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301 Redirects: Understanding the Importance

Our Sitewrench support team receives a lot of questions about 301 Redirects. The majority of the time, users plug in their URL or navigate to a page and they see this error and they don’t know what it is or what caused it:

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When a webpage has a redirect loop or too many redirects, it simply means that the website is being told contradictory things. The good news is, we give you the power to fix it! Our powerful CMS has created an easy way to setup and manage 301 redirects. Keep reading to learn how 301 redirects work and why they are important to your site functionality.

Understanding URL Shortcuts

What is a Shortcut?

Imagine your site’s domain is mysuperawesomesite.com. When you add a new page to SiteWrench, you might notice that the URL changes to mysuperawesomesite.com/PageName. That /PageName is what we call the “shortcut.” It’s a direct link, which means when you type in mysuperawesomesite.com/PageName you will always be taken to that page, rather than having to find that page within the site navigation and clicking on the dropdown.

We’ll pretend you’ve added these two pages to your site with the page names set to “About” and “Donate.”

www.mysuperawesomesite.com/about

www.mysuperawesomeiste.com/donate

Notice how the shortcut is set to /about and /donate. The shortcut is a big deal. If you send out your direct link to your Donate page on your Annual End of Year Giving Campaign, you want to make sure your shortcut is correct. Otherwise people will run into an “Error: Not Found” message on your site.

Adjusting Shortcuts

Here’s a scenario: your marketing team wants to change your page name from “About” to “About Us,” so you go into the Page Settings and change it.

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Notice how changing the Page Name automatically adjusts the Shortcut and the Page Title. This is significant. Changing the shortcut to your website page is like changing the “address” to your house. Your address is mysuperawesomesite.com/about. If you change it to mysuperawesomesite.com/about-us, the old address is no longer valid unless you “forward your mail.” Not only this, but when you change the shortcut in your page settings, every single link associated with your “old address” is now broken unless you put a redirect in place to forward your traffic to.

Redirects are the safety-net that is put in place to allow you to forward your "mail" to your new address, so if people still type in mysuperawesomesite.com/about, it will automatically take them to mysuperawesomesite.com/about-us.

So now you’ve changed the Page Name to About Us and noticed the shortcut was automatically changed to /about-us. Now what?

Option One: Adjust the shortcut back to /about within the page settings. The Page Name and shortcut do not need to match, but updating the Page Name will automatically make it match the Shortcut. So change it back if you’d like. You can have a Page Named “About Us” and a shortcut going to /about or /about-us or even something completely different like /our-team.

Option Two: Accept the new shortcut and save the updated page settings. SiteWrench will prompt you with a pop-up window upon saving to ask if you want to set up a redirect from your old shortcut to your new shortcut. It looks like this:


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If you select “Ok,” you are giving SiteWrench your blessing to automatically “forward your mail” by making sure anyone who types in your old URL or clicks on a link referencing the old URL will automatically be redirected to your new URL. 

If you select “Cancel,” you are telling SiteWrench that your old shortcut no longer exists, and anyone who types in that URL will not find the page. If you have buttons or content that is linking to your old shortcut, you will have to automatically go in and update those links so your users do not run into an “Error: Not Found” message on the site.

Redirect Loops and Errors

It is possible to set up redirect loops by accident. Let’s say your Marketing team asked you 6 months ago to change the page name from “About” to “About Us.” You adjusted the link from mysuperawesomesite.com/about to mysuperawesomesite.com/about-us.

Now the Marketing team is asking you to change it back to About. You adjust the link back to mysuperawesomesite.com/about and give SiteWrench your blessing to set up a redirect. No big deal, right? You’re a pro at this already. But then you run into the dreaded message: “This webpage has a redirect loop.”

Here’s why.

When you first changed the shortcut, the popup box asked you if you wanted to redirect your old URL to the new URL, and you selected “ok.” Then you did it again 6 months later. When you made this change, you were telling the website to do this:

- every time you see /about redirect to /about-us
- every time you see /about-us redirect to /about

You can see why the website got confused, it’s an endless loop! Thankfully, it's a simple fix.

  1. Login as admin to your SiteWrench account

  2. Go to “Settings”

  3. Hover over “SEO” at the top and click on “301 Redirects”

  4. Select the trash can icon next to the redirect you want to delete. Deleting one is sufficient to remove the loop error.

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Setting up Redirects Manually

You are able to set up a redirect without having to adjust the Page settings. It’s possible you might want to redirect donors from your typical Give page to your Holiday Give page for year end gifts. You might even have a special landing page setup to capture holiday giving. You can tell SiteWrench to automatically redirect anyone who enters in existing mysuperawesomesite.com/give or clicks on the Give page to end up at the totally separate mysuperawesomesite.com/holiday-giving page.

  1. Login as admin to your SiteWrench account

  2. Go to “Settings”

  3. Hover over “SEO” at the top and click on “301 Redirects”

  4. In the left field, enter in the shortcut to the original page you want to navigate away from (ex. /give). 

  5. In the right field, enter in the shortcut to the new page you want to redirect to (ex. /holiday-giving).

  6. Click the plus sign to add it to the list

  7. Edit existing shortcuts in-line; delete by selecting the trash can

There you have it! You are on your way to becoming a redirect expert. Did this tutorial bring up any questions that weren't answered? If you need help, you're always welcome to submit a Sitewrench Support ticket and our Support team will address your specific question. We also offer weekly SiteWrench training Tuesdays at 2pm.

Posted by Nicole Davis at 8:07 AM