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I am in the process of rebuilding a site from static pages to a CMS which will be using mod_rewrite to generate new page URLs. In this process our marketing people and myself have decided to tidy up the descriptions, keywords and titles.

Eg: a page which who's URL is currently "website-name/about_us.html" and has a title of "website-name - something not quite page specific" will change to "website-name/about-us/" and title: "about us - website-name" and may have a few keywords and the description changed.

Our goal with updating the meta data is to improve our page rankings and try to keep in line with some best practices for SEO. Though our current page rankings are quite good in many aspects, there is room for improvement.

All of the pages will also have content changes (like rearranging heading tags, new menu on all pages, new content in footer, extra pieces of dynamic content relating to other pages).

In this new site process I plan to use 301 redirects for all the old URLs pointing to the new URLs.

My question is what can I expect to happen to the page rankings in Google, in the sort term and long term?

Will this be like kicking off a new site which will have to build up trust over time or will the original page rankings have affect?

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My advice is to record all requests that return 404 and review the after a while in case you missed a URL(this will be helpful for the first few months of the new website running). –  Ilian Iliev Dec 11 '10 at 12:52
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1 Answer 1

Sounds like you're doing exactly what Matt Cutts of Google recommends including the 301 redirects. Only thing I'd add to that is to create a sitemap that pings Google, which will help it keep inventory of your new links alongside your redirects.

Settings up Google Webmaster Tools for your website in general is a good idea to keep track of your sitemaps (ensure they're working and getting successfully processed). You can also increase Googlebot's crawl rate after the switch.

But really, 301 redirects are already gold. I run a large message board and dramatically changed the URLs. I had 301 redirects + a sitemap system in place and I didn't even notice so much as a skip in Google's reindexing. Google clearly knows what you're doing and as long as it can successfully connect oldlink-->newlink, the transition will be painless.

My forum is crawled very heavily and the new URL index was live on Google within 24 hours.

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Thanks for your response. That is the most positive sounding so far (I have heard from other people that I should expect long delays of page rankings dropping off before slowly returning) Does anyone have any other experiences with page rankings? –  Chris J Dec 13 '10 at 2:09
    
Also the site does currently use a site map which I can see indexed in Webmastertools. This will be updated with new URLs when the new site launches (managed dynamically by the CMS) –  Chris J Dec 13 '10 at 2:13
    
Page rankings shouldn't be affected. When Googlebot crawls your website and finds 301 redirects, it recognizes it as the same page. Its suspicion is further validated in that your entire site is going through a redirect URL change. It'll pick this up just fine. –  Dobry Den Dec 19 '10 at 2:44
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