6 Cautions When Using Redirects in Podcasting (plus best practices)

Redirects come in multiple types. When misused, they can cause some major problems, as even happened to me recently. Here are some warnings to watch for whenever you use redirects.

Check out my past episode and article, “Redirects and How to Use Them in Podcasting” to learn more about how redirects work and the different options there are.

(As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases through some—but not all—of the following links. But I recommend things I truly believe in, regardless of earnings.)

Caution #1: 301 redirects are “permanent” and cached

In podcasting, we throw around the term “301 redirect” or “permanent redirect” often without realizing what that actually means: it is (or at least it's assumed to be) permanent!

I often use the physical mail or US Post Office metaphor when explaining redirects. Think of a permanent redirect as a “change of address” notice sent back to everyone who mails you something.

A 301 redirect is permanent and is essentially telling apps, “This thing has moved to over there. Please stop looking here and always look there instead. So don't look at me again.”

This is great when you actually made a permanent move—or at least intend for it to be permanent. Like when you permanently move homes and change your address!

But if you ever change your mind or—even worse—make a mistake in the redirect, that redirect will be followed and the old URL will stop being checked. So if you make a “/feedback” page that 301-permanently redirects somewhere else, then even if you change where “/feedback” goes, any app that previously loaded “/feedback” will bypass it altogether and go straight to the destination it has saved in its cache.

That cache is sometimes cleared, but you should assume it never will be! (However, this doesn't apply for anyone visiting your redirect for the first time.)

So if you get your 301 permanent redirect wrong and you don't fix it immediately—like within a few minutes—the best thing to do is to also redirect that incorrect destination to the correct one. And, unfortunately, that's not always possible. Thus, I recommend that, if possible, you make your redirect a 307 or 302 temporary redirect first, test it over a few days, and then change it to a 301 permanent redirect.

Caution #2: Your redirect destinations might change or disappear

Contrary to the Stanley cup craze of spring 2024, my favorite water thermos has been a Contigo Ashland Chill Autospout Water Bottle with Flip Straw, Stainless Steel Thermal Drinking Bottle,Leakproof,Grey, BLue, 590 ml (I earn from qualifying purchases through that link) that I've had since 2019. But I recently lost it—I think at a mall while my son and I were waiting for my broken-down car to be towed.

I thought I could simply re-order it for close to the original $10 price I paid, but no! That specific bottle has a new version I don't like as much, and the original bottle was listed for $45 when I needed it!

Here's what makes this relevant to redirects. The first place I went to re-order that water bottle was my Amazon order history. When I clicked on the product link, my heart was initially crushed because Contigo Autospout Straw Ashland Chill Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, 20 oz., Monaco says, “Currently unavailable”!

Imagine if I had redirected to that product page with a 301 permanent redirect! Anyone clicking through my link might have their hopes dashed just like I did!

This is why I highly recommend that any redirect to any URL you don't control should be a 307 temporary redirect (a 302 redirect is also temporary and works fine, but use a 307 if you have the choice). If I had been smartly promoting that water bottle with something like a “/waterbottle” redirect, I could easily change its destination when the product URL changes, or point back to a page on my own site with a note about the product.

That's easy to do with temporary redirects because they don't get cached. So even if you used my redirect yesterday, then I changed it last night, and you use the same redirect URL today, you would be taken to the correct destination.

I love that Pretty Links Pro has recently added a new feature to monitor all the redirects you create and alert you when any of them point to a broken URL! And that could be really important for both your audience and any kind of affiliate income you hoped to make.

Caution #3: Most redirects bypass content

This is both a caution and a blessing. However your redirect is placed (and I'm not referring to the <itunes:new-feed-url> RSS tag), the redirect will be followed before any of that URL's content is loaded.

So if you redirect an old podcast RSS feed URL to a new one, anything you put in that old feed will be completely ignored.

That's a caution because it means your audience won't get anything you put in that feed, especially not any announcement of the feed change (if that's even necessary). This is why you should put the <itunes:new-feed-url> tag in your new feed if you ever change podcast feed URLs. And yes, the tag should actually point to itself as a sort of confirmation that this feed is the new feed URL.

But it's also a blessing because it means you don't actually need an RSS feed to exist at that address once you're redirecting it. In fact, you can have nothing at that address except the redirect! (That's how nearly all redirection tools do it. You don't have to create pages or posts to redirect, you simply create the redirect.)

So if you want or need to give some information before the redirect, then create a page at that URL you share, and then have the redirect linked from the page.

For example, that's what I've been building for a lot of podcasting tools I frequently recommend. Consider Captivate, for example. If you visit theaudacitytopodcast.com/captivate, you're no longer immediately redirected to Captivate, but you instead land on my page that briefly explains why I recommend Captivate. And then you can click on the button to use my affiliate link to visit Captivate. Fun fact: that button is still a redirect: theaudacitytopodcast.com/go/captivate

Caution #4: You might someday rename your redirect

I've previously shared why you should stop saying brand names in your podcast, unless absolutely necessary. Maybe you heard or read that and decided to change your “/patreon” redirecting URL to a generic “/support” URL (or you had a similar situation).

While that's great that you did that, it still breaks all your past calls to action that used the “/patreon” URL!

For this reason, if you ever want to someday rename your redirect—regardless of whether you've only typed it in your notes or you've also spoken it in your podcast—I recommend that you make a new redirect and point both the new and old redirects to the correct location (and take this chance to ensure they're both 307 or 302 temporary redirects!).

Alternatively, you could actually point one redirect to the other. So instead of always having to change the destination for multiple redirects, you only change the last one. But just don't get crazy with this! I recommend making no more than 2 layers of a redirect. So that could look like this:

“/patreon” (original URL) ➜ “/support” new URL ➜ “final” destination

I put “final” in quotation marks, because it's possible even that URL gets redirected, as happens with many affiliate URLs that bounce through multiple trackers before landing on the actual final destination.

Caution #5: Correcting URLs you said in old episodes is practically impossible

If you do rename a redirect, like switching from “/patreon” to “/support,” don't even think about editing the audio or video with all your past calls to action!

This is why it's important to get it right in the first place and make a future-friendly generic URL you can change whenever you want without breaking past calls to action.

But if you didn't plan ahead like that (and I've made that mistake countless times, too!), make sure all your old calls to action still work. That could be either with a redirect, or a note and the correct link on the resulting destination. So even if you said a “patreon.com” URL in your podcast, you might be able to leave that page up but with a prominent note that your support options have moved and with a link to that new location. (But make sure that link is also a redirect, in case you ever change things again!)

Caution #6: Reusing things you redirected from is a bad idea (my 2024 redirect mistake)

I need to illustrate this point with a story from my own recent mistake.

Several years ago, Blubrry launched Podcast Mirror, a free and much better podcast-focused alternative to FeedBurner.

But with all the features coming from Podcasting 2.0, and the dragging feet of many outdated podcasting tools and hosting providers, Blubrry decided to add more features to Podcast Mirror, which could let you add Podcasting 2.0 features to a feed that didn't already have them. Just like how Feedburner could be used to turn a normal blog feed into a valid podcast feed. (Funny side note: I was actually thinking of launching my own service like this as soon as I learned about Podcasting 2.0, and I even registered a great domain for it, but I never got around to building that product.)

These upgrades were great, but it also meant that Blubrry would stop offering a basic Podcast Mirror service for free—not even their plain feed mirror service. This upgrade to Podcast Mirror went into effect during my few-month podcast hiatus while I doubled down on launching Podgagement in the second half of 2023. So when I published a new episode in January 2024—NEWSFLASH—my feed wouldn't update anymore because I hadn't upgraded to a paid Podcast Mirror subscription! (To be blunt, I think this was a horrible betrayal of trust from Blubrry. But at least all podcasters could easily redirect away from Podcast Mirror.)

