If you've ever wondered how visitors can find popular pages that have moved, or what happens when a well-known site changes its URL, or how to avoid getting 404s when restructuring your WMS site, then read on.
What is a redirect?
A redirect makes it possible to use a specific URL to direct visitors to a particular page.
There are different kinds of redirects:
Created when content:
- is moved to a different location within the same WMS site
- has the title or menu link changed
- has a custom alias created
- Set at the WMS root, begins with mcgill.ca
- URLs are typically short and evocative
- Used for marketing campaigns, e.g., www.mcgill.ca/francais-en-ligne
- Set on a local site, e.g., mcgill.ca/yoursite/custom-url
- Used when a page on one WMS site has moved to another WMS site
Redirects to non-WMS sites
- Set at the Load Balancer, may begin with mcgill.ca
- Points to sites that do not begin with mcgill.ca but are McGill-affiliated domains
- Used when a WMS site is moved to another system
How do automatic redirects work?
Let’s say you have an existing contact page at mcgill.ca/yoursite/contact-us and you decide to move this under your About section so it can now be found at mcgill.ca/yoursite/about/contact-us.
Automatic redirects ensure that the old URL mcgill.ca/yoursite/contact-us will automatically resolve to mcgill.ca/yoursite/about/contact-us and not yield a 404 'Page not found' notification.
I would like a custom redirect set up. What do I need to do?
First, you need to determine what kind of custom redirect you need (see above). You would also need to ensure that the desired URL is not already being used:
- Type the URL in your browser
- If you get a notice like, “Looking for something? The page you requested does not exist” or "Access denied. You may need to login below or register to access this page," then that URL is available
- If you are requesting a local redirect and the URL is already in use, you must unpublish the page first
Once you know that the desired URL is available, you can proceed with filling out this form.
Your redirect request would then be reviewed. If approved, you should receive a notification that your redirect has been created.
The Web Service Group (WSG) receives, vets and creates redirects for WMS sites usually within 1-2 business days. Redirects to non-WMS sites are not created by the WSG and may take a while longer.
My site name or URL has changed, can I request a top-level mcgill.ca redirect?
You certainly can using this form.
The WSG already offers to create top-level redirects as part of any URL change request, however only homepage redirects would be created. For instance, a redirect from mcgill.ca/oldsiteurl to mcgill.ca/newsiteurl is possible, but not for any child pages such as mcgill.ca/oldsiteurl/about to mcgill.ca/newsiteurl/about.
- If I move a page in my site, do I need to request a redirect?
That depends. If you move the page to another section within the same site, you don't need to request a redirect. See Automatic redirects above.
If the page is moved or replicated on a different site, a Local redirect must be created on the site where the page originally appeared.
I have a very popular page on my site that has to move to a different section. Will visitors still find it?
Only if you don't delete the page. If a page is deleted, the automatic redirects will not be preserved and visitors to that page will get a 404 notice.
If you wish to make drastic changes to a popular page, it's best to remove all the content from the body and start over. The original content will be preserved in the revisions and the old URLs will still work.
For more information about redirects, please see Redirects in the WMS.