Over time, websites can grow, change focus or change entirely. If you are heading up a major change to a website, you will have to determine how to handle the inevitable broken links that this re-organization will cause.
Decoding the numbers of a website
When you’re readjusting a website, you will encounter several different types of codes. First of all, a 404 code is a “page not found” error, which is essentially a dead-end. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, which tells search engines and visitors that the page has moved for good. A 302 redirect is temporary, and tells search engines and visitors that it is essentially a placeholder.
Should you redirect?
The first thing to consider is whether you should redirect a page. A creatively built 404 page that directs visitors to a search or to what they may have been looking for can help significantly. A page that is going to be permanently out of date should be redirected to page that has similar content to what visitors thought they would be getting when they clicked the link. A page that will be out of commission for only a short amount of time, however, may be better served with a note telling when it will again be valid.
Deciding how to redirect
You should have a distinct plan before you start redirecting pages on your website. If you do not have a plan that includes how and why pages will be redirected, you may end up having to re-do the work in the future. If you are simply moving a website to a new URL, all of your redirects should be the 301 type. If you are moving select pages of your website, consider carefully whether you should redirect to a new page or something more permanent, like a super category page.
Knowing where the power flows
Search engines and visitors view redirects very differently. A search engine views 301 redirects as a note to re-index the site with the new URL; visitors rarely see much of a difference other than the URL. A 404 is a dead page that search engines and visitors often consider a dead end. A 302 temporary redirect helps visitors but does not help search engines.
In the end, plan for your reorganization or redirects, decide how to do them carefully and implement with thought.