Trying to maintain and further upgrade your site is a very important aspect of keeping the site healthy and up to date. You have to be sure that you are tracking all of the potential issues that may arise if you make any changes to your site. One of these changes may be when you are changing your domain and that requires you to redirect all of your pages so that you avoid a 404 page not found.
The “404 Page Not Found” is one of the biggest potential issues that you may have on your site and it needs to be dealt with quickly, efficiently and thoroughly.
When does a 404 page not found occur?
There are a couple of ways of how a 404 page might occur, it could be due to something that you have done to the page or it could also be to some external factors of who you do or do not have control over.
- When the URL has been incorrectly typed in. This could occur when you are typing the URL by hand and you either add or remove a certain letter or number
- If the server on which the site is held is not running or if there is a connection problem between the server and the user
- When some of the content that is situated on the page (URL) has been moved or deleted (this is the most common one)
- When the URL which you have entered does not exist anymore
So, lets say that for example you have changed up your sites domain (going from a .org to a .com for example) all of your pages are in need of redirecting because if someone has the old .org page bookmarked and then they decide to visit it they will be greeted by a 404 error.
There is also an instance when you have a whole bunch of blog posts that are talking about the same thing, in these cases you want to blend them all into one giant post. When you do this then you simply redirect users from the old blog posts all to this one giant blog post.
How do you deal with a 404 error?
There are a different variety of ways of how to deal with 404 errors. You can correct the source link, you could try to find what is missing in the page and restore the items, you could also restore the deleted pages so that people who still have those pages bookmarked aren’t greeted with a 404.
The best way to deal with 404 errors is by fat to simply do a 301 redirect. It is not that much of a hassle once you get used to it, but if you have a site that has been online for some time you should be fairly aquatinted with 301 redirects by now.
What are 301 redirects?
In simple terms, 301 redirects are a way of telling search engines like Google or Bing that a certain link (URL) is now on a different location. This is important because then search engines can in a way “connect the dots” and determine where the page is now situated and where your visitors will be redirected to.
In the eyes of google the page has been moved permanently to another location (URL) and the content can be found there in its new form or in the old original one.
Why is it important to redirect?
Well the obvious reason is so that you can avoid 404 errors, but there is also the issue with your SEO. If you have gained and established a certain ranking on some of your pages you want to keep that ranking to stay the way it is. If you do not redirect your pages, then you will lose your SEO and your ranking on search engines.
Not only will you save your SEO, but you will also keep all of the potential visitors that may come to visit your site. If you do not redirect 404 errors, then you will notice a decline in your sites traffic.
If you do not redirect your 404 pages, then you might be risking users thinking that the entire site is offline or that your business has gone out of business. They will lose heart and interest if they see a few 404 errors.
How to redirect your pages so that you avoid potential 404 errors
The best thing you could do is to simply download and use a plugin with which you can simplify and speed up the entire process. One such plugin is WP 301 REDIRECTS.
WP 301 REDIRECTS is the kind of plugin that I simply have on all of my projects simply because it works great and quite frankly, I have become so used to it that I can’t imagine a site without it. It has been a life saver especially when the entire sites domain has been changed or when the site is going through a slight reshuffle or if it wants to change up its look and feel.
I also like the fact that it ignores “bad” bots that would be redirected while actually redirecting real users so that you don’t lose traffic.
It also has a sort of automation build into it so that you may save up even more of your precious time. To quote the developers: “We’ll monitor every post/page URL and automatically create a redirect rule the moment URL changes. You don’t have to do anything.”
The plugin does not slow down your site in any manner nor does it load any unnecessary extra CSS or JS files in the frontend ever. This is great because a lot of people are worried that such plugins will slow down their site, with this plugin you can rest assured that it wont meddled with your site.
Here is the list of features that the plugin offers to its users
- Choose from Pages, Posts, Custom Post types, Archives, and Term Archives from dropdown menu
- Or, set a custom destination URL!
- Retain query strings across redirects
- Super-fast redirection
- Import/Export feature for bulk redirects management
- Simple redirect stats so you know how much a redirection is used
Quick tip: Try not to redirect your links to something which has nothing to do with the original content, because google will detect this flaw and it will deem the page a “Soft 404”. For example, don’t redirect a post that is talking about vegan food to a post that is talking about barbecuing steaks, google will see that these two posts are contradictory!
All in all it is safe to say that sooner or latter you will have to dive into the world that is 301 redirects, at least now you know how to deal with 404 errors and which plugin to use in order to fix these issues if they ever arise in the future.