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When Do I Need 301 Redirects?

301 Redirects

We already have a couple of articles talking about the benefits of using redirects, and how to create them within your Miva store. But how do you know when to create them? Google and similar search engines are forever tightening up their guidelines for what shoppers should expect from your store. This, of course, includes the way you link to products, categories, and pages. If you find yourself asking “When do I need 301 Redirects?”, keep reading for a basic guide to finding the answer. 

301 Redirect or Not Found (404) Page?

The first thing you need to come to terms with, is that a 404 or “Results not found” page is not always a bad thing! Redirects are definitely a good idea, when appropriate. However, in some cases, it is more appropriate to direct to the Not Found page (NTFD, in Miva) .

Can’t I Just Redirect to My Homepage?

Generally speaking, no. 

Having an online store isn’t really about selling products; it’s about providing solutions. The solution to your customer’s problem may be a product, or an FAQ page, or a Terms & Service page, or a blog post. When they click a link, they expect to be taken to the solution for their problem. 

When creating redirects, ideally, you want to take the user somewhere that answers the same question that your original page would have. If the category or content page you’re getting rid of doesn’t have something similar enough to work as a “replacement”, then we recommend leaving it to link to the NTFD/404 page (no redirect required, as your site should bring up this page automatically). 

If you’re removing a product and there isn’t a very similar one, you have the option of either directing to that product’s category, or to a Not Found page. 

How Does My ‘Not Found’ Page Answer a Question?

We recommend customizing and optimizing your NTFD/404 page for the best possible user experience. It’s yet another opportunity to provide value and function to your shopper. 

Here are some things you can add to your Not Found page to turn it into a useable resource for your shopper:

  • Contact Details. This may include your store’s location and/or a map (if you have a brick-and-mortar store). It should also include your phone number, as well as a link to your contact form.
  • Search Tips. As this is the page that will come up when a user searches for something that has no results, it’s a good idea to include some search tips. Things like checking spelling, broadening their search terms, or searching for a synonym can help.
  • Recommendations. Provide a more directed experience by offering some recommendations for popular/featured products or categories, or maybe even blog posts.

Here are a few of our other clients, to show you some options of what we’ve done:

Not sure what your NTFD page looks like? Type in the site URL then add a forward slash, and your name! For example: www.domain.com/jessica

Directing to an NTFD page as opposed to the homepage actually tends to be less frustrating for the shopper. It’s more clear that the product is no longer available, as opposed to the user thinking the site or link is broken. 

Do I Need a 301 Redirect If I Change a Name?

You don’t need to worry about redirects if you’re changing a product or category name. However, you may want to consider it for the sake of continuity:

If you have a category called Necklaces but want to broaden it to include all jewelry, then having a URL of www.domain.com/necklaces may be misleading to your user, if they’ve intended to link to a category full of necklaces, earrings, and watches. 

It may also provide better SEO if you include those popular search terms (earrings, watches) in the URL. While the URL www.domain.com/necklaces-earrings-watches is much more clear to the user, it isn’t necessary to make the change for the link to function.

The same applies for products. For example: 

  • Product: Sterling Silver Turquoise Pendant Necklace
  • URL: www.domain.com/sterling-silver-turquoise-pendant-necklace

If the necklace has been changed to feature amethyst instead of turquoise, it would be appropriate to create a redirect in order to change the URL, as the two stones are very different. However, you don’t need to change the URL for the link to still function correctly. The original URL will still direct the shopper to the product, but it would be misleading.

Do I Need a 301 Redirect If I Move a Product to a Different Category?

The category placement of a product doesn’t affect the product’s URL. Even if your store is set up to include the product’s category, changing that category will not cause the URL to break. For example:

  • Product: Sterling Silver Turquoise Pendant Necklace
  • Old Category: Necklaces
  • New Category: Clearance
  • URL: www.domain.com/necklaces/sterling-silver-turquoise-pendant-necklace

Even though the Sterling Silver Turquoise Pendant Necklace is no longer found in the Necklaces category, and can only be found in the Clearance category, the original URL will remain functional. As before, you may want to add a redirect if you include the category in the URL, for the sake of clarity.

If, however, you don’t have the category in the URL, then no changes are necessary at all. 

To Recap

You need redirects in the following cases:

  • If you get rid of a product and have a VERY similar one instead, or can send shoppers to the category. 
  • If you get rid of a category and have a VERY similar one instead.
  • If you want to change the contents of a URL for clarity or continuity on your site. 

If you need a hand sprucing up your Not Found page,  creating redirects or determining whether you need one, please reach out to us! We’ll be happy to help. 

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