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Redirect Issue


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6 replies to this topic

#1 Jadee77

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 10:13 PM

Hi, I have a problem that I have been trying to solve for a couple of days. I've inherited a website from a company that created their own wordpress theme and all old links redirect to the home page instead of to their corresponding new pages.  I have asked them several times about how they are accomplishing this and they have told me that it's just part of wordpress. Having built many, many, many wordpress sites I know that is not the case. They recently pointed me to an .htaccess file that does not exist.  I have FTP access and can see there is no .htaccess file in the root or in the theme.  The only other thing I know to look at is the 404.php page.  At the top of the 404.php page is the following code:

 

<?php header("Location: /"); get_header(); ?>

 

That's the only thing that looks a little strange but the rest of the page looks like a regular wordpress 404.php page.  Not being a php pro myself I am not sure if this could be redirecting all the old links and 404's to the home page ("Location: /"?)  At first I thought it was just grabbing the header but that 'location: /" has me wondering if this is where the automatic redirect might be happening. Anyone know if this could be the culprit for redirecting everything to the home page?  If so, am I safe to remove just that portion of the php tag?



#2 qwerty

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 05:48 AM

Yes, that's what's sending everything to the home page, but there are no 301 redirects in place. Those old URLs are all gone, requests for them are getting a 404 response, and the 404 page sends people to the home page. Try entering an old URL into a tool like Web Sniffer and you'll probably see that the response is 404 and not 301. That also means that no one who requests a non-existent URL is going to see a custom 404 page (or any 404 page). They'll just find themselves at the home page.

 

If any of the old internal pages had any link equity, they're losing it now. You should probably create an .htaccess file so you can set up the 301s, and I think it's probably a good idea to build a custom 404 page for the sake of usability too, and use your new .htaccess file to have that page display in the case of a 404 response.



#3 Michael Martinez

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 08:33 AM

You could try suggesting that they install a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects.  Some plugins may support wildcard redirects.  I don't believe that one does.

 

BTW -- if they are running Wordpress on Apache there IS an .htaccess file somewhere.


Edited by Michael Martinez, 03 April 2013 - 08:33 AM.


#4 Jadee77

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 09:52 AM

Thank you both for your good responses. I had tried the simple 301 redirects but it seems to be getting overridden (probably from that line in the 404 page).  Now the question is if I can just remove that line altogether without doing any harm to the way they have coded things. I should be fine since that page will only load if it's a 404.  I want to redirect all the other old links the correct way.  I still can't believe they would have built it this way (they were calling themselves SEO experts). It just seems like a really poor way to do any kind of redirect and as you wisely point out they are not even true redirects.

 

Thanks again for your helpful feedback.



#5 Jadee77

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 12:12 PM

Just adding a footnote for those who might read this post.  The site in question has been losing backlinks over the last several months despite all our efforts with good content additions, press releases, some good quality backlinks etc.  When I first started delving into this trying to figure out what was happening I came across a lot of articles suggesting that this 'general' directing of all 404s to the home page was a good strategy. That just didn't ring true to me since it seems you'd be losing all the link juice going to internal pages so I kept looking around.  In digging more, I found newer articles suggesting that Google basically ignores links using this strategy (thus the term 'soft 404s'). I just wanted to share what I found in my research AND share what effect we have seen on their site. I'm only sorry we didn't discover the web designer's code sooner, but we were so busy with other priorities.  Hopefully, others can read this post and avoid the same problem. 



#6 Michael Martinez

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 03:35 PM

If you're trying to "rank on links" you may find that your efforts are frustrated even if you get all "link juice" back.

 

A 404 page is important for the visitor and it should be informative and offer the visitor a way to find content on the rest of the site.

 

One can take the "we've got to get all our dead URLs properly redirected!" philosophy too far.  Managing links and link value should take up a small amount of the SEO's time.  There are far too many other important things to deal with.



#7 Jadee77

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 03:44 PM

Not expecting any miracles but just want to at least have it set up correctly.  Thanks.






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