17 April 2014 | 18 Comments
A few months ago I read a really interesting article about a way to get Google and other search engines to associate your Kickstarter project with your website. I found this particularly compelling because I use Kickstarter as a platform to launch games that I hope will have life after Kickstarter–when someone searches for “Tuscany board game” on Google, I want this website to appear higher than the Tuscany project page on Kickstarter.
So I reached out to andvaranaut, an extremely tech-savvy Stonemaier advisory board member, to see if he could help. I’m pretty comfortable using my WordPress website, but I can’t code–if we were going to add a special plugin, I wanted to do it correctly.
Andvaranaut not only set up the patch–it’s called a 302 redirect–for us, but he’s taken the time to write a guest post that explains the rationale behind the redirect and step-by-step instructions about how you can add it to your WordPress site. This is andvaranaut’s second guest post on this blog (his first involved the creation of the “this project is EU-friendly” icon you see all over Kickstarter now), so I hope you enjoy it!
One of the most important factors in deciding how high a given page appears when you do a search is incoming links. If you have a lot of quality links to a page, it will come up higher than other that does not have as many. (In a nutshell, that simple realization is what made millionaires out of Larry Page & Sergei Brin). So Google and similar engines deal with what is informally known as “link juice” – a measure of how well-regarded a page is, as measured by their incoming links (both in quantity and quality).
Let’s say you run a campaign and your PR gets your Kickstarter link everywhere. This gives good link juice to your KS page, which is great, since it makes your campaign page appear up in search results. However, once the campaign ends, it’s suddenly not as great, since those links keep directing people towards a page which is no longer interesting for them. Besides, the benefit, search-wise, is not that high in the first place – people will probably search for “kickstarter <your game>”, and Kickstarter is usually well indexed enough to make your game come up first, even without external links.
Now, let’s say that instead of your Kickstarter link you distribute your 302 redirect link. While that link points to your campaign all the same, there are two differences.
First, the link juice is accrued by your redirect URL – not by the KS project page. Some of the juice does trickle down, however – the 302 redirect means that the link pointing to the KS campaign might change later, but that it’s valid for now. So you still get a benefit in positioning the KS project page.
Second, once you change the redirect, the link juice is taken away from the KS project page and transferred to your own site. In fact, if you use a 301 redirect, the juice will be transferred in full, since 301 means that the redirect link is now the definitive one. So you are subtracting attention from your KS page and diverting it towards your site.
Now, of course it will be difficult to beat Kickstarter :) There are surely many links to your KS page lying around, and Kickstarter is a highly regarded site. However, every little bit helps.
How to configure 302 Redirects in WordPress
WordPress is one of the blogging and content management systems of choice, and it’s well known by its flexibility. Indeed, while the 302 Redirect capabilities are absent from the WordPress core, adding them to WordPress using plugins is pretty straightforward.
In this guide we use a plugin called “Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin”, by Don Fischer, but it’s far from being the only choice. Besides, SEO packs usually have the option one way or another – so you might even have the function already in your WordPress installation. While the details will depend slightly on the specific solution you use, the concepts will apply equally to all methods.
Step 1: Install the plugin
Open your WordPress administration dashboard and go to Plugins > Add New. Search for “Redirect” and click Search Plugins. The “Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin” will come up near the top (it’s the second result as of now, as you can see in the image).
Click on the “Install Now” link and WordPress will download and install the plugin from you. WordPress will give you the chance to activate the plugin after installing it, and you should do so. If you forget to activate the plugin, you can do it later from tne Plugins > Installed Plugins screen.
Step 2: Create an empty page to get the URL
The easiest way to setup the redirect is to create an empty page with the correct URL. A WordPress URL (called a “permalink”) has two parts – the main URL of your blog, and a short text called a “slug”. For example, if your blog is http://www.myawesomegamingsite.com and you want the redirected URL to be http://www.myawesomegamingsite.com/mygame, then the “slug” would be mygame.
Create a new page (Pages > Add New in your Dashboard). Use something like “My Project KS Redirect” for the title – the title is not seen anywhere, but it will help you remember what the page is for. Then click anywhere else on the page, such as in the page contents editor. (WordPress does not suggest a permalink unless it’s sure that you have finished typing). In a few moments, a new field will appear below the title which reads “Permalink”, with a part in yellow.
The part in yellow is the slug. WordPress will suggest a value for you, but you can change it by clicking the Edit button, writing what you want, then clicking OK.
Use something short and memorable. If you are looking to reuse the URL after the campaign, it’s better to avoid references to Kickstarter or such on it.
Note that slugs have to follow some rules – no spaces (you can use dashes instead), no uppercase letters, and no repeated slugs between pages of the same site. WordPress will take care of correcting any problem with your input, but that means that the final URL might not be exactly what you had in mind.
Step 3: Configure the redirect
Once you’re satisfied with the URL, you have to configure the actual redirect. To do so, look below the editor (the part where you’d write the page contents). Among the present boxes, there should be one called “Quick Page/Post Redirect”, which looks like this:
Tick the “Make Redirect Active” and “Show the Redirect URL” boxes, then fill in the Redirect URL with the full Kickstarter link to your project (including the https:// part) or whatever URL you want to redirect to. The type of redirect should be set to 302 Temporary – this signals to browsers and search engines that the Redirect URL is correct, but that it might be changed in the future.
