How to Stop Your Visitors From Getting a 404 Message

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By: | February 11, 2020 | Tags: , , ,

The data migration process.

Have you ever changed websites and needed to transfer your data?

Did you have a data migration plan?

Did you know this is my third blog?

I’ve blogged using Google’s Blogger, WordPress.com at a site called Reflections, and now at Mostly Blogging using WordPress.org.

My data migration process was extremely stressful since my data migration plan was not effective enough.

The data migration process can be quite complicated.

My own personal experiences illustrate some of the difficulties.

For example, when I moved from My Current News Blog to Mostly Blogging, I contacted the support staff at SiteGround, my host, and asked that they put a redirect in place.

A long time later, my Academy director Peter Nyiri discovered my redirect wasn’t working.

Apparently, there was some mixup over an SSL Certificate that I wasn’t aware I needed on Reflections since I was no longer blogging there.

I believed I had a data migration plan but the data migration process hit a snag.

Can you believe the amount of traffic I lost? I blogged at Reflections for a long time. Many of my posts still rank.

I couldn’t understand why my blog traffic coming from search engines was as low as it was in 2019.

Recently I encountered more complications with the data migration process.

Solving one problem created another.

Thanks to the increase in traffic fixing the redirect brought me, my blog ran out of memory.

Again, I contacted my host.

Apparently, the traffic boost necessitated moving my blog to a different server.

Initially, I believed I’d have to pay my host an exorbitant amount each month for even more memory until my business partner, Peter, found a way to reduce the resources my blog was using and I was able to stay at my current price point with my host.

Guest author Vladana Donevski explains how you can have a simple data migration plan and have a stress free data migration process.

Let’s get started.

Keep Your Visitors On Your Site When Moving to Another Domain With 301 Redirects

Vladana Donevski

Gaining your web site’s visitors is tough work that requires a lot of dedication, exceptional SEO skills, and quite an effort.

Especially if you are trying to make a living online – your visitors are your customers too, and they are the reason you get your paycheck.

So, it is not difficult to see that it’s mandatory to keep your visitors happy at all times. You need to work on your website’s user experience, keep in touch, and make sure that you are building a happy relationship with them at all times.

Attracting new customers is never easy. For that, you need to work on your SEO and your brand. You want your brand to be memorable, unique, and to get stuck in your audience’s minds.

data migration plan

A big part of a memorable brand is the proper domain name, which has to check all the categories mentioned above. Getting the domain name right before starting with your website is key.

Just imagine trying to do some marketing for your brand and having to put: “www.myuntrustworthyshopwhereyouwillgetscammedfreedomain.com” on your T-Shirts or other merchandise. 

You need it short, sweet, and on point. Something your future visitors will remember to type in their address bar once they get home. Truly, if your domain name is memorable, then your visitors will likely type it in the address bar then searching for you through Google. 

The importance of a proper domain name

Why is this important? Once they search for you on Google, and your SEO game is not strong, you might not be the first result they see. It could be your competition instead, and you could easily lose visitors, also known as, customers. 

Many people, though, don’t realize the importance of a proper domain name, especially when starting out. With a low or no budget whatsoever and so many things to invest in, many beginners don’t take their time or money with their domain name. While there’s no judgment here, this is a misstep that will prove costly later. 

Once you have your business gaining some money, you might consider investing your time and effort into optimizing it and branding it properly so that you can get even more customers. If you do so, you will probably have “pick a proper domain name” somewhere on top of your to-do list.

When you do pick a new domain name – keep in mind: If someone goes to your site, they will probably end up on your old one. No one knows your new site exists. So, how do you fix that?

Do you write a blog post on your old site, telling your customers you moved to another spot? Change all the addresses on every social media account your business owns? Contact every blogger who has allowed you to put your link as a guest post on their site to change it? Can you imagine the amount of effort it would require?

[Host blogger’s comments: It’s true! Previous guest bloggers contact me to ask if I can change their links to their new blogs.]

Or you could just set up 301 Redirects.

What are 301 Redirects?

301 Redirects are a technique that you can use to let everyone know that content from one URL has moved to another one, permanently. It is the only reasonable way to maintain your customers after you move. No need to edit and change your links – just set up a redirect.

Every time someone clicks on the old link, they will be automatically taken to the new one instead, allowing you to keep your audience even though you moved.

While many of us know what Redirects are, rarely anyone pays attention to them, and not many people know what they are used for. Essentially, you want to use redirects to guide your traffic to the place that you want them to arrive so that they can find the information they were looking for in the first place.

Redirects are a crucial aspect of any website that cares about its user’s experience or its SEO. Apart from actually getting your visitors to your site, redirects are responsible for keeping them there. They play a huge role in user experience, as they allow you to guide your visitors from those pages that you are not so proud of, to the ones with more relevant content.

You can also use these redirects to help you with 404 errors, which can turn out to be a real user experience killer. It’s for certain that you feel frustrated whenever you land on one – and it goes the same for your visitors. So, in case you have any on your site, you should consider dedicating some time to set up the redirects on your site.

How to set up 301 Redirects?

If your website is on WordPress, which is what beginners usually use but is regardless, a smart choice to make, all you have to do is install a proper plugin. For setting up these 301 Redirects, the plugin with the same name is an obvious choice. 301 Redirects plugin by WebFactory is the plugin to go with, especially if you have never done created a redirect before.

data migration plan

Probably the best part about this plugin is that there are no downsides to using it.

Why? It’s because the plugin is extremely streamlined, so that it doesn’t slow down your site, and it won’t collide with any other plugins you might have and wreak havoc on your site. When that happens with other plugins, you could take advantage of the WP Reset plugin, but that’s for another article. 

With minimalistic features, you will find this plugin extremely simple to use. There are no unnecessary features, no hours spent figuring it out. All it takes to set up a redirect and direct your audience is a simple copy and paste.

Once you install and activate the plugin, you can find it in “Settings”.

In there, you will be able to see the only two fields you would need:

The field where you paste the “Redirect from” URL, and another one where you add the “Redirect to” URL. Once you copy and paste those, your job here is done! The plugin will take care of everything else.

Whenever someone clicks on the “Redirect from” URL, they will automatically end up on the “Redirect to” URL!

data migration plan

Every single one of the redirects you create will be neatly listed underneath, just in case you need to edit them or remove them altogether.

In case you have already created a CSV list of redirects you need, but you keep postponing it because, without this plugin, it is a lot of manual work, you can take advantage of Import/Export option.

Simply import the CSV file, and let the plugin do the rest. You can also export the list you create in case you need a backup, with a single click.

Of course, you can always take advantage of the Support tab, where you will find all the means you could contact the WebFactory team that stands behind this great plugin. Considering that they are the ones that have built it, and are using it on a daily basis for their projects, you will never get better support. 

Overall: The data migration process

The data migration process is always a stressful endeavor. There is the adaptation of new space, packing up the old space up, a bunch of boxes. You could forget some of them, it is a constant threat. However, what you mustn’t forget are your customers and your hard-earned traffic. 

With a good plugin, you can move and bring your visitors with you with a couple of copy-pastes. If you are using 301 Redirects, you can do even more – improve user experience by getting rid of 404s, and ensuring that your content is up-to-date at all times! 

Readers, what are your experiences with changing websites? Was your data migration process smoother than mine?

Please share so other webmasters discover this data migration plan so they can have a seamless data migration process.

Author: Vladana Donevski with an introduction by Janice Wald

  1. Alice

    301 redirect is an effective solution to prevent users from viewing a 404 not found page. Apart from the 301 Redirects plugin by WebFactory, do you know any other effective plugins that support this? I want to refer to multiple plugins before making a decision.

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