Tag Archives: Wordpress

Changing your website? Don’t forget to leave a forwarding address…


Website Rank

Having a top ranked site on Google is the web Holy Grail.  But if you change your website without careful planning you could easily lose that coveted spot and it may take years, or perhaps never, to get it back again.  And that’s a shame because, just like moving house, all you need to do is tell people that you have moved to keep things as they are.


Links to web page addresses are stored in many places: Search engines (Google, Bing etc.), other websites and even people’s private bookmarks.  If you move a page to a new address, even if it is still under the same base URL (e.g. mycompany.com) then those links are can easily be broken leaving your customers confused and lost.  

If you’re lucky then people will find your new site and update their bookmarks, but it is just as likely that their search will return a competitors web page instead.  Search engines will eventually just drop the broken links and then you are back to square one.

we-have-movedFortunately the web has its own version of the “We’ve moved” notice.  It’s called a “301 Redirect” and is the web equivalent of the form you give the Post Office telling them your new address.  

Properly set up a 301 redirect tells anyone going to the old link that the page they are looking for has permanently moved.  Search engines will self update and old links and bookmarks used by your clients will automatically deliver them to the new page without anyone being any the wiser.  

What isn’t obvious is that websites, unlike houses, are made up of multiple pages and each page has a unique address that needs its own “we’ve moved” notification.  Even if your base URL (e.g. mycompany.com) hasn’t changed the pages below the top might move, especially if you have changed technologies such as replacing a static HTML website with a content management system like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.

So what do you need to do?

  1. Figure out which pages are bringing content to your site.
    • Install something like Google Analytics on your current site and let it watch the traffic for a while and then take a look at the visitor flow to see which pages people are regularly arriving at.  
    • Run your own searches using keywords and see which pages are being served up by Google and Bing.  Write down exactly the addresses that returned.
    • Write down the URL for each major section of your website (e.g. Home, About Us, Contact Us, Products, Menus etc.)
  2. Each page logged needs to be mapped from the old site to the new site.  Put all of URLs  (old and new) into a spreadsheet ready for the next step.  Don’t forget that mycompany.com and http://www.mycompany.com are actually considered different addresses and both might need to be mapped.
  3. Add 301 redirects before you switch to your new website or, if that isn’t possible, as soon after going live as you can.  How you do this will depend on the technology you are using but if you are using a CMS then there is almost certainly a plugin that will let you just fill in the old URL and the new URL.
  4. Test!!!  Take an old bookmark or manually type in the old address.  Don’t be surprised if your old website still comes up even if it no longer existing.  Browsers will cache websites to speed up browsing and may have full copies of your old site lying around.  Usually hitting refresh (F5) will clear that up and take you to the new site.

That’s it!  The hardest thing to do is to plan ahead and remember to do it.  Considering that the cost of not telling people you’ve moved could be catastrophic it’s well worth the time.  And if you have hired a company for your website redesign have a chat with them and make sure that they have a plan for this.



Filed under Technology, Web Design, Windows

WordPress: Stop Sub-domain Squatting

Last year I convinced my wife to start blogging her experiences as the mother of a child with Aspergers.  She is a very private person so getting her to agree to this was no small task so, when she finally did agree, I immediately set to work finding a suitable space for her.

Deciding to use WordPress was a no-brainer.  But finding a suitable sub-domain name (e.g. ???.wordpress.com) proved much more a challenge because  all the great sub-domains where already taken!

I wouldn’t mind if these sub-domains were occupied with people writing interesting blog posts.  In fact, I wouldn’t even mind if those places had one decent blog post on them.  The sad fact is that most of great names have nothing at all, just the initial “Hello World” post that you get when you first set up a site.

Don’t believe me?  Try it out.  Go to your browser address bar, pick an interesting word and follow it with .wordpress.com.  To save you some time here is my experiment with this:

Any random word will do – Hair, Smoke, Toon – it doesn’t matter, the results are almost always the same.

I reached out to the WordPress people about this a while back and they sent me a nice note with this link in it which basically says “we don’t recycle blog names”.

This is prime web real estate that is just being squandered. Somewhere out there is someone with a great idea, a passion to write, and they are stuck in the electronic backwaters with a name like poop.wordpress.com.  Actually, scratch that, I just checked it and that one has a “Hello World” post too.

Come on WordPress people – let’s fix this! I love you guys, I really do.  A rock-solid platform, awesome open source software, fantastic templates and a price that just can’t be beat.  But this lack of great blogging names must stop some people from picking up their blogging ‘pen’ or, at the very least, sending them to some other platform.

Working on the theory that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness I’m going to make a proposal that I hope you will agree with.  Change the WordPress policies around domain name recycling.

My rule is simple, but still gives people enough time for their creative mojo to materialize.  Here it is:

If your sub-domain has nothing more than the initial post one year after being registered, you lose it and it goes back into the general pool.

That’s it!  Nothing complicated and very easy to enforce.  I’m sure there will be all sorts of exceptions, but that one rule alone will put some amazing sub-domain real-estate back into circulation.

If you agree with this then click the Like button or pass it along to others, and let’s see if we can get away from blog names like abc123.wordpress.com.   Oh…hold on…that one has a “Hello world” post too…


Filed under Technology

Changing Theme – What Do You Think?

In order to spice things up a little, and to make commenting a little easier, I’m going to change my blog theme.

Currently on the short list are the following (you can see the theme name by hovering over the picture).  I’d love to know what you think, so please either vote (at the bottom) or add a comment.




Filed under Technology