Now, publish the page, and that’s it! It should work from that point on.
Step 4: Test your redirect
The most obvious way to test your redirect is to open the URL you specified as the permalink (the one of your site). If you are redirected to the correct URL, congratulations! If something went wrong, double-check that you have carried out all instructions above, and consult the “Troubleshooting and tips” section below.
To test for sure that the redirect is indeed being sent as a 302, there are a number of ways. The simplest is to use an online checker tool, such as http://www.redirect-checker.org/ – enter your URL, click “Analyse”, and you should see a 302 Moved Temporarily redirect followed by a 200 OK in the new location. Another alternative are browser tools – I like the Chrome tools for that (they can be brought up by pressing F12). Set them to the Network tab, go to your page URL and you should see the 302 redirect “blink” in the timeline. Firefox, Safari and recent versions of IE have this same functionality.
Troubleshooting and tips
- If the “Quick Page/Post Redirect” box is not shown, there might be two possible causes. The first one is that the plugin is not correctly installed and activated; you can double check that in the Plugins > Installed Plugins page of your dashboard. The second one is that you might have inadvertently hidden it. Click on Screen Options at the very top right of the edit page and make sure that the checkbox next to the plugin name is ticked.
- If the redirect is not working as it should, double-check that the configuration of the “Quick Page/Post Redirect” is exactly as shown above, and that your page is indeed published (not saved as draft). Be extra careful to include the leading http:// or https:// in the Redirect URL field.
- You may freely edit the page afterwards to change the redirect details (type, target URL) or the slug. Just remember that the redirects won’t work unless the page, or your changes to it, are published.
- Once the KS campaign is finished, point the redirect to anywhere else (the page of your site which has information about your game would be a good target) and set the type to 301 Permanent. This will help you get rid of references to the redirection URL in Google (or other search engines) – they will all be replaced by the redirect target. You can also disable the redirect, keep the same slug, and populate the page with useful information about the game.
Alternative method (or: what to do if you’re not using WordPress)
Much like WordPress, most common CMSs are able to do redirects (possibly using a plugin). An online search for “302 redirect” plus the name of your tool of choice should help you find it.
If you are unable or unwilling to use “prepackaged” solutions, are comfortable with a bit more advanced tinkering, and your hosting uses the Apache server (which is most likely the case), an alternative is using Apache redirects. You’ll need access to the files in your web space (via FTP or some other method).
Apache uses small text files, named .htaccess (note the leading dot), to control some settings of your web space. You might already have a .htaccess file in the root directory of your website. If you do, download it somewhere in your computer, and make a backup copy in case something goes awry. If you don’t, create an empty text file with that name. (If you run into trouble with the .htaccess filename, you can use another one, such as dot-htaccess.txt, and rename it using your FTP program after uploading it to your server).
Open the file with a text editor, and add the following in a separate line at the very end:
Redirect 302 /mygame https://www.kickstarter.com/my-ks-url
The arguments after Redirect, in order, are the redirect type (use 302 first), the slug to redirect (note the leading slash!), and the URL to redirect to (be sure to include the leading http:// or https://).
Upload the new .htaccess to the root directory of your web hosting and test that the redirect works. If it does, great!
If nothing happens, double-check that you have followed all steps correctly. In particular, check that the file is indeed called .htaccess with the dot (not htaccess, .htaccess.txt or something else), and that you haven’t missed the leading slash in the Redirect slug. If it still doesn’t work, it might also be that your hosting is not using Apache, or that the use of .htaccess files has been disabled by the server administration; in that case, you’ll have to use a different method.
If you get a 500 Internal Server Error status when opening your page, it’s because there’s something wrong in the .htaccess syntax. Double-check that the Redirect line is in a line by itself, that it follows the above format exactly, and that you haven’t inadvertently introduced an error somewhere else. If everything else fails, delete the .htaccess you uploaded and, if there was one before, re-upload your backup copy. (You did a backup, right?)
This method is actually rather simple and works pretty well, provided that you meet the minimum requirements. Most notably, it requires access to the hosting files, which some “turnkey” solutions don’t give. Other than that, chances are that your current hosting supports it. You can have any number of redirects in the same .htaccess file.
A huge thanks to andvaranaut for taking the time to write this. I know this is a bit elaborate, but it’s absolutely worth it. For example, on Tuscany, Kickstarter tells me that 148 people searched for Tuscany on Google.com and Google.ca and immediately backed the project (total funding from those searches: $13,093). Use those search engines to work for you long after the Kickstarter campaign ends by adding a 302 redirect as outlined above.
If you want to to set up this type of redirect but would prefer for andvaranaut to do it for you, he has offered to provide that service for $39. You can contact him at andvaranaut AT gmail.com.
One last tip: This only works as well as it should if the link you use to share your project is the redirect link, not the Kickstarter link. make sure to ask reviewers and bloggers to use the redirect link!