What does that mean? It means my skills span more than one field or area, rather than me being strong in just a single area. For example, I’m a pretty darn good C# developer. But I’ve also been a CTO, CEO, raw food pastry chef, dividend growth investor, classroom teacher, online marketer, passive income entrepreneur, blogger, and writer, among others.
Three years ago my interest of the day was making raw food desserts, and I was happily tweeting about it from my @europegeek account. I got a lot of traction, with many big names in the raw food world following me.
But then my interests changed and I started tweeting about… Microsoft SharePoint.
Seriously, do not combine vegan cooking and SharePoint in a single Twitter timeline. They don’t mix.
After losing half my raw food audience overnight, I realized I had to do something. How could I promote multiple interests without alienating my audience?
An ill-advised sidestep into Brand Diversification
I decided to diversify my brand. Instead of tweeting and blogging everything from the same domain, I would create multiple domains, each specialized around a single topic.
So I got to work. I created bitesizedsharepoint.com for the SharePoint articles, bitesizedcsharp.com for C# posts, bitesizedincome.com for dividend growth investing, and kind-of-green.com for raw food articles. I also created two new Twitter accounts: @bitesizedcsharp, and @bitesizedincome.
This worked for a while. Each account got a decent number of followers, and I no longer lost followers when switching topics. But there were disadvantages too:
- The link between the ‘Bite-Sized…’ domains and my name was very weak. The sites were doing okay, but I was not building up any personal brand authority.
- Keeping 4 domains and 2 Twitter accounts up to date was a lot of work, especially after I had already moved on from a topic.
- Hosting 4 websites is expensive because many cloud providers charge per site.
The problem with being a multipotentialite is that I tend to move from subject to subject, and with my brand diversification strategy I was leaving a trail of dead websites and Twitter accounts behind.
So that didn’t work. I began to realize that I needed to consolidate my brand, not diversify it.
Brand Consolidation and the blog merging problem
So I got to work again. I bought the mdfarragher.com domain, set up a WordPress site, and moved all my old content over. I also renamed my Twitter account to @mdfarragher.com. In fact, everything I do nowadays is under the ‘mdfarragher’ moniker.
Problem solved, right?
Well no. Here’s the problem: all my old links in Google are no longer working. When you search for my name in Google, you might run into this particular link:
Unfortunately, this link is no longer working because I moved the content over to WordPress. And in WordPress, posts are prefixed by their publication date, so the new link should look like this:
This is a classic problem in search engine optimization (SEO). When you’re migrating a website, or merging two or more sites together, you’re going to have to redirect links from the old site to the new.
A quick primer on SEO redirection
So here’s how redirects work. When you set up a redirect and a web browser requests the old link, then the web server will send back a special redirect code plus the new link where the page can be found. The browser will then navigate to the new link.
There are two basic types of redirects:
301: this redirect code indicates a permanent redirect. It signifies that the page has permanently moved to the new location. Google will treat this as a signal to update its index and show the new link from now on.
302: this redirect code indicates a temporary redirect. It signifies that the page has temporarily moved to the new location, but will move back in the future. Google will keep showing the old location and won’t update its index.
There’s also another well-known code you should know about:
404: this code indicates that the page can no longer be found at this location. Google will eventually remove a 404-returning link from its index.
So it’s pretty clear I have to do something. If I leave the old links in place, then all my search results in Google will keep returning 404 codes. Google will eventually act on this and remove my links from the index, and all my old content will completely disappear from the search results!
Fortunately, help is at hand. I’ve found the perfect redirect management tool.
The SEO Redirection Plugin for WordPress
After installing the SEO Redirection plugin for WordPress, it adds a new SEO Redirection Premium link to the Settings menu. Click the link and you’ll see this:
This is the Redirect Manager, where you manage all configured redirects for the website. The page for adding or editing a redirect looks like this:
Any WordPress content type can be redirected, including entire folders, and you can express redirects as exact matches, a ‘starts-with’ fragment, or a full-blown regular expression. You can also search for redirects and organize them in groups.
TIP: when creating a cross-domain redirect, the plugin shows a warning like in the above screenshot. If you’ve set up your site correctly to listen to multiple domains, you can safely ignore this message
Another very useful tool is the 404 Manager:
This tool monitors and logs all 404 errors across your entire website. Any page you have forgotten to redirect will show up here as a logged 404 error. You can see from the screenshot that I have an old article called ‘.NET Memory Profiling In Mono’ that has not been redirected yet and is causing 404 errors.
I can configure a new redirect by simply clicking the green arrow:
All I need to do now is type in the correct destination link and click Save. This makes it extremely easy to add new redirects.
TIP: if you forget to redirect a page, don’t worry. It will soon show up in the 404 Manager, and you can quickly set up a new redirect by clicking the arrow.
The nice thing about the log view is that it shows the complete redirect chain, it geo-targets each visitor, and it shows the user agent string. This makes it very easy to identify bots and crawlers.
TIP: keep an eye out for long redirect chains. Ideally a redirect consists of a single ‘hop’. If you see anything longer, it’s usually not a good sign.
But what I really appreciate about the plugin is all the hand-holding it does when I am editing a post. If I change the link of a published article, the plugin automatically creates a redirect for me to guide all incoming traffic from the old to the new link. And when I delete a page or take a published page offline, the plugin alerts me and suggests I redirect all incoming traffic somewhere else to avoid a 404 error:
It’s very easy to shoot yourself in the foot by accidentally changing online content in a way that will make you lose traffic. But the SEO Redirection plugin has got your back every time.
TIP: be careful when renaming the permalink of a published article more than once, because now you’re creating a long redirect chain.
Try it out yourself
The free version of the SEO Redirection plugin has everything you need to manually create redirects, and it’s a great plugin to get started and learn the ropes.
There’s also a paid version which will set you back $29 per site. I’m using the paid version because it contains the 404 Manager, and I really cannot live without it.
What do you think? Are you going to use a redirect manager on your site?
Also published on Medium.