Have you ever clicked on a link only to be greeted by the dreaded 404 error screen? Annoying, isn’t it.
And what happens next? That’s right, you hit the back button — you only have one chance to make a first impression, after all.
Unfortunately, no website is perfect. Things break, including links.
A 404 error simply means that the page you’re trying to access can’t be found. This is because a page has been moved, removed, or the URL mistyped.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to fix the majority of 404 errors: by using 301 redirects.
A 301 redirect will simply point a broken URL – the one causing the 404 error – to the correct one. Want to hear some of the advantages of using 301 redirects?
- They fix common problems associated with domain and permalink changes.
- If an important external link is mistyped, you can redirect it to the correct URL.
- They’re recommended by the search engines, so there’s no negative impact on your SEO performance.
- They improve user experience by reducing the number of 404 errors.
Sold on the advantages of using 301 redirects to stay on top of your 404 errors? Awesome. Today, I’m going to show you how to configure and manage your 301 redirects using a fantastic free plugin — Redirection.
How to Use the Redirection Plugin
Redirection is installed the same way as all WordPress plugins: Plugins > Add New > search for ‘Redirection’ > Install Now > Activate Plugin.
Now, before you can begin configuring 301 redirects, you need to know where your broken links are.
One of Redirection’s most useful functions is 404 error tracking. To demonstrate the plugin’s ability, I’ve deliberately created a broken link in my staging environment.
To view all the known 404 errors on your website, from the WordPress dashboard navigate to Tools > Redirection > 404s.
This screen will tell you when the 404 error occurred, the referrer, and, most important of all, the broken source URL.
For this demonstration, I’ve deliberately changed my permalinks to break one my internal links.
- Broken URL: /2015?/05?/23?/example-post-2
- Correct URL: /example-post-2
Fortunately, this is an easy fix using the Redirection plugin. In fact, from the 404s screen you can correct broken URLs in just a few clicks.
When you hover over a known 404 error, you’ll see an Add Redirect button appear directly below.
Clicking this will bring up the Add new redirection fields.
The broken URL field is filled in automatically – in this case, /2015?/05?/23?/example-post-2.
To point the broken URL to the correct place, type in the Target URL field – in this example, /example-post-2.
When you’re done, hit the Add Redirection button. And that really is all there is to it — no more 404 errors!
To test everything has worked, try visiting the broken URL again. The plugin will automatically redirect you to the correct URL.
Hopefully this short tutorial has showed you just how easy it is to fix the majority of 404 errors using the Redirection plugin — you can fix individual 404 errors in just a few seconds.
Although we’ve focused on fixing a broken internal link, you can use Redirection to fix broken external links just as easily – in fact, the process is exactly the same.
Remember: 301 redirects will result in no SEO penalties, so they won’t impact your ranking in the SERPs. With fewer 404 errors, however, it will positively impact user experience on your website, making this plugin a must.
Are you using Redirection? Share your experiences in the comments section below!
Featured image courtesy of Dean Hochman.