For you O.G. SEOs this article will be an old hat. For all you young bucks, let me drop some knowledge on you…
Somehow, in some way, incorrect links get generated on the internet. Maybe someone mis-types a URL when they’re creating an outbound link on their site. Maybe a page used to exist but it got moved and there are still links out there pointing to the old page. Maybe the internet Goblins deliberately run around fiddling with stuff to make our lives miserable. Whatever the case, we all receive inbound traffic to non-existent pages on our websites. Do you want that traffic to bounce? …or do you want to capture that traffic and send them to a happy home on your site where they will complete your sales funnel and make a purchase?
Of course, you want to redirect the user, capture that traffic, and encourage them to make a purchase (or whatever other goal you have set up). That is the answer to the “why do I want to do this” portion of this blog post. You want to capture every visit to your site and encourage them to go through your funnel. Now, how do we do this?
The Redirection Plugin
There are several plugins out there that will redirect traffic on a WordPress blog. The plugin we use and have been quite happy with is called, simply enough, Redirection. Others have found it useful as well. At the time of this writing, Redirection by John Godley has over 1 million active installations and 4.3 stars over 523 reviews. That’s a highly-used and well-liked plugin.
How Does It Work?
Redirection works by checking the URL the visitor is trying to get to against a list of URLs that have been defined in the WordPress Admin area. If the URL being visited matches, the plugin displays an alternate page instead of the requested one. Here’s a real-world example that might make it more clear.
Years ago, we used Drupal to run our website and WordPress to run our blog. Our website was located at https://netvantagemarketing.com and our blog was at, shockingly enough, https://netvantagemarketing.com/blog/. Every blog article we posted had a URL of https://netvantagemarketing.com/blog/how-does-google-return-results-so-damn-fast/. (…which happens to be one of my articles and also the most visited page on our website this year thankyouverymuch!)
Recently we got rid of Drupal and went with an all-WordPress website. In the process, we got rid of the /blog/ portion of our article URLs. So my article used to live at the URL above, now it lives at https://netvantagemarketing.com/how-does-google-return-results-so-damn-fast/.
Go ahead and click that first link with the /blog/ portion in it. You’ll see that the system quickly redirects you to the second link without the /blog/ bit. This is because, when we switched our website from Drupal to WordPress, we took all our blog articles and entered their new homes into the Redirection plugin. Because that article was written in 2016 there are many links out there pointing to the old /blog/ URL. If we didn’t have Redirection in place we would lose all that traffic coming into my awesome article.
Capturing 404s: Another Cool Feature
One other useful feature of Redirection is that it captures 404s. “What is a 404?” you might ask. When a visitor comes to your site, looks for a page that doesn’t exist, and that page is not specifically listed in the Redirection plugin, the website will show the user a page that usually says something like “Whoops! We can’t find what you’re looking for. Please check the URL and try again!”…or something like that.
Redirection will capture those 404 URLs and display them to you in a report. This is very useful to determine if there is an incorrect URL driving traffic to a non-existent webpage on your site from somewhere out on the internet. The plugin allows you to quickly add that URL as a redirect or ignore it so that URL no longer appears in reports. Conveniently, it also displays the User Agent of the 404 visitor so you can often determine if the hit was generated by a bot or a legitimate user.
There You Have It…
This handy little plugin should be in everyone’s toolbox to help manage website redirects. It’s simple to use, it doesn’t cost anything (donations accepted), and it will provide your website visitors a better overall experience.
If you choose to use a different plugin to handle your redirects, let me know in the comments which plugin you prefer and why. I’d love to hear what others are using!