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The Best Way to Handle Website Redirects

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There are a handful of times when you might need to set up redirects on your website. We’ll take a quick look at those situations and show you how best to handle them.

Regardless of your situation, there are two main reasons to set up redirects in the correct manner.

  • The first, of course, is humans. If they pull up a “not found” page, they’re likely to leave.
  • The second is for Google; every little thing you do on your site can contribute to (or detract from) your search rankings, and redirects can make a big impact.

Changing Domain Names

If you’re changing domain names, there are a few things you need to do. By the end, both domain names should help people arrive at your site, but it should silently direct them to the new address.

For example, if you type in, you’ll find that you’re instantly redirected to the full address. Here is what you need to do:

  • Get both domains pointed to your site. The exact method of handling this will depend on your domain registrar and hosting company, but typically this isn’t too difficult.
  • Set your website to use the new domain name. In WordPress, simply go to Settings –> General and update it there.
  • Connect with Google Webmaster Tools and initiate the change. Google should pick up on the change anyhow, but it’s always best to be certain.
  • Set up an XML sitemap and submit it via Google Webmaster Tools. Plugins such as WordPress SEO by Yoast can handle it, as can a handful of others.
  • Ideally, update your .htaccess file to force everyone to the same address. This is a bit trickier, but can be very important. Here is what we use for the redirect we showed you above:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www\.)?greenmellen\.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

Multiple Domain Names

Handling multiple domain names works almost identical to the instructions for changing domain names. You want to make sure that Google (and your visitors) are taken to the same single URL no matter what they type in. In our case, we have additional addresses such as and that also redirect to our site.

Deleting a Page

If you need to delete a page/post on your site, take a minute to think about it before you click the button. That page has likely already been indexed by Google and perhaps more importantly, may have other sites already linking to it. If you simply delete the page, users will find a 404 error, and you’ll lose any link equity from Google.

Instead, here are two WordPress plugins that may help:

Page Links To

This plugin adds a small box to the bottom of every post and page you write, and allows you to redirect that content anywhere else. The box defaults to “Its normal WordPress URL”, meaning the page should load normally, but you can simply click “A custom URL” instead and enter a new address, and the rest is taken care of automatically.

Instead of deleting the page, just set it to redirect to a different page instead; choose whatever other page on your site is the most related to the page you’re deleting.



The Redirection plugin is much more powerful, but also more complicated. In our case, we use it whenever we build a new site for a client; we work hard to make sure all of the old URLs are pointed over to the new ones, but this has a nice feature that will keep track of any 404 (not found) errors that come up, so you can quickly point those to new locations for future visitors.


Related to all of this is a concept known as canonicalization. It not only applies to multiple addresses pointing to a single address, but also to your decision on whether to prepend your URL with “www” or not. This post digs deeper into that concept and can help you get it set up.

What Not To Do With Redirects

There are a lot of ways to improperly handle redirects, but here are the two biggies that we often see:


This is a way to show one site inside of another. We recently had a client build a new site on a different platform, and then simply show it via an iframe on their main URL. If you typed in their address, it would show the new site on the iframe.

This leads to two big problems:

  • Google hates it and it’s a big mess.
  • If a user clicks around, they never see the address change and therefore can’t share/bookmark any individual pages.


This used to be more common, but you’ll still see it from time to time; the page that says “We’ve moved to a new address! Click here to visit the new site or wait 10 seconds to be redirected automatically”. There are two problems with this approach as well:

  • Google hates it, too.
  • All of the “other” pages on your site (the “About Us” page, the “Our Products” page, etc) won’t function properly.

Still Stuck With Website Redirects?

Handling redirects properly can take some work, but typically it’s a “set it and forget it” type of thing. Do it right initially and it’ll take care of itself down the road.

Hopefully that will give you the information you need to get your redirects squared away, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need some help getting it done.

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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