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301 Redirects: What they are and why you need them

301 redirects may not be the most fascinating topic I’ve ever touched on in this blog, but trust me when I say they are an important component of both creating a good experience for your website visitors and preserving your website’s SEO.

If you have ever built a new website, or changed your domain name, or even if you have simply deactivated an old blog post and then wanted to point people to a new blog post instead, 301 redirects are something that you need to know about.

If you don’t do redirects correctly, or if you don’t do them at all, it will hurt your website’s search engine optimization.

Watch the video below or continue reading about 301 redirects below the video.

So, what exactly is a 301 redirect?

When you create a redirect, you’re essentially saying, “When people click on this old link over here, I want them to be sent to this new page instead”. And this is critical to set so that Google knows that your content still exists even if you change where it’s located.

Let’s look at an example.

Assume I was helping an event planner redesign and build a brand new website to replace her old site. Her planning services page used to be at one URL and it’s now at a different URL on the new version of the website.

For example, let’s assume the old website page address was:
BrendasFakeWeddingPlannerExample.com/planning

And now the new website page URL is:
BrendasFakeWeddingPlannerExample.com/services/planning

Now assume there was a directory listing somewhere online that linked to that old planning services page. Since her planning services page no longer exists at that old URL, if we don’t create a redirect, anybody clicking on the old link in the directory is going to be sent to a 404 error page (“page not found”).

And not only are users not going to know where your content went, Google isn’t going to know either, which is why your SEO can take a major hit if you don’t set up redirects.

Other times you may need 301 redirects

When else might you want a redirect in place?

  • You have an old blog post that is no longer relevant. E.g., maybe an old post was discussing then current wedding trends and you want to redirect them to a more current blog post on the same topic.
  • You have merged a bunch of blog posts into a single piece of cornerstone content and you need to redirect each of those individual blog posts to that single large piece of content. This is sometimes done when a wedding professional creates a ‘guide’ for promotional purposes, such as a wedding planner creating a guide for wedding first steps.
  • You have a page with a super long URL and you want to use a shorter, branded URL. For example, when I’m promoting my free Facebook group for wedding professionals, rather than list the website page address as https://www.facebook.com/groups/websitemarketingforweddingprofessionals, I will often instead list the URL asĀ  WeddingBusinessWebsites.com/group which redirects to that page.

How to set up a 301 Redirect

If you have a WordPress based website, I often recommend this Redirection plugin. It works well and is easy to use.

Or, if your website is built on another platform, here are some quick links to redirection “how to’s” for some common website builders used by wedding professionals:

Custom 404 Error Pages

While it’s absolutely best practice to have 301 redirects set up, you can also improve your visitors’ experience by having a custom 404 page that gives them more helpful information, such as linking them to a site map.

You can also use the 404 page to infuse a bit more of your personality into your website experience. You can see some creative 404 pages here and check out Shea and Cheryl Bailey’s 404 page (which we mentioned in the video above) on the Yellow Umbrella Events site here.

Learn more about SEO for your wedding business in our 1 hour Understanding SEO masterclass.