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We recently re-wrote our site from Umbraco to WordPress. This has been done by third-party developers. I have been the project manager and it is my mistake that I haven't notice the change of URLs that affect SEO until now. New site was launch last Thursday.

The old URL for a "place" (a WordPress custom post type, in case you're WordPress expert and want/ need to point me to another discussion on WP Stackexchange) page is as follows:

ourdomain.com/singapore/central/alexandra/an-interesting-place

Now it has been changed to

ourdomain.com/places/an-interesting-place

I have already requested the third-party developers to work rewriting the URLs to emulate the old URL structure. However, it's taking quite a lot of time (we have multiple custom post types e.g. events etc. so it might be complicated; the developers seem quite by blur when I first mentioned rewriting URLs for the custom post types)

In the meantime, I wonder if there is a quicker work around for this

1) Use .htaccess to rewrite

ourdomain.com/singapore/central/alexandra/an-interesting-place

to

ourdomain.com/places/an-interesting-place

This should avoid 90% loss of the search traffic. I suppose I can learn how to do this quite quickly but no harm mentioning it here

2) Use rel="canonical" to indicate that

ourdomain.com/places/an-interesting-place

is the exact duplicate of

ourdomain.com/singapore/central/alexandra/an-interesting-place

I will definitely go for both approaches (and also I'm changing 404 page to cater for this temporary isue) but I wonder if 2) is even feasible and if I have missed anything.

Is there anything else you could recommend me in this situation.

Let me know if my question is not clear anywhere.

Clarifications

The old website is on a Windows Server EC2 completely separated from the Linux EC2 instance on which the new site is running. In addition, the same domain "ourdomain.com" is used here (an A record is used to point to an EC2 Elastic IP).

Therefore, the old server is completely inaccessible at the moment, unless you we use the IP address to old server (which doesn't help me at all in this case). Even if the old server is accessible, I can't see where one can put the .htaccess or a HTML file to do 301 redirect here.

Unless I'm successful with my approach 1) or the developers can rewrite the URLs with coding, 404 page is really a choice for me.

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I don't see what the problem would be with an .htaccess file in your web-root, redirecting old requests to new ones. You do not need your old server for that. –  pritaeas Jul 30 '12 at 14:12
    
Yep, I'm reading about .htaccess to do my approach 1) looks like that's the best solution (and logically not so difficult :)) –  Eric Nguyen Jul 30 '12 at 14:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You should not use 404 errors on that page but you have to redirect that page from old URL to new URL. 301 redirecting is great way to make this possible. I hope you will get solution and get all traffic through past URL.

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Thanks but 404 is not really a choice for me unless I'm successul with my approach 1) or the URls are rewritten with code. 301 redirection is simply not applicable here, unfortunately, thanks, anyway :) –  Eric Nguyen Jul 30 '12 at 13:58
1  
@ Eric At the risk of telling you what you already know, you can put the HTTP redirect code INTO the code. (.NET example: stackoverflow.com/questions/9594212/…) This means, you can create new pages for the missing URL's, and just have temporary redirects (of course, this matters greatly on the site of the website) –  Dave Jul 30 '12 at 14:16
    
Maintaining 1 root directory + .htaccess to redirect people works perfectly fine for me, thanks @DaveRook –  Eric Nguyen Dec 11 '12 at 7:50

There is a detailed explanation by Google that shows how to properly move pages from one location to another with minimal loss to your SERP rankings.

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=83105

In your case it is most important to make the old pages return HTTP 301 redirects to the new locations, again explained by Google in their webmasters support:

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=93633

Ideally you should have done it this way during day one of the transition, since you didn't, you can expect your SERP rankings to suffer (a lot) and the new pages will take a long time to regain the lost rank they had at their old URLs.

The basic principle behind this is an article from 1998 by Tim Berners Lee, http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI.html - "Cool URIs don't change"

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Hi Evgeny, thanks for the answer. However, this is the not the case of changing domains so the the Google Webmaster page and 301 redirection won't help me unfortunately. As mentioned in my clarifications, the old site is a different server as well –  Eric Nguyen Jul 30 '12 at 14:18
1  
@EricNguyen search engines really do not care about domains, they care about unique URLs. So any changes to URLs affect your SEO, and those pages explain exactly how to minimize the damage you have done to the minimum. –  Evgeny Jul 30 '12 at 17:54

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