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I recently created a whole new fitted system structure for a site previously running on Joomla 1.5 CMS. They wanted something more simple and elegant, and their back-end was a mess of modules and plugins and a lot of stuff didn't work.

Anyway, their link addresses were not nice too, like content/compontent/article/id or similar and worse, and I made a lot nicer structure content_type/category/id-article-name.

From the day when I launched the site, Google Webmaster Tools keeps coming with more and more 404 broken links, I assume from their indexes of previous page urls.

I don't want to affect their SEO. But I am not sure what to do. The site was built with Codeigniter.

Should I put all important old pages to htaccess file with 301 redirect to new ones?

They had a broken database too, somewhere along the line there primary key for content skipped few hundred digits, so their last article on old site was with id 1080, but they only had 230 articles. This was fixed with the new database and all articles have the correct id, so I can't build additional controllers to handle 301 because I urls are significantly changed. But I can't see adding hundreds of 301 redirect to htaccess file as an optimal solution.

Any suggestions? Thank you all

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2 Answers

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Sadly there is no way you can reassure your client that using 301's will not shift their rankings. 301's never return the same amount of Juice from the backlinks gained on the original page.. this is because the idea is every time you do a redirect the page gets weaker and weaker and Google do not want to encourage 301's as they can be abused for spamming reasons.

But with this said doesn't mean you shouldn't proceed as this could well improve the rankings in long term as well as making the pages more friendly for their customers. But to say otherwise would be bad advice.

Conditional Rewrites

You shouldn't need hundreds of entries within the htaccess as you should be able to use mod_rewrite using RewriteCond that redirects most on a single entry.

404's are Normal and Intended Error Messages

Also generally when people migrate from one site to another they try to patch every 404 since they lost pages like categories and just a general clean up of the unwanted pages. It's best not to try and remove every single 404.. Google has said 404's are completely normal and the status message 404 doesn't mean your site is broken. Only use 301's when you have a page about 404 page that contains data about cats to a new page that is also about cats....

Redirecting all pages to fix 404's is ok but as long as you are redirecting to a page that is originally about the first, Google has various patients that detects redirects and 301ing to retain PR on the page to another completely different could be picked up by their spam patent.

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I think Google webmaster tools can gives you a general idea about the important pages. Those are the ones with highest 404 hits.

My suggestion is to only redirect the important pages at the beginning. Then wait and evaluate the situation. Are you still getting 404 URLs? Is it significant? Do you have an equivalent content on the new website? You shouldn't go overzealous with 404s, in fact 404 are normal because web pages sometimes get removed if they are no longer needed so you don't have to redirect those that doesn't have equivalent on the new website.

I helped migrating a 12 years old static HTML website to a CMS. We had thousands of pages. Most of pages had equivalent. Part of the CMS was logging the 404 URLs so we kept monitoring and redirecting the important old pages to the new ones.

It's important also to submit a new sitemap to Google. Google will index the new pages and the problem will be the other websites linking to you. Hopefully with some redirects you will get that sorted

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