Website Launch Plan: Redirects
You’ve been through the stages of excitement about a new website project- spending countless hours organizing the content, writing engaging copy, and putting it all together in a beautiful design. Now that the launch date is finally in sight, it is time to step back and make sure the final launch plan is ready.
There are a few essential details to a successful launch that, if done correctly, will hardly be noticed (a good thing in this case!). Let’s look at one of these today: Redirects.
Redirects ensure that links to your old website continue to work when your new website is launched.
When building a new website it is not always practical to keep the same URL format. Here is an example of how a URL of a blog post may change:
Old Website: infinityconcepts.net/blog/2015/05/21/title-of-blog-post/
New Website: infinityconcepts.net/2015/revised-blog-post-title/
Or, as you organize the pages on your site, you may decide to place a page within a larger category:
Old Website: infinityconcepts.net/details.html
New Website: infinityconcepts.net/category/details.html
This is where redirects come in play. Redirects will ensure that visitors clicking a link to your old website will arrive at the page where the content is now located instead of receiving an error message. This is also important for telling the search engines about your new website so they can update their rankings and links as well.
Now that we understand why this is important, let’s look at some implementation details.
List all of the URLs from the old website in a spreadsheet.
Hint: You can find all of the active pages in Google Analytics.
- Set the date range to the last year.
- Go to: Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages.
- Change “Show Rows” to 5000.
- Choose Export as CSV.
- You will now have a list of all the URLs that have been visited in the last year. The list will need some cleanup, but it’s a good starting point.
In the second column of your spreadsheet enter the URLs of the pages on the new website that correspond to the pages on the old website. In other words, when someone tries to visit this page on the old website, which page on the new website should they arrive at?
There are a few different ways to implement redirects. We recommend using a 301 redirect in an .htaccess file created from the information in the spreadsheet. How to create this file will depend on your hosting company and the content management system being used, so you will have to research what is needed for your specific case.
With the redirects in place, you’re one step closer to being ready to launch your new website! Now you can be sure that links to your old website will continue to direct visitors to the content on your new website.