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I have built a new website to replace a client's existing company website on the same URL. The content is entirely different, and none of the page links are the same.

Do I have any issues to worry about in terms of SEO?

I'm thinking particularly whether broken links from other sites to old pages might affect ranking for the new site?

I believe I need to set up a 301 redirect to forward broken links to the new site home page – is this all I need to do?

Any help or pointers appreciated.

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2 Answers

If you can, it's a better idea to put the redirects from the old urls to their new equivalent. For any other pages that have no new equivalent or are being discarded, you can either leave those to be 404, or redirect those to the home page.

It's also a good idea to have a custom 404 page for the new version of the site that contains a simplified site map, so that visitors can find their way around when they inevitably do hit a 404.

My experience has been that within a week or so, Google reindexes the new content and the old Urls drop out of search results pretty quickly.

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Thanks – I just hope that dropping 95% of the content from the old site and starting afresh won't have too big an effect on ranking! It really was bloated poor quality content anyway, but Google may not know that. –  jasonbradberry Oct 9 '13 at 11:23
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From Google's perspective, redirecting URLs to the home page isn't much different than having them return a 404 status. When a URL redirect to the home page, Google calls it "soft 404" error.

If you completely replace a site, Google will likely stop sending any traffic to the site for a while and the site will have to start over as far many trust metrics go. It would be advantageous to keep as much content from the old site as possible. Otherwise, Google might just assume that the site was thrown away and is now under new, less reputable, ownership.

There should be some pages that are common between the two sites. For example, most company sites have a "contact us" page. You might also have pages on both the old and new sites for things like

  • privacy policy
  • about the company
  • terms of service
  • business hours

At the very least, use 301 redirects to get visitors from the old URLs to the new in those cases.

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Thanks for the advice. I'll set up 301 redirects to relevant pages, but the old site had so much un-necessary content that there'll only really be a few pages worth doing this for. The rest I'll redirect to the home page I think. –  jasonbradberry Oct 9 '13 at 11:22
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