Making WordPress sites work better isn’t always about doing advanced theme hacks and messing around with PHP and CSS code. In many cases it’s just a matter of finding a new or clever use of a plugin or even a function already built in. On this 7th Day of WordPress we’ll take a look at just such a case: Creating brand awareness through social linking with a page redirect plugin.
Your social links point away from you
I actually got this idea after seeing a tweet by fellow Vancouverite John Bollwitt. Sadly I didn’t save the tweet at the time, and I can’t remember the exact wording, but I’m sure he won’t mind the paraphrasing. It went something like this: “I don’t understand why companies don’t brand their social links with links such as www.yourdomain.com/facebook. It’s a wasted oportunity.” (John said it better). When I saw the tweet I immediately thought well, it’s because people don’t know how to do that.
The core of the problem, as pointed out by John, is that when we link to our own presences on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and so on, we drive people away from our own sites and towards something else. And even if you manage to snag consistent names and tags throughout like we did for the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon (12x12yvr all around) for all the social networks, you are still left pointing people to links like www.facebook.com/12x12yvr. A better option would be if you could turn it on its head and point them to www.12x12yvr.com/facebook etc. And you can, you just need to know how.
301 Redirects used in new ways
The web, as you know, is nothing but a huge list of address pointers pointing in different directions. These links are what binds the web together and there are a lot of different types of links out there. But a link isn’t always a link, and not all links work the same way. A “normal” link is one that points to a specific page or query on a hosted site somewhere. But there are other types of links, of which the 301 link (or more specifically 301 redirect) is of importance to us. The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that takes the browser query and jumps it to a different defined link immediately. So for example when you type in “http://www.12x12yvr.com/twitter” in your address bar, the browser immediately jumps to “http://www.twitter.com/12x12yvr” without causing a fuss. If you were to do this using a more basic HTML redirect within a page the browser might stop it from happening.
These redirects, the 301 being permanent while the 302 and 307 are temporary, are designed to do things like direct people visiting old links to the correct places on new sites. But there is no reason they can’t be used for other purposes, and with the entry of social networks galore these redirects are coming to the forefront as an important tool.
Question is how do you do this in WordPress. After all, when you make a page in WordPress with a specific title like “Twitter” and you have your permalinks in order, the browser will land on that page. So how do we solve the problem?
Quick Page/Post Redirect to the rescue
I hate how it sounds, but there’s a plugin for that, called Quick Page / Post Redirect Plugin. This plugin integrates with WordPress to allow you to create custom 301, 302 and 307 redirects for all your pages and posts. As a result you can personalize and brand the online experience even when people leave your site. Take the 12×12 Twitter link as an example:
After installing the plugin I simply created a new Page called “Twitter” and scrolled down until I found the Quick Page/Post Redirect tab. In the tab (as seen above) you can set each post or page URL to be an active redirect, tell the browser to open the redirect in a new window, add nofollow to the link so search engines don’t start indexing all of Twitter or Facebook on your behalf and decide whether or not you want to show the Redirect URL in the link.
Once you’ve decided on your settings you can insert your Redirect URL in the field below. This can be anything from a relative or root-relative link, a query or an absolute link – your choice. Once that’s defined all you have left to do is set the type of redirect. By default it’s set to 302 which is a temporary redirect, but for social links to Twitter, Facebook and the likes the correct setting here is 301 – permanent.
With the settings in order, the URL defined and the redirect set to 301, all that’s left is to publish the page and with that you have your own customized social media link ready for advertisement. Simple, easy and incredibly effective.
This tutorial is part of the 24 Days of WordPress series. If you want to learn more about WordPress and Expression Web check out the Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web in 24 Hours series (version 2, 3 and 4), Lynda.com’s WordPress 3.0 Essential Training course and Microsoft Expression Web 4 LiveLessons.