Every Sunday, when my cartoon gets posted on ReadWriteWeb, I head on over to have a look and join whatever conversation’s going on.
Today’s visit was much the same thing… until I noticed a little wonkiness: a sentence that stopped dead just before the cartoon. Worse, it was a linked sentence… and worse yet, it was the sentence that links from ReadWriteWeb to Noise to Signal.
I clicked on it. Good news: I landed on RobCottingham.ca. Bad news: I was on a 404 page. Because I forgot to include a closing quotation mark in the link to my cartoon site, that link points to:
No surprise it doesn’t go anywhere useful, right? That’s kind of a big deal, because a) I don’t like people getting frustrated when they click on my links, and b) a lot of people drop by my site every Sunday thanks to that link.
I dropped my editor a note apologizing and alerting him to the issue (apart from everything else, it also broke the layout on that page). Which is a start, but there’d be a few hours until he saw my email (remember, this is Sunday). And in the meantime, there’d be a lot of people clicking and saying “Wha’a?”
What I wanted them to do was click and be taken instantly to the original link. To do that, I needed to set up what’s known as a redirect – an instruction to my web server saying “If anyone tries to load that screwed-up address, take them to the real address instead.”
And ideally, it should be a particular kind of redirect — a 301 redirect, to be technical — that tells search engines, “This item has permanently moved to this other location.”
I could have done this by editing a file in my site’s folder named the
.htaccess file, which has a series of instructions for the server covering everything from memory allocation to redirection. There are plenty of great tutorials on how to do exactly that.
But that’s a little cumbersome (especially because this happens just infrequently enough that I have to relearn how to do it every single time). And as a WordPress user, I’ve grown accustomed to talented programmers creating great plugins to solve nearly every technical issue that might come up.
The Redirection plugin allows me to deal with a whole slew of issues. Had to change my permalink structure because of a plugin update? I can take care of it with a few clicks and keystrokes, permanently redirecting traffic from the old URLs to the new ones. Discovered a bunch of frequent 404 errors from someone’s mistyped URLs? Fixed! And I can see all of my redirects at once, group them however I want, and see just how much traffic each one has diverted (read: “just how much traffic Redirection has routed to the right destination”).
It’s great, it’s free, and it saved a lot of people from thinking ill of me tonight. Check it out.