Clean Sweep is a plugin I released in conjunction with Movable Type 4.0 to help users keep URLs and permalinks valid on their web site even after a major change to your URL structure. The plugin worked by tracking broken links on your web site and allowing you to create rewrite rules within Movable Type for those broken links. So, how did this help me?
It increased my site traffic! I am not SEO obsessed. I probably should be, but I am not. So over the years as I have changed my URL structure numerous times and unwittingly broke a lot of inbound links to me. As someone who does not monitor my web server access log for 404s, this went largely unnoticed. Then when I installed Clean Sweep I discovered hundreds of URLs people were attempting to access that resulted in a dead end. As soon as I fixed them people entered my site as opposed to leaving, and many of them stuck around to look for more content. Traffic went up immediately.
Ad revenue went up! This is naturally the result of #1 above as there is always a correlation between ad revenue and site traffic. I will add though that many of the links coming into me were simple a cut and paste error somewhere on the Interweb. These are broken links I could never anticipate. Clean Sweep allowed me to catch all possible ways someone could attempt to come into my site and correct them before they hit a 404 page.
I fixed broken images! Web pages were not the only thing people were trying to find but couldn't. I also found a number of images and screenshots that had managed to break over the years. As a result my content actually got better and looked as professional as the day I published it.
Today I released a new version of Clean Sweep that is smarter than ever before.
This new version (1.1) will look at the URL being requested that could not be found and attempt to auto correct it for any common causes for broken links. This new simple rule set will automatically correct the following mistakes:
- Change underscores to hyphens - many users like hyphenated URLs not only for their aesthetics but for their purported SEO benefits. Users wishing to switch to using hyphens can now do so without affecting their page rank and without losing traffic.
- Map legacy Movable Type URL formats - old, old, old versions of Movable Type created file names that used an entry id as opposed to a basename. Clean Sweep will automatically detect this and redirect a user to the proper destination.
- Look for entries with a common basename - users who have switched from a category-based permalink to a date-based permalink will now have Clean Sweep redirect users accordingly.
These changes have added one last benefit for Clean Sweep:
Clean Sweep now allows me to clean up a lot of cruft that had built up on my blog and to safely change my URL structure without worrying about how Google might penalize me or how it might impact my users.
Want to test it out? Check out these URLs and see how majordojo redirects them accordingly: