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I operate a fairly large (45,000+ pages) ecommerce site that runs on an older ASP.NET 1.1 shopping cart that is a pain to administer and maintain but ranks really well. I'd like to upgrade to a .NET 3.5 cart (AbleCommerce) but I am really concerned about how that will effect my rankings.

My main questions:

  • Content will be the same, but HTML will change (much cleaner), but could this somehow affect rankings?

  • URL structure will be changing from a /ProductPage.aspx&Id=1234 format to a /product-name-and-relevant-keywords.aspx format which would require many 301 redirects. How many are too many and does a 301 automatically incur a loss in rank?

  • Do the potential benefits (better rankings, performance, ease of use) outweigh the potential losses (loss of rankings and/or my job)?

I'd also like to hear about any other things I should consider.

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In a way, you are moving to a new website. You are keeping the products, but basically changing almost everything else: the URLs, the internal linking, the HTML of the pages and the back-end (the cart software). It's impossible to say what the long term consequences might be without knowing the details, but if the new software makes it much easier for you to maintain your site, then that'll give you time to work out any quirks that might come up. This is a big move, so plan it very well and monitor each step to make sure that it works as planned. You will possibly see quite large fluctuations in indexing and ranking, so be sure that you are able to "swallow" them (pick a slow season, have some ads budget available, etc.).

  • Changes in content and internal linking will affect your rankings, at least in the short term.
  • Don't worry about "too many redirects" for the whole site, but make sure that you only have to do one per URL (don't redirect in multiple steps). Make sure the redirects (old URLs) are not disallowed via robots.txt and test them via Google's Webmaster Tools. Also test all URLs to make sure they redirect (crawl the old site with a tool like Xenu, then check all of those URLs once you have the redirects set up). Yes, this is a bit of work :), but it's better to be certain about this. Keep in mind that as the redirects are being found, your site's structure will be "rediscovered" like a new site would be, so this is definitely something that will affect crawling, indexing and ranking for a while. Set up Sitemap files for old & new URLs and monitor your progress in Webmaster Tools. Be very, very patient.
  • Advantages vs disadvantages ... that's something you need to determine yourself. A site move like this is a big move, at the very least you need to plan each step and set expectations properly.

Being able to clearly monitor the progress (via Analytics and indexed URL count) will help you to stay calm during the move. At any rate, try not to do anything drastic should things take a bit longer -- if you did your homework and the technical side was properly planned & tested before the move, then at worst you'll have to wait a bit longer than expected.

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  1. If the content is the same then changing HTML will make no difference to rankings, although you may get a tiny boost from better page speed.

  2. Generally, having a lot of 301 redirects isn't a huge problem but with 45,000 pages you should be careful to not make any mistakes! Make sure you are consistent; in your case you will have a one-to-one mapping of URLs.

  3. You may see a drop at first while the search engines are working things out (particularly in Bing/Yahoo rather than Google). But yes, the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks.

I would highly recommend stretching out the changeover period over several months. Start with a subset of URLs if possible, say 1000, and see what effect it has. Do those pages gain rankings and visitors? Then continue in that vein, leaving your highest-ranking pages until last.

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