Redirect maps are a must when tackling a site migration. If you don’t migrate your site properly by forgetting to implement redirects, there are potentially huge traffic implications. Learn why redirect maps are important and how you can put one together.
Website migrations can sometimes be a smart business decision or at times, unavoidable. But when you decide that this is a move that is going to be made, there are tasks that are a must. One of those items is creating a redirect map.
Redirect mapping is important when the migration involves URL changes.
Find out what exactly a redirect map is, how to prepare for one, and how to put one together with this guide.
What is a Redirect Map?
A redirect map is a spreadsheet that lays out the page URLs on the old site that will point to the URLs on the new site.
The redirects mapped out for the most part should be 1:1 redirects. 1:1 redirects are going to be the exact same page from the old site, that shows up in the new site.
If you redirect URLs to irrelevant pages (not a 1:1 redirect), you risk having these treated as soft 404s by search engines.
Instances that redirects won’t be the 1:1 are if pages are scrapped or consolidated. If you come across this when creating your redirect map, choose a relevant category page or any page that is somewhat related.
The benefit of setting redirects correctly is for the benefit of both users and search engines.
For users that navigate to your old URLs through memory, bookmark, or from a backlink, they’ll want to see the updated page.
For search engines, those backlinks could be holding value that would be beneficial to have transferred to the new site. If you neglect to do this, rankings won’t reflect previous positioning due to the missed connection.
Preparing for a Redirect Map
The steps before you set up a redirect map could make the process a headache vs something manageable. Here are a few things to keep in mind before moving onto the redirect mapping phase of your migration project.
Before creating a redirect map, you should finalize your URLs. The last thing you want to be doing is creating another redirect map because the URL structure of the new site changed last minute.
Get everyone who has a hand in on the project on the same page to establish the URLs of the new site.
Determine Your Mapping Criteria
Decide what parts of the page you will be paying attention to when putting together the redirect map.
If the site is super small, manually mapping the URLs is feasible. But for most sites, automating the process will be a massive time saver.
The criteria you’ll choose will depend on how the previous site was handled.
Popular items to drive the automated process of redirect mapping are headings, page content, or other unique on-page content like SKUs (for eCommerce sites).
How to Set Up a Redirect Map
Afterwards, you’ll want to hand this off to the person who will implementing the redirects and save it for validation after the project is marked as complete.We’ll walk through two options for setting up a redirect map.
Setting Up a Redirect Map – Headings
This is a simpler process that you could use multiple tools for. You could use a crawling tool like Screaming Frog or install a plugin that will export your URLs and titles (WordPress).
For this walkthrough we’ll be showing you how to do that in Screaming Frog.
First, crawl your old website and export the h1s for the URLs crawled.
Next, do the same thing with your new site. If it’s password protected, you’ll need authentication to crawl behind the login.
Once you have both sheets, use a VLOOKUP to match the URLs and their h1s together. That list will be your redirect map!
But what if you don’t have h1s set up properly? Well, the next method will be your best friend.
Setting Up a Redirect Map – On-Page Content
This method of setting up a redirect map will be worthwhile if you don’t have an indicator like an h1 or SKU to uniquely identify pages. Thanks to Screaming Frog for putting together this rundown!
That’s it! As mentioned above, use the map to hand off to the person implementing redirect. Once the site is live, validate the changes with your redirect map.
Fun way to set up redirect mapping for a site migration – Switch to list mode. 'Enable Near Duplicates' & disable 'Only Check Indexable Pages For Duplicates' under 'Config > Content > Duplicates'. pic.twitter.com/catKLvXJpM— Screaming Frog (@screamingfrog) September 8, 2020
Next up, refine the content area used for similarity analysis for old and new URLs ('Config > Content > Area'). You can 'include' say category/product descriptions classes for example, like so – pic.twitter.com/D44XK5Jcqd— Screaming Frog (@screamingfrog) September 8, 2020
Upload both new and old URLs in list mode and crawl them. Then hit 'Crawl Analysis > Start', and look under the 'Content' tab. In theory each URL will have 1 near dup with close to 100% similarity. pic.twitter.com/4IHcd23Mtr— Screaming Frog (@screamingfrog) September 8, 2020
You can see the 'Address' and 'Near Duplicate Address' in the lower window 'Duplicate Details' tab (& export via 'Bulk Export > Content > Near Duplicates'). This can give you a nice easy 1:1 URL redirect mapping. pic.twitter.com/p0DJBd64z4— Screaming Frog (@screamingfrog) September 8, 2020
Creating a redirect map isn’t difficult these days with the types of tools we have access to. As an unskippable task of any site migration, you can rest easy that your site will transfer page value if your redirect map is on point and executed correctly.
- Redirect maps are important for site migrations.
- A redirect map is a list of URLs from your old site, lined up with URLs on the new site.
- Choose a criteria from the content for each page to set up the list of URLs.
- Use the redirect map to implement and validate the redirects set.