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Personalizing with Time: How to Leverage Time-Based URL Redirection

April 3, 2023
5 minutes
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A redirect is a tool used by websites for “rerouting” or sending a visitor to an alternative webpage. An example of a redirect would be when you type “example.com” in your web-browser, but are taken to a different website, like “new-example.com.”

URL redirects are an extremely common practice employed by webmasters and content managers to ensure visitors to their website are reaching their desired content.

When would I use a redirect?

  1. A page has been relocated within your site
    Let’s say your website has a page by the path “/t-shirts” – The “t-shirts” page has been a part of your website sitemap for years, and is one of your most frequently visited pages. Suddenly, you need to build out a more general page on your site that has t-shirts, and dress shirts. Your goal is to have the new page be accessible by a shorter, more general path, like “/shirts”. In this situation, you would want to use a URL redirect to ensure that traffic for the page “/t-shirts” is successfully rerouted to the new “/shirts” page of your website. Without a redirect in place, you could run the risk of visitors still accessing the old /t-shirts page, even though you want to drive all traffic to the new /shirts page. Due to the nature of SEO, it’s possible that there are many links throughout the Internet that still point visitors to the old URL, and it is the job of the URL redirect to ensure visitors still make it to the appropriate page.
  2. Your domain name is changing!
    Changing a website’s domain name is a drastic decision which must be handled with the utmost care. Let’s say your website has always been www.abc-brand.com. Due to a rebranding effort, you are changing your brand from “ABC” to “XYZ”, and thus your website’s URL will need to be adjusted to reflect the change. In this scenario, it would be critical that you 301 redirect all traffic requesting “abc-brand.com” to the new and improved “xyz-brand.com”. Furthermore, you would want to ensure that all pages within the abc-brand website are also redirected, like abc-brand.com/my-page being redirected to xyx-brand.com/my-page
  3. You have alternative domains that you wish to serve as “shortcuts” into your website
    It is a common practice for businesses to buy dozens of domain names that:
  • Are spelled similarly to their business name – consider “gogle.com” that redirects to google.com
  • Are variations of their name that visitors may otherwise know them as – consider “joes-tees.com” that redirects to the main business website, “joes-shirts.com”
  • Are shortened, easily typed versions of the primary domain name – consider “shirtsale2019.com” redirecting to “joes-shirts.com”. It is common to find this shorter, more memorable URL variation on physical advertisements because people are more likely to remember them. As such, a URL redirect would be used to reroute the alternative domain name to your primary domain name of your website.

How does a redirect actually work?

When you request a web-page from your browser, there is a server somewhere on the Internet that is receiving your request and responding with the appropriate content. Fundamentally, a redirect occurs when a web-server's response contains a special piece of data (an HTTP response header) instructing the browser to reroute the visitor to an alternative location.

The technical details aside, a browser works by requesting a URL and rendering the page that is returned by the website. If the website wishes the user to be redirected, the server will respond differently than if it was serving a page; it will send an extra piece of data indicating that the visitor should be redirected to a specified location.

Without going into too much of the technical details – a redirect is a behavior performed by a web-browser whenever it receives a response containing a flag (an HTTP header) to do so.

What are the types of redirects available?

301 Redirect

Commonly referred to as a “permanent” redirect.

Indicates to search-engines and web-browsers that the requested page has permanently relocated to a new location.

Note: permanent redirects are often cached by web-browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Therefore, it may be tricky to retroactively update a 301 redirects target location once it has been established. Any visitors who have already received the 301 redirect response for a URL will likely be served a cached response from their web-browser when visiting the same URL again.

Suggestion Only use a 301 redirect when you know that the target location will not change.

Common Uses

  • A 301 redirect is appropriate when a website is changing it’s domain name. In this scenario, the site should be 301 redirecting all traffic for it’s old domain name to the new website URL.
  • Another common use-case for a 301 redirect is for pages within your website that have been permanently moved to a new URL

302 Redirect

Commonly referred to as a “temporary” redirect.

Useful for general-purpose redirects within your website, where you do not want visitor’s to cache the redirect response permanently.

Suggestion Use 302 redirects for pages that have changed URL, but are subject to be updated in the future

Common Uses

  • A page is temporarily being moved to a new URL
  • Conditions where the destination location of the redirect is subject to change
  • Navigating the user away from a page during an error

307 Redirect

Uncommon due to legacy browser support

Used for technical scenarios when a visitor’s HTTP request method should be persisted when they are redirected. For example, if a user submits a form, the browser normally issues a POST request to the form’s action URL. If the server responds with a 302 redirect response, the client’s web-browser would typically issue a GET request when handling the redirect. However, if the server responds with a 307 redirect response, the client’s web-browser will POST request to the redirect destination. Please note, form-data is typically lost when redirecting via POST request.

When do I need a redirect?

The most common use-cases that would require a redirect are:

  1. Changing your domain name
  2. Restructuring website pathing, resulting in URL changes for content within your website
  3. URL shortening – having a shorter, more memorable alternative to your primary domain name.
  4. Sending traffic from additional/alternative domain names (Example: gogle.com redirects to google.com)
  5. Sending traffic from your DNS zone apex / naked domain name to your “www” sub-domain (Example: domain.com 301 redirects to www.domain.com)

Important considerations when redirecting a URL

  1. Ensure your URL supports HTTPS connections! Otherwise you may have visitors who are receiving broken links.
  2. When redirecting a specific path within your website, you may want to match paths based on a pattern or Regular Expression, as opposed to a single path.
  3. Seriously consider whether you should use a 301 or a 302, based on the information above.