Having a tight cashflow, I decided to redirect my Podcast Mirror feed to a FeedBurner feed—doing nothing but simply mirroring or “proxying” my feed for performance reasons. But I very quickly discovered that FeedBurner no longer offers a ping service or a manual refresh button, leaving me with no way to trigger an update of my RSS feed. Consequently, my episodes were not going out to podcast apps for several hours!

Crazy me—I decided to try building my own feed proxy service. But after more than 4 hours into it, I realized I'd wasted more time (and “time is money”) trying to “DIY” it and thus lost more potential income than if I'd just paid the reasonable yearly fee Blubrry now charges for Podcast Mirror!

So I emailed Blubrry on my digital hands and knees, begging them to take me back. We worked out a deal and I'm back on Podcast Mirror now. Hooray!

But here was my big mistake: I insisted on having my original feed URL again.

Why was that bad? Because here's what the 301 permanent redirects looked like:

Podcast Mirror ➜ FeedBurner ➜ Podcast Mirror (same URL).

Do you see the problem? If anything had cached Podcast Mirror's 301 redirect on my feed, it would enter what's called a “redirect loop.” I suspect that is why I saw a big drop in downloads per episode after I changed the redirect. (And this was in February 2024, so it had nothing to do with the over-hyped iOS 17 update!)

I actually made it even a little worse by momentarily redirecting to my PowerPress feed—but a URL that bypasses any redirects from PowerPress. And this made it difficult to actually re-redirect when I wanted to!

In all of this, my feed URL didn't actually matter. Do you even know what my podcast feed URL is? I could have easily added a “2” or “-audio” or anything else to the URL when I rejoined Podcast Mirror and it would have been fine.

So the moral of this long story is that if you ever think you should redirect back to something that was already 301-permanently redirecting, DON'T! Instead, make a new URL as your final destination.

Quick resources for making redirects

I want to end this with a couple of tips for making redirects that won't cause problems in the future.

301 permanent versus 307/302 temporary

With these cautions in mind, my general advice is to choose 307 (or 302) temporary redirects for any destination you don't control. Start with affiliate links, your donation or membership page, your online community, and such.

And for any destination you do control, or you are absolutely certain will not change in the foreseeable future, you can use a 301 permanent redirect.

WordPress plugins for making redirects

If you're looking to make redirects on WordPress, my favorite plugins are Pretty Links Pro and Redirection. I actually use both of them!

Pretty Links Pro (paid) is much easier to use and has a lot of helpful feature, like automatic keyword-linking, shorter link-creation workflows for pages and posts, smart redirects, and more.

The Redirection plugin (free) is more advanced, even allowing regular expressions. And, maybe the handiest feature here, is that you can enable it to monitor your pages and posts to redirect any of those URLs you change. For example, many of my old episode webpages still include the “tap###” code I used to use in my titles. I've already removed those from the titles, but if I change those URLs, the Redirection plugin would automatically redirect that webpage's old URL to the new one.

Other ways to make redirects

If you're not using WordPress, or you want to manage your redirects away from WordPress, look at what your domain or website tools offer, or consider Cloudflare's options.

Some podcast-hosting providers or easier website-builders (such as Podpage) offer their own redirects you can create and manage within your dashboard. This would work from only the domain you set to work with that website.

The options from your domain registrar, your hosting provider, or Cloudflare generally all work before loading anything from your website. So the redirects might continue to function even if your website is down. And these can work without any website at all.

Lastly, there are plenty of third-party URL-shorteners and redirect tools you can use, but some might charge if you want to customize the URL or use your own domain. And even if you can use your own domain, it usually has to be a subdomain or a completely different domain from your normal website.

Please click here to learn more about redirects and how to use them!

Community corner

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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
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