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Our site have around 2.1M pages indexed at Google. We made a change to the URL for the indexed pages, for managing international changes, that reflects change in almost all indexed pages. When the new version has gone live, GoogleBot keeps crawling old pages despite the fact that we have removed the old sitemaps. We have kept the old pages too live, now confused of choosing which strategy to make sure it does not hurt SEO.

The pages can be redirected to new location. What should we do in this situation, that would not affect SEO? Redirect to new page or return HTTP 410 and wait Google to index pages or just return 404?

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submit new pages to Google's search index and then use the fetch as google tool in the Search Console. As for the old pages,you can redirect and point users to the new page. It might take time for Google to update its database so old pages might still be seen in SERPs.

There will be some changes during the redirection, but if you are assigning the proper canonical tags for the old and new page and if proper redirection are also applied, then it should be back on track.

  • Canonical tags are reserved for amp I guess. Is there any advantages for 301 against 4xx? – Marty Mar 21 '18 at 6:38
  • 301 is a way of telling Google that this page has been moved to this particular page. With 404, it's telling Google that this page has been removed from your site. So, to retain the link juice and potential traffic, I think it's better using 301. – BryrