August 1, 2023

Designing a New Website? Don’t Forget Page Redirect Strategy!

Imagine this...

You are launching a gorgeous brand new website. This baby has all the bells and whistles you have been dreaming about. It perfectly showcases your brand, captures the attention of your dream audience, and encourages business growth so much more than your old site. There is nothing left out of your new website, and your audience is excited to see the new site.

And then they start running into 404 errors.

Clicking on the links you have shared in the past, your audience isn't getting to your brand new website and all of its magnificence. They are finding themselves at a dead-end with no direction of where to go next. Suddenly the success of your new website is not tasting so sweet.

Avoiding the nightmare of 404 page dead ends...

There is one important strategy that many don't think of until it's too late. This is honestly one of the things that only a seasoned Web Designer considers... creating a page redirect strategy. Take a look at the steps below on how to make sure this 404 dead end nightmare doesn't happen to you!

Map Out the Existing Site

Before diving into the new website design, it's crucial to map out your existing site. Take inventory of all the pages, URLs, and their current structure. This step will help you gain a clear understanding of the scope of your website and identify any potential pitfalls during the transition.

Start by creating a comprehensive list of all the pages on your current site, categorizing them based on their purpose, importance, and content. This will serve as your reference point when creating the new site map. Don't forget to clearly identify any pages that will not be making an appearance on your new site, and start thinking about what page you would like for them to land on instead.

Create a New Site Map

With the existing site mapped out, it's time to create a new website map for your redesigned website. A site map is a visual representation of your website's structure, showcasing the relationships between different pages and how they are organized.

Consider the goals of your new website and how you want to improve the user experience. Use this opportunity to rethink and optimize the organization of your content. Ensure that the new website is intuitive, logical, and user-friendly.

Create a list of what needs to change

As you design your new website, carefully assess each page and determine whether it needs to keep the same page name (URL) or if it requires a change. Retaining the same page names can be beneficial for SEO purposes, as it allows search engines to recognize and maintain the existing rankings and backlinks associated with those pages.

However, there may be instances where a page's content has significantly changed, and a new page name is necessary to reflect the purpose or focus. Consider how these changes will impact the user experience, search engine visibility, and any external links pointing to those pages. You don't want your audience landing on a generic 404 page if you can help it. So keep a list of the pages that need to be changed including their current page name (URL) as well as the new page name (URL). This list will make implementing redirects prior to launch much easier!

Plan your page redirects

Now that you have a list of pages that need a redirect, it is time to make a plan. Page redirects ensure that when a user or search engine attempts to access an old URL, they are automatically redirected to the corresponding new URL, preserving both the user experience and SEO value.

First, you want to identify what type of redirect you need to use. the most commonly used and recommended method is the 301 redirect. This informs search engines that the page has moved permanently to a new location. As you plan the redirects, ensure that each old URL is mapped to its new counterpart accurately. But there are others to consider. Check out this list of redirects and the purpose for each...

  • 301 Redirect: The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that informs search engines and browsers that the requested page has moved permanently to a new location. Its primary purpose is to transfer the SEO value, ranking, and backlinks from the old URL to the new one. This redirect is crucial for maintaining search engine visibility and ensuring a seamless user experience during website transitions.
  • 302 Redirect: The 302 redirect is a temporary redirect that tells search engines and browsers that the requested page has temporarily moved to a different location. It indicates that the move is not permanent and the original URL should still be indexed. This type of redirect is commonly used when a page is temporarily unavailable or under maintenance.
  • 307 Redirect: The 307 redirect is similar to the 302 redirect as it indicates a temporary move to a new URL. It tells search engines and browsers that the original URL should still be indexed and that the redirect is temporary. This type of redirect is useful when you need to take a page temporarily offline or make changes without permanently altering the URL.

There are others of course, but for the purpose of this blog, these should be all you need to consider.

Implementing page redirects

This is where a little research is going to be required, as how you do it depends 100% on the platform your website has been built in. Some platforms make redirecting pages quick easy and simple, whereas others require code to be added to the site. Here is a quick breakdown of what you can expect on the platforms we support:

  • Squarespace: as of the date of this post requires code to be inserted into the developer tools section of the website. Click here for Squarespace's support article.
  • Shopify: you can quickly set up a redirect in the Navigation section of your online store. Click here for Shopify's support article. 
  • WordPress: There are multiple plugins that can do this for you from professional SEO tools such as the one we use for our clients All-in-One SEO as well as some free plug-ins such as Redirection. Just remember not all plugins are created equal and some really suck! Be sure to do your research into whatever solution you choose so you aren't creating bigger problems for yourself.

Create a value driven 404 error page! 

Even with the best laid plans, your audience may still stumble across a bad link somewhere. This is where creating a value-driven, strategically planned 404 error page comes in handy. Rather than just having a generic 404 page that tells your visitors that page no longer exists, add in content that will guide them to the most popular areas on your website. Here are a few examples from our own websites... 

Reindex Your Website... 

Once you have your page redirects in place and are ready to launch your website, your next step is to let search engines know about the changes you have made. To do this you will want to submit an updated XML sitemap to search engines, including: 

By taking these steps you are letting the world know that changes have happened, and it's time to pay attention. 

Feeling Overwhelmed? 

We get it! This is a lot and can feel a bit draining when you really dive in and get started. The bright side is that once you are done you are going to feel like one heck of a bada$$! And if you just aren't wanting to deal with this headache, then know we are here! We are brilliant at strategy and can help you make and implement a plan that saves you a lot of time, stress and tears! 

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