Does your site get lots of Not found pages (404 error status) in Google search console’s crawl errors section? Then you have to be ready to deal with your 404 error pages and bring your readers back to the new URLs from old URLs that you may have removed or changed permalink structure in a certain period.
301 redirects is the best and recommended URL redirection process to transfer both traffic and search engine from non-existing page to existing page within your website. There are many ways you can create 301 redirects in your WordPress site such as using plugins and writing redirection code on .htaccess file that resides in your WordPress root directory.
Writing on .htaccess file is much crucial and risky task than using plugin but for tutorial purpose I will show you both procedures.
So get started with WordPress redirection method.
Redirection is a mean of transferring a user and search engine from old URL to new URL using different types of redirection methods like 301 redirects, 302 redirects and meta refresh.
From the above three types of redirects 301 redirects is the best and recommended practice for SEO as it passes between 90-99% of link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page and increase your site’s organic search ranking positions.
302 Redirect is a temporary redirection process that is not recommended for SEO and webmasters should avoid this redirection method as it can interrupt robots to crawl URLs and hurt your organic search ranking.
Meta refresh is a type of URL redirection process that works on page level not on server level and may cause slowing down your page speed and interrupt both user experience and organic search ranking. Meta refresh is used commonly with automated redirection process with countdown timer text for five seconds or more like “If you are not redirected in five seconds, click here.” Though Meta refresh passes some link juice but it’s not a recommended redirection process in terms of SEO.
Impacts of 404 Error Pages to your Site
A 404 error page cannot adversely impact your site’s SEO but can generate poor user experience to searchers and may lose you potential conversions rate and sales.
Google recommends webmasters to intelligently deal with 404 error pages and keep up site’s user experience optimum always by redirecting a non-existing URL to an existing URL by using 301 moved permanently method rather trying 302 or Meta refresh processes.
Finding out Error Pages in Google Search Console
Google discovers content by following links from one page to another page that are submitted to Google’s directory by you or another user using Google search console. A not found status error code (generally a HTTP status code) is being returned when Googlebot attempts to visit a non-existing page—either because you deleted or renamed the permalink structure of the old URL but never redirected it to the new URL that lead to generate a 404 error status on your website.
You can find all the error status of your website in Google search console’s Crawl Errors section
To get this information access your Google search console account and navigate Crawl > Crawl Errors
You can see 3 types of error notifications
- Server Error: Request timed out or site is blocking Google
- Soft 404: The target URL doesn’t exist, but your server is not returning a 404 (file not found) error
- Not found: URL points to a non-existing page.
Fixing 404 Error Status in WordPress
Thanks to advanced configuration system to WordPress .htaccess file that enables users to permanently move old URL to new URL by writing custom URL redirection code on .htaccess file that resides in root direction of your website server.
Either you can use any plugin to make 301 redirection of you’re not certain about writing on .htaccess file as playing wrong with this important file can lead your sites’ dangerous search ranking difficulties in future.
So as tutorial purpose I will show you both .htaccess and plugins methods to create 301 redirects in WordPress
Simple 301 redirect works similar to the format of Apache uses, the request should be relative to your WordPress root. You can use either full URL to redirect to any page on the web, or relative to your WordPress root.
Request: /something-about.html Destination: http://www.thewildblogger.com/about/
Thanks to Simple 301 Redirects wildcards support meaning that you can redirect a folder containing all the URLs to a specific destination by putting an asterisk (*) after the folder name that you want to redirect.
Request: /search/label/* Destination: http://www.thewildblogger.com/category/seo/
After adding wildcards all the URLs in the format
/search/label/ will be redirected to new location
Make sure you check Use Wildcards to enable wildcards functions with your 301 redirect
Redirection is a popular WordPress URL redirection plugin that provides plenty of useful features to manage 404 error pages, create 301 moved permanently URLs, track total hits of individual URL and overall improve your site’s performances.
This plugin is almost free to use and configuration process is very easy.
When you have downloaded and installed the plugin simply navigate Tools > Redirection
Now put Source URL as non-existing URL
Target URL as destination URL
Finally click “Add Redirection” and you have successfully made a 301 redirection
Yoast SEO Premium comes with two useful features (1) Tracking multiple focus keywords per post (2) URL Redirection.
The URL redirection is most useful feature to me since I have used this plugin on this site and found it very handy.
After upgrading navigate to SEO > Redirects
The URL redirection type is selected to 301 Moved Permanently so you don’t to make any change here
In Old URL field type you have to type old URL except your root domain URL
Old URL: something-about.html URL: about/
After that click “Add Redirect” and you’ve successfully redirected the old URL permanently to new URL
301 Redirects using .htaccess file
Creating 301 redirects by writing redirection code on .htaccess file is advanced but very fast step for moving your Old URLs to New URLs permanently.
This process should be followed by code experts or tech savvy otherwise if you’re newbie you may make typing mistakes and your entire .htaccess file may create interruption in accessibility by search engines and your permalinks won’t work properly.
Anyway to create 301 redirects by writing redirection code on .htaccess you have to access your .htaccess file which resides in your website’s root directory.
Before to edit .htaccess file make sure you back it up and saved on your computer desktop or another location for safe side.
# User added 301 Redirects Redirect 301 /old-page.html http://www.site.com/new-page/ # End User added 301 Redirects
Be careful when you’re editing your .htaccess file, type the correct URL address don’t make any syntax error otherwise it will cause serious trouble.
So, do it with your own risk if you’re confident enough, otherwise use plugins to move old URLs to new URLs permanently.
Creating 301 redirects is important for every WordPress user since 404 error page is normal phenomena and you can’t certainly control over all the inbound and outbound links to your site so you have to be ready to make 301 redirects for those URLs that matter your site’s ranking power and flow link juice.
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