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

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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