When managing a WordPress site you’ll occasionally have to move a page, either within the site or to a new domain. If it’s a page that has links to it, whether they’re internal or external links, moving it will result in 404 errors when users and search engines try to follow. That’s bad for users and it’s especially bad for SEO. Firstly because Google takes a dim view of sites that are riddled with 404 errors, and secondly, because you lose all the link juice of incoming links to the moved page.
The solution is to let users and search engine crawlers know that the page has moved, and to do that we use redirects. There are a couple of different redirect types that WordPress administrators should be concerned with: 301 redirects and 302 redirects.
302 redirects signal that a page has temporarily moved to a different address. Generally, these shouldn’t be used unless the page really is going to reappear. The redirect will make sure that users and Googelbot end up in the right place, but because Google expects that the page will return to its old position, it won’t update the ranking database. What that means is that none of the link juice accrued by the page will be passed through a 302 redirect.
301 Moved Permanently
As the name suggests, this lets web clients including search engine crawlers know that the page has permanently disappeared. In most cases this is the redirect type that WordPress users will want to implement when they move pages. It passes along most of the link juice (exactly how much is subject to debate), so ranking will be largely unaffected.
Creating 302 Redirects
Redirects are implemented at the server level, and that usually means editing the .htaccess configuration file. However, unless you really know what you’re doing, there’s significant scope to make a mistake and shoot yourself in the foot.
Fortunately, there are plugins available that make setting up redirects relatively pain-free.
Safe Redirect Manager
Safe Redirect Manager is a straightforward way to set up redirects. You simple provide the path of the removed page and its new home, or a pattern for redirecting several pages at once, and choose your redirect type.
Using this plugin couldn’t be simpler. Give it with a list of the URLs to redirect and their new home, hit save, and you’re done.
While there are more complex and configurable plugins to help with redirection, like the venerable Redirection, unless you need features like 404 error monitoring and logging, the two we’ve suggested will be entirely sufficient and a lot quicker.
About Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.