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301-redirectThere are different occasions where the URL of your pages can change even though your content has not:

  1. If you change your site’s URL
  2. If you change the name of your pages
  3. If you change your menu system
  4. If you change from .aspx to .php or .html or visa versa

In any of the above situations search engines or your users cannot access your changed pages. That generally is quite upsetting for users and a turn off, especially if they get a “not found” error without anywhere else to go on the website.

It’s a good idea to setup a “404 Not Found” page to respond to those requests which signals the page can not be found. While that maybe sufficient for some users and perhaps the search engines, it’s a source of disappointment for some of the users specially if the page does exits through a different internal link or a name change.

The best thing to do is not make such changes but if that’s not possible there are ways to remedy the malady.

You can create a 301 re-direct to the new pages. A 301 re-direct is a permanent re-direct where your server will re-direct the user or search engine to the new page.  This way everyone will be happy. You can do this in one of several ways:

  1. If you just changed the name of the page or relocated it, you can create a 301 in your htaccess file like this:
    RewriteEngine on
    Redirect /old-page-name /new-page-name  (even if either page has .html, .php or .aspx)
  2. Your host may also offer re-direct function in your hosting control panel, which makes a lot easier. Using this function yields something like this in your .htaccess file:
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^sitename.com$ [OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.sitename.com$ RewriteRule ^pagename.html$ “http://www.sitename.com/” [R=301,L]
  3. You could also ignore the 404 Not Found errors and in time search engines discover the page no longer exits and will quit indexing it. However, your users still won’t be able to find the page: A source of frustration for them.

The #2 method is not only the easiest to do but at the same time no typo errors would be introduced, is much quicker to implement and more user friendly.

We love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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