When you’ve had a website for long enough, you start to get all kinds of weird requests for non-existent URLs. Sometimes, you might be forced to unpublish a post for one reason or another, and you need to do something with the incoming traffic. God forbid, if you need to change a post’s or a page’s URL, you should find a way to retain your visitors without a “404”. For these reasons, I believe a redirect plugin on WordPress like the one developed by John Godley is an essential part of a site’s toolkit.
But Why Not Use cPanel or .htaccess?
There are other, more efficient ways to redirect a URL compared to a plugin. A server-side redirect from .htaccess, or using the redirect module in cPanel uses fewer resources, and is probably faster. So why go to all the trouble installing a plugin, only for somewhat poorer performance?
The reasons are simple:
- Additional features like URL changes
The first one is more important – a URL plugin allows you to keep track of your redirects and group them, for easy manageability. I never like to use .htaccess for anything other than technical reasons – one of the reasons why I feel Google’s decision to remove “noindex” from robots.txt was wrong. That leaves us with cPanel redirects, and there are no tools there to group them, specify how parameters should be handled etc.
So that leaves us with plugins. Here are 3 reasons why I feel everyone should have a redirect plugin on their WordPress site.
1. Redirect all “404” Pages to Something Else
When a visitor lands on a 404 page on your site, they’re going to leave. There’s nothing left for them to do! This is a good opportunity to present the user with something that will keep them on your site, rather than making them press the “back” button right back to the SERPs.
Of course, some say that you should just craft better 404 pages. But from a web design perspective, you might want to send your users to another page that converts better instead.
2. Changes to Post URLs with 301 Redirects
The second useful function of a redirect plugin is that it can monitor your posts and pages for changes to the URL, and create a 301 redirect from the old one to the new. Under normal circumstances, you should never change URLs. But if you’re going to have to do for one reason or another, you should ensure that the old URL leads to the new one.
Hopefully, this kind of thing doesn’t need to happen too often. But when it does, you need a way to deal with it.
3. Choose How to Handle URL Parameters with a 301 Redirect
The regular 301 redirect tools on cPanel and .htaccess don’t allow you to customize how redirects deal with query parameters. A plugin will allow you to either strip them or ignore them entirely and pass them on to the destination URL if necessary. This useful for tracking purposes for example.
Side-Benefit: Allows you to Watch Out for Hackers
One unexpected benefit of a redirect plugin is that it maintains logs for which requests were dealt with. If you redirect your 404 URLs to another one, you get an idea of who’s trying to access your site at URLs that don’t exist! Most of the time, these are just regular search spiders looking for files like “ads.txt” etc. But sometimes, you might stumble upon something more unusual.
These can function as early warnings, and can help you identify potential vulnerabilities in your installation. You also remain “in the know” with first hand information about which attack vectors hackers are trying to use on websites in general. It never hurts to keep updated on your enemies’ tactics!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!