While standard URL redirects work in most situations, some circumstances require redirects only at specific times of the day or months in the year. Time-based URL redirects enable you to personalize what each visitor sees and create more targeted, time-sensitive marketing campaigns.

What is Time-Based URL Redirection?

Time-based redirection, also known as time-based routing, allows you to redirect traffic headed for one URL to a different destination URL depending on the visitor's time of access. This allows you to redirect users to different pages or content based on factors like:

  • Time of day
  • Day of the week
  • Special events/holidays
  • Seasonality

For example, you may want to redirect morning traffic to one set of pages or ads, while the evening traffic sees something different. Or you may promote certain products/offers only during the holidays or on Black Friday.

The main benefit of time-based redirection is it allows you to optimize your website experience and marketing campaigns around your users' behaviors during various time periods. You can ensure visitors see the most relevant, impactful content and offers precisely when they need it.

How to Set Up Time-Based Redirects

Currently, the only platform that offers time-based URL redirects is SiteDetour, a flexible, user-friendly redirection platform. It makes it easy to set up redirects based on a wide variety of factors including time and even location-based redirects. Here’s how you can set up time-based URL redirects for your website using SiteDetour:

  1. Navigate to Audiences

First, log into your SiteDetour account and navigate to the Audiences page. You can access the Audiences page by selecting “Personalization” in the side menu. This is where you'll create a trigger for your time-based redirect.

  1. Click “Create New”

Find the "Create New" button to open the audience creation popup. Give your audience a name such as the purpose of the time-based redirect.

audience-creation-screenshot
  1. Add Time-Based Targeting Rules

In the popup, click "Add Targeting Rules" and select the date/time option. Configure your desired time-based trigger here. You can choose to base the time-based trigger on the visitor's local time or in a specific time zone. This gives you more flexibility to personalize content based on the time at your users’ locations.

audience-rules-screenshot
  1. Create the Time-Based Redirect

With your target audience created, you can now create your time-based redirect. Go to "Redirects" in the side menu and click "Create New." Give it a name and click "Add New Path."

  1. Add Your Audience

At the top of the new path window, you’ll see an “Add Target Audience” option that allows you to apply your time-based trigger to this redirect. This same process also allows you to apply other triggers to your redirects such as the user’s location or their device type.

add-audience-screenshot
  1. Publish and Test

Add your target URL then publish the redirect. Visit your site at different times to test it out and ensure your redirect rules work properly.

How Can You Use Time-Based URL Redirects?

According to a report by Salesforce, 97% of marketing professionals noticed stronger performance after implementing personalized marketing. So, here are a few ways you can use time-based URL redirects to personalize your content:

Holiday-Specific Promotions

Redirect visitors to your deals or category pages based on the current holiday. This allows you to capitalize on the surge in holiday shopping demand and drive more sales during major shopping days. For example, you could run a campaign for Valentine’s Day that promotes different products based on your user demographics at different times of the day.

Location/Hours Pages

When a user visits your site outside of your actual business hours, consider redirecting them to a page notifying them that your business is currently closed. Within the page, you can include your business hours, online reservations or appointment booking, and an out-of-office phone number they can call in cases of emergency. This method of redirection is particularly useful for service businesses that want to maximize in-person visits.

Morning and Evening Content

Create time-based redirects to show commuters relevant content and offers in the morning and evening commute hours. Targeting those audiences during their transit times makes your content more helpful and engaging.

As an example, a breakfast shop running a commuter promotion of a breakfast sandwich and coffee can run a redirect to this promotion page from 6am-10am. But, after the promotion, they want their normal pages to show to avoid confusing their lunch crowd.

Seasonal Offers

Rotate winter seasonal offers and summer offers based on the time of year and seasons. Tailoring offers and products to relevant seasons and weather keeps your content intriguing and makes the shopping experience more personalized.

For example, an e-commerce site could run a campaign promoting their new summer clothing line during the months of May through August. During those campaign hours, the site can automatically redirect visitors to their summer clothing lines.

Tracking and Optimizing Your Redirects

The key to maximizing the impact of your time-based redirects is continually tracking their performance and optimizing them. Here are a few tips for tracking and optimizing your redirects:

  • Use SiteDetour's built-in analytics to view redirect data over time. Based on this data, you can alter your redirect times to better fit user behavior. For example, if you run a breakfast campaign with a specific deal for commuters, you can fine-tune the time to maximize its success.
  • Continuously run A/B tests on different target URLs or offers during specific timeframes. Try a new landing page in the evenings and compare it to your current version.
  • Use the insights gained to tweak your redirects and scale the top-performing variations across your digital marketing efforts. Fine-tune them over time to boost results.

Conclusion

With SiteDetour's flexible platform, you can easily set up detailed, time-triggered redirects to take your marketing campaigns to the next level. You can try it for free to see how time-based redirects can maximize your conversion and ROI across all periods!

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