Have you ever looked for a specific page on a website and had it come up in your Google search results, only to be sent to a dreaded 404 error page? You were likely confused because you’ve definitely been on this page before and just needed a reminder of what was on it. You back out, click on it again, and to your disappointment, you get hit with the 404 error page again. What you’ve just experienced is a website that has forgotten to redirect its dead URLs.
It happens all the time. If you find an older page or post with the same keyword as another page that is taking SEO away from it, you may delete or draft it. Maybe the information is outdated and it’s better to relaunch a new page entirely. There are plenty of reasons to shutter a page or post, but the URL for the original page/post doesn’t go away either. Search engines like Google and Bing still have them in their index and will show them for weeks after the URL is dead.
It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, to sometimes even months to have your page unindexed by Google and other search engines. That means there are potentially weeks on end where your site is getting visitors and bouncing them with an error page. A way to salvage some, if not most of your dead page’s visitors, is to set up a URL redirect.
What is a URL Redirect?
A URL redirect is where you set your site to automatically redirect anyone who clicks or searches for a specific link to another link of your choosing. This will give your site the chance to retain these visitors rather than give them an error page that helps them with nothing. We’ve seen many potential and new clients with a 404 error page among their best-performing pages.
There are several reasons to delete a page, even when it is performing well. If you have a replacement page for it but want to use a different URL to optimize SEO, you can redirect those searching for the old link to the new link. It’s best to try and redirect to a page or post that’s relevant to what the dead page/post was about.
If there isn’t another page/post that’s close enough, one of the best places to send them to is a page apologizing for no longer having what they want or the home page. In both cases, you can assure the visitor that there isn’t an error and give yourself the chance to keep them on your site.
What is a 404 Error Page?
These dreaded error pages are something many people have dealt with before. It’s an error page that’s displayed when the computer was able to find the server–or website–but could not find the specific destination–or web page. When this happens, the server triggers a coding error which reports back the number: 404.
You can also be sent to a 404 error page if you type in an incorrect URL. This means that every site should have a 404 error page set up for visitors. This way, they can at least be sent back to the site, rather than a completely broken link.
How Can You Redirect Your URLs?
You can redirect URLs in several ways. The first thing you need to know is what client your website is hosted on. WordPress is one of the most popular website clients and the one we use for most of our clients. A free plugin called Redirection allows us to easily and quickly add in the old link, and then the new link to set up the redirect instantly. Other websites have similar systems, and you can find that should allow you to set up redirects easily.
Types of URL Redirects
There are two specific types of URL redirects: 301 redirects and 302 redirects. Depending on the plugin, you might only be able to use one type. The difference between them is in how they affect the old URL.
301 redirects permanently redirect people who search for the old URL to the new link. The site can then never use that old link reliably. If you try to make a page or post with the old link, it will be a part of the redirect.
302 redirects are not permanent and are considered temporary redirects. This is perfect for most occasions. If you want to temporarily move pageviews to another part of your website, but plan to go back to the old URL, you can delete or remove 302 redirects so you can use the link again. If you are not sure when you will use the URL again, at least with 302 redirects, you can delete it months later after search engines stop sending your traffic to the dead link. Then you’re free to use that link whenever you want.
Get Help to Redirect Your URLs
While redirecting URLs may seem easy and simple, that may not be the case for someone who doesn’t have great media literacy skills. ENX2 Marketing has a team who can keep track of your URLs, ones you want to get rid of and keep for later. Then we’ll make sure there’s an appropriate redirect so you can keep as many of the page views that you’re getting.
It’s a sad thing to tell potential and new clients that they’ve been bringing in pageviews but haven’t been seeing the benefits of them because people leave their 404 error page. That’s hard work that has gone down the toilet, but with a proper URL redirect, you can collect them again. Contact ENX2 Marketing for help today.