The Achilles’ heel of website redevelopments
An article by Kathleen Shrimpton, Project Director, Orchard
Working in project management, I’ve worked on dozens of website redevelopments for clients. Throughout this time there is always one gnarly but important oversight clients tend to forget, almost every time.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that takes users (and search engines) to a new URL when the original page no longer exists. It’s crucial for any website rebuild (if your URLs are not staying the same) that you implement 301 redirects.
Moved, deleted, or replaced pages can mean that any SEO value a page had will be lost. Using 301 redirects can help maintain this and provides an association between pages and content.
It’s not a difficult task, but it can be time-consuming depending on the size of your previous and new sites. So, when you’re working on a site redevelopment, what should you do when adding 301 redirects to the project plan? It can be easily broken down into three main tasks:
Step 1: Reviewing all your old site links
There are many ways you can generate a list of all your site links for your current website, whether through Google or other crawler tools… Orchard can run this review for you ; )
Step 2: Collating and documenting the redirect map
A redirect map is how you map out every old link from your current site and show how they map to the new links on your new site.
To create this map, you will need to know the new URL structure for your pages on the new site, and this is usually finalised during development or during content upload. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about how you want to map your pages earlier in the process and this should be a key consideration during wire-framing, sitemap creation, and the content plan, especially around your requirements on the new URL structure.
It may sound complicated, but creating a redirect map is actually quite easy. You can do it in Excel, and you only need two columns to list out the mapping relationship between your current site links and new site links:
While it is a monotonous task, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of page links, there are ways to make this process more efficient. Rather than listing out all the full URLs of your old site, you can also have URL segments. These are the parts of the URL or path delimited by slashes.
So if you had a blog section on your current site like https://examplesite.com.au/blog and the new site’s URL structure for the blog was https://examplesite.com.au/ourblog you could create a URL segment rule to say that any Child article pages under your current site https://examplesite.com.au/blog/ would be redirected to the corresponding Child article page which now sits under this new URL structure on the new site: https://examplesite.com.au/ourblog.
This would mean that a blog article on the current site like https://examplesite.com.au/blog/articlename/ would go to the corresponding blog on the new site: https://examplesite.com.au/ourblog/articlename/
You can also do a Redirect To Parent rule. Let’s say that you didn’t want to recreate all your blog pages on the new website, and therefore you want any article pages on your current site to redirect to the new site’s blog listing page. You can set up a Redirect To Parent rule, meaning that any Child pages underneath your current site’s blog https://examplesite.com.au/blog/ all go to the landing page of the new blog https://examplesite.com.au/ourblog meaning you only need to list it once with that rule in place.
Step 3: Implementing the 301 Redirects
This is a task that Orchard development will undertake, and there are lots of different ways to run them. It depends on the CMS (if applicable) being used. Sometimes they have a user interface (UI)to enable redirects, or it can be done in the web.config or scripts. The spreadsheet is a good place to start. This will allow you to document what the 301 redirect mapping rules should be. This will be done on the staging site first, for you to review before it’s actioned on Live during the Live deployment.
So if you’re about to embark on an exciting redevelopment project and you’re planning all of the important things (big and small) you need to do, please don’t forget about the “Achilles heel” of most projects, the 301 Redirect. While there are many things I’d like to be remembered for, from a professional standpoint I’d love to be remembered as the Project Director who put the 301 Redirect back on the agenda!