301 redirects are one of the most important elements in website maintenance and upkeep. Developers use 301 redirects to clean up URL mistakes or overhaul their website structure without messing with the website’s reputation and user experience. If you can imagine an internet where all 301 redirects are taken down, then you’re definitely having a scenario where millions of website pages would lead to a dead-end or a 404 page.
Yes, this is because most websites, especially those with lots of pages, have in one way or the other used 301 redirects to fix URL issues. SEO experts regularly recommend 301 redirects as a tool to maintain website ranking each time you make changes to a page’s URL.
In this article, we’ll understand what 301 redirects are, some of the reasons why you may need them, and how you can easily handle 301 redirects in WordPress.
What are 301 redirects?
Imagine moving away from where you live now to another town without opting for your mails to be sent to the address of your new home. This would deny you access to all your subsequent letters. In other words, you must either opt for a change of address or remain in your former home, if you want to keep receiving mails. This case is very familiar in the internet realm.
You don’t just rename URLs of a website after growing reputation with them without informing your visitors and search engines about the new location of the page content. Unless you’re done with all the previous records associated with the URLs.
301 redirects are server-side instructions that inform browsers (clients) or search engines where a page they have requested has been moved to permanently. A 301 redirect is a method of permanently sending users to URL “B” each time they request for URL “A”. And redirection takes care of both website visitors and search engines.
The popularity of 301 redirects among publishers grew since after Google dropped all SEO penalties it had imposed on 3xx redirects. Hence, most web maintenance procedures, before then, failed to consider site restructuring or moving a page content to a different URL. Now it has become a regular practice or tradition among publishers.
While 301 redirects have largely become very useful in website maintenance, it should only be used when absolutely necessary. The usefulness of 301 redirects does not override the potential dangers surrounding the use of 301 redirects. You must implement 301 redirects correctly, otherwise, you could be risking creating much bigger problems.
When do we use 301 redirects? (400)
301 redirects must be used appropriately and implemented rightly before anyone can enjoy their benefits. You could use 301 redirects in any of the following examples.
– To redirect multiple domains to a single domain
It’s legal to acquire multiple domains and direct all to a single page where your products and services are offered. This move is mostly to protect your brand name and close all possible avenues competitors could use to steal popularity from your efforts. With 301 redirects, you can point as many websites as possible to a single domain.
– Redirect to a new domain
There are chances of changing a business name even after operating for many years with a specific business name. 301 redirects offer you the opportunity to acquire a new domain name with the new business name and to have all visitors directed to the new domain.
– Redirect broken or obsolete URL to a new one
Website restructuring often results in broken links. You could leverage 301 redirects to fix each of the links. Also for content that has expired or no longer useful to your website visitors, 301 redirects could be used to redirect visitors to a relevant URL instead of sending them to a dead end.
– Redirect duplicate content
Duplicate content could be a challenge especially if you are not familiar with how to use tags and categories. Google doesn’t like duplicate content; it affects your ranking negatively. However, you could easily use 301 redirects to direct all duplicate contents to the original copy instead of taking down the URL entirely.
Different ways of setting up 301 redirects (300)
Setting up 301 redirects can be easy and yet tricky when it requires coding or some level of technical knowledge. Depending on the case and the number of pages you want to redirect, the following methods can be used to set up 301 redirects.
Plugins: This is the easiest means of setting up all kinds of redirects. Of course, developers of some of these plugins for redirects clearly understand the challenges anyone could face and had them fixed, including potential errors. You simply enter the URL that needs to be redirected and the destination URL to get the job done. We’ll later see how to handle 301 redirects in WordPress using a plugin.
.htaccess: 301 redirects will execute if the command is placed inside a .htaccess file in your website root folder. You can only use this method if your web server is running the Apache server software. .htaccess is simply the configuration file that can be used to enable/disable features and functionalities offered by the Apache Web Server software.
cPanel dashboard: You can set up 301 redirects right on your cPanel dashboard. Check the domains section for redirects icon. The process could be a little confusing for individuals with little or no knowledge of how cPanel works.
How to easily handle 301 redirects in WordPress
The easiest method of handling 301 redirects in WordPress is to use a plugin. And the 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager developed by WebFactory is a top web development tool for managing 301 redirects. The installation and configuration are very easy. It has a user-friendly interface that just about anyone can conveniently use without a need for instructions or studying manuals.
Easy Redirect Manager allows you to redirect users to different categories of URLs on your website through a dropdown menu. From post to pages, archives, custom post types, and a custom destination URL.
You can retain query strings across redirects, view redirects statistics and also set up bulk redirects through the plugin’s import/export feature. Most importantly, redirections using the Easy Redirect Manager plugin are super-fast.
How to set up 301 redirects in WordPress (step by step)
- On the WordPress dashboard, click on plugins>add new and enter EPS 301 Redirects in the search box at the right-hand corner.
- Click on the Install Now button next to the 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager by WebFactory Ltd and activate the plugin after the installation.
Alternatively, you could click here to download a copy of the 301 Redirects from wordpress.org and install it manually.
Setting up a 301 redirect in WordPress
Using the Easy Redirect Manager, you can easily set up 301 redirects with just a few clicks. Now, go to the EPS 301 Redirects dashboard by clicking on settings>301 Redirects. The procedure should clear now. Enter the old URL in the box for “Redirect From” and the destination URL in the box for “Redirect To.” Click on the Save button and you’re done.
That’s pretty easy, right? Now you could take some time to explore the plugin for even much easier means of setting up 301 redirects through the dropdown menu on the setup page.
While it’s important to note that 301 redirects are supposed to be activated forever, as the name implies “permanent,” you also have the option to deactivate redirects on the EPS 301 Redirects plugin. Yes, there are chances you may overhaul your website structure in the future. To avoid redirect chains, its best to take down existing redirects affected by your site restructuring.
Instead of having:
- Page A > Page B > Page C
(where > means 301 redirect), you should have:
- Page A > Page C
- Page B > Page C
This article may have mentioned not any of your reasons for setting up 301 redirects, such as emergencies where you mistakenly entered the wrong URL in your marketing campaign. Yes, 301 redirects could be used to handle this challenge. However, you want to make sure that your reason and implementation is right. That’s why a 301 redirect plugin is highly recommended even if you’re conversant with other methods of setting up 301 redirects.