Moving a Site? 301 Redirect Keeps Ranking

A question that comes up often on various forums has to do with redesigning a website or moving it to a new host or a new platform entirely such as Wix. The primary concern is preserving the SEO ranking of various pages on the site. Basically, if you need to change the URL of any page shown in search engine results, you should use a server-side 301 redirect. This status code tells the search engines that a page has moved permanently and any SEO “juice” of the page or site remains in effect for the asset.

Let’s look at two of the most common methods of implementing a 301 direct:

      1. With the use of a WordPress plugin

 

    2. By editing the .htaccess file for non-Wordpress sites

1. The Redirection plug-in for WordPress

Wordpress 301 tutorial

This is an extremely simple plugin to use and with more than 2 million downloads, it’s a proven winner. The author is on top of any version changes in WordPress so it’s always current and likely won’t cause conflicts with your other plugins. To use it, simply enter your old URL and the new URL and click “Add Redirection”:

301 htaccess redirection

And here’s another function of the plugin. It can scan your site for another SEO ranking killer: 404 errors (see this post) and you can create 301s for the missing pages thereby directing those page calls to current content. Sweet!

2. Editing the .htaccess file

301 htaccess redirection

This method works with WordPress and non-Wordpress sites. First, you’ll need an FTP client (I use Cyberduck, available here or in the Mac App Store). Second, be absolutely certain to make a backup of the existing .htaccess file. Think of this file as a fragile egg, if you mess something up, your site may cease to function and you can re-upload the backup.

Here is the structure, or syntax, of the 301 redirect:

Redirect 301 /oldpage.html http://www.newsite.com/newpage.html

This will take any calls for oldpage.html and serve the page newpage.html instead.

If you have multiple redirects, place one on each line. Be careful not to change any other lines in the file. Be careful not to change any other lines in the file. Did I mention, be careful not to change any other lines in the file.

In conclusion, both methods are crucial to preserving your website’s SEO ranking and must be undertaken whenever the URL changes for a page or an entire site. Good luck!

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  • Tom Kelly
    Reply

    Hi Blake:

    We are in process of building a new site with a new WP template and hosting it on DreamHost, a WP managed site.
    The site was built on our local computer on a MAMP.
    The original site is still live on LiveBooks and will die when the plug is pulled.
    The URL does not change, but of course the host does.
    Does the Redirection Plug-in apply to us?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • Blake Discher
      Reply

      Hi Tom, no, you won’t need a 301. You’ll change the DNS information at your registrar and once the information propagates through the internet, Google will crawl the site at the new host. This is true because you are NOT changing the URL such as from http://www.mysite.com to http://www.newimprovedsite.com. The 301 is a necessary step when changing URL’s, but not needed for host change. See this old but still relevant post by Matt Cutts of Google for a much more detailed explanation.

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