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I'm in the process of move a website for a client, utilizing a new theme. Usually this is straightforward enough but some of the base category URLs they use are mess and they would also like to be able to change some of the names of those categories also.

I know fixing/changing these URLs can be accomplished using a 301 rewrite but I am wondering if there is a possibility of any issues arising from doing so.

The client is overly anxious about broken links and loss of ranking and I want to put my own mind at peace about the changes (granted I know that modifying URLs may affect ranking).

Also part of the change will be setting the site with a prefix of www - I'm assuming the same concerns apply.

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problems may arise and it'd help us if you show us the .htaccess current and after – Simon Hayter Feb 17 '13 at 17:42
Once I have the latter worked up I will post them. – Anthony Feb 17 '13 at 17:47

Most of the problems that can arise happen when the implementation has bugs. I've seen plenty of bugs that cause SEO issues.

  • Circular redirects
  • Missed files that go 404 rather than redirecting
  • Syntax errors in htaccess that cause 500 server errors
  • noindex tags applied to far more pages than intended
  • Coding errors that cause nearly blank pages to render to Googlebot

Really there is no end to what can go wrong.

When implemented correctly, url changes that you are proposing should be very painless from an SEO perspective. I would recommend lots of QA on this type of change. Make sure you have a list of urls that will change. Hit them with a crawler (like curl) to make sure their status is correct and the redirect location is what you expect.

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Is there somewhere I can post the contents of the files? I assume I can't simply post them in my question? – Anthony Feb 18 '13 at 10:24

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