Although to some people redirects might have a bad connotation, they are great. They are essentially what ensures that your site has good SEO and that the user experience it provides is the best that it can be. For any of you unfamiliar with what a redirect is, here is a very simple explanation. Essentially a redirect is what you would use after a page or a post was moved, for whatever reason, to make sure that the page that is now at a new location will be getting its regular and new traffic. A 301 redirect specifically, is a permanent type of redirect which besides sending traffic to the page, informs the search engines that the move is also a permanent one.
That way the search engine can guide traffic to the right page and can also send its website crawlers to recrawl the new page. 301 redirects also transfer almost all of the SEO the previous page has accumulated to the new page so it can have the same relevance and search results rank the previous one did.
Since 301 redirects are a topic of discussion in various blog posts, people are aware that setting up 301 redirects is something they should be doing but are often lost in knowing when they should be doing so.
To alleviate any confusion you might have regarding that, in this article, we will talk about the most common use cases of 301 redirects in WordPress, the three situations you will most likely need them during your site’s lifetime.
And, before going further, you would also like to explore How to Create Redirects in WordPress.
Replacing an old site design with a new site design
There comes a time with every website when doing a redesign is necessary. It could be due to the change in your branding, attempting to be up to par with the latest design trends, or simply because the old design isn’t able to fill its intended purpose any longer.
Redesigning a site can be a great move, giving your site a more optimized performance, a fresher look, a better UX for your visitors, and even an increase in your conversion rates. But anyone who has ever redesigned or considered redesigning their site is aware that it is not the simplest process but a process that requires a lot of planning a hard work.
One of the most important steps in that process, which for some reason is often forgotten by people doing the redesign, is redirecting. To put it simply, redesigning and redirecting go hand in hand. By failing to properly redirect, all the gain you expected your site to have after the redesign process might never see the light of day.
Now, why is that? Well, redesigning a site will not be just changing up the layout, background and font color here and there. It will also involve many structural changes, like removing, merging, adding sections and/or pages, changing the location of the sections/pages, and so on. So of course, those changes need to be followed up by redirects, 301 redirects to be more specific.
But why 301 redirects? Because redesigning isn’t something that is done to achieve temporary changes.
A well-thought-out design should be something that will serve its purpose for at least a few years until it’s time for another redesign, meaning that the changes you made within the redesign process are permanent and of course a permanent change requires a permanent type of redirection. For each change that also involved a change in the page/post URL, you will set up a 301 redirect. This way your traffic remains steady, none of the external or internal links will be broken, no will be SEO lost, and most importantly no visitor will be left disappointed.
Regardless if you are redesigning strictly for aesthetic purposes or to improve your performance as well, in both cases 301 redirects are your friend. They will make sure that your redesigning efforts won’t cause more harm than good and that your site is satisfactory on more than just the visual level.
Overhauling or re-organizing your existing WordPress content
For your content to be relevant and eye-catching it needs to be well-showcased. Well-showcased content is achieved by making overhauling and reorganizing the content a standard practice on your site. Doing so will help your content be more optimized and logically distributed, something greatly appreciated by your visitors.
Overhauling and reorganizing content could involve adding new sections and splitting your content across those sections or adding more categories to your searches and categorizing your content under the proper terms. It could also be something simpler like transferring content between existing pages or merging more pieces of content into one stronger piece.
Whatever it is you are doing to overhaul or reorganize your content, the inevitable will happen, the changes in the URLs, that, of course, have their consequences. The content that you now moved to another location still has a number of links pointing to it, and the changes in the URL we just mentioned will make all of the links broken, which we know is a huge no SEO, SERP rank, and UX-wise.
To stop that from happening, like in redesigning, redirects are here to help. And since redesigning, overhauling and reorganizing are all actions of permanent nature, they should all be followed up by redirects of permanent nature, 301 redirects.
You have content that expires, and you wish to redirect users elsewhere
The last use case we will mention in the one of seasonal or temporary content. This type of content is especially common on eCommerce sites, for instance, their “limited time only” offers which usually get their own dedicated pages. Often links and ads containing links to those dedicated pages stay active longer than the page itself, which you guessed it, makes them broken. In cases of eCommerce sites or any other type of site that have temporary content, the expiration of that content should be followed up by setting up a permanent redirect on all the links pointing to it since that content won’t be coming back, at least not for a while or in the same form or location.
When doing the redirects for content that expires, you might be lost as to where those links should now be pointing to. The safest way to go might be to link to something that is closely related to the previous content, for example, the same product category. If not that, then you can always link to the landing page of the site. Whatever you choose it will certainly be better than not redirecting at all and just letting the links lead to a 404 page.
Hopefully reading this article helped you better understand when a 301 redirect should be used. Of course, there are some other situations in which a 301 redirect would come in handy, but the three mentioned are the ones you will deal with the most, others are more rare and specific situations. For 99% of the time, the knowledge you acquired through this article will definitely be enough. Happy Redirecting!