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We will soon be launching a complete overhaul of our entire website. The only major concern is that we have a large archive of content that search engines find very rich, through which we get great search ranking. So we obviously need to maintain the URLs for these content rich pages, and maintain the content on those pages.

But my question is if the URL needs to stay the same, or if we can simply 301 permanent redirect to a new more appropriate URL?

So if Google has indexed http://mysite.com/ugly/long/url/1234, which currently returns a 200 OK response. If this suddenly returns a 301 Permanent Redirect to http://mysite.com/articles/1234 when we launch our overhaul, will that hurt our search ranking? Or do we need to keep returning a 200 OK for search engine crawlers to be happy.

As I understand it, this is exactly the intended use for HTTP 301. I just don't know that search engines respect it, and screwing this up could have a gigantic negative impact on us, so i really want to be sure.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Search engines respect 301 redirect and it is the most search engine friendly thing you can do in this case. It will tell them the content has moved, to stop indexing the old URL, start indexing the new URL and associate all of the links the old URL had with the new URL. That last part is key as those links hold a lot of SEO value and by not doing the 301 redirect you would lose them and essentially be starting over seo-wise.

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