by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at xynoMedia
We're working on a big, multi-year project with a client. I can't say much about it, but we're helping them build a social network, but, as I always say, before we started to "invite company" through the new social network, we had to "clean up the house"; which, for them, meant a new website.
Now, we're not website designers, but we did this as part of the larger picture of getting this company ready to build this new social network. So, we built them a nifty new WordPress site. They're happy, we're happy and we can move on to the meat of the project.
But, not so fast. What about all the OLD website pages that are currently index in the search engines? Where will people go when they click on the links to the old website pages that come up in search engine results? What happens then?
Well, if you haven't set up proper 301 redirects then they are taken to a page that doesn't exist anymore! No bueno!
Think of 301 redirects as a way for you to give Google (and all the other search engines) a "we've moved, here's our new address" announcement. It really isn't much more than that.
There should be a redirect done for EACH page of your website that no longer exists anymore or has moved to a different location on your hosting server. Here's how to do it if your website is hosted on a Unix-based server:
- Find or create an .htaccess file on your hosting server. This is the file that will serve as your "mail fowarding postcard" for the search engines.
- If you don't have an .htaccess file on your hosting server, open up a text editor like Notepad and save the blank/empty file as .htaccess (remove the default .txt extension, you literally want the file name to be .htaccess - that's it)
- If there is already an .htaccess file on your hosting server, scroll down past the code that is already there and add your new redirect instructions.
- Add your redirect information, like this: redirect 301 /directory/oldfile.html http://www.yourdomainame.com/directory/newfile.html
- Upload the .htaccess file to your server.
- Let Google work its magic!
If tackling this yourself makes you nervous or you're on a Windows server, or you just don't want to deal with this "tech stuff", shoot me an email or comment below and we'll get someone on our team to help you quick, fast and in a hurry. Depending on how many pages you need to redirect, this should take about an hour or so. And, isn't an hour worth your piece of mind?
Bottomline: When potential clients are looking for you, they need to be able to find you right away. Don't let a lack of 301 redirects do you in.