want to change is the text content of your site, and who knows this stuff best, yes you, so save a bundle doing this yourself, it only takes a few minutes anyway..

Rule # 2, Don’t bother with flashy graphics. This could affect you later on because if your site is graphics intensive, it may be much more difficult to make changes. Make sure and don’t forget that as the number of images increase then as a general rule the time your site takes to load decreases and Google frowns upon slow loading site (meaning it makes it harder to get a great ranking in Google).

Rule # 3, All wording on your site should be text and not some image containing the text. There’s good reasons you will need to do that. Among them are that Google can’t read text that is contained in an image. And if it cannot read this text then it can’t help you get found in Google for that text.

Rule # 4, Ask for a walk through or hands on demonstration of the content manangement system to make sure you’ll be able to use it and it fits with what you want to be able to do with your website. To do this you may need to push for your website designer to give you actual hands on use, but it will be worth it because you’ll see how easy or not it really is for you.

Rule # 5, Dominating Google search results is about having multiple websites. What we mean is you have your primary website plus several secondary supporting sites so that these too can also show on page 1 of the Google search results. This may include having several 1 page sites, blogs, or other sites that point to your primary website for full information about your business. It is important because each time you take up one of the 10 search results, that’s one less of your competitors showing up and one less opportunity for your competitor to get a click from a prospective purchaser.

These are my 5 rules when it comes to small business websites, they have been time-tested and proved to work for ourselves and our customers.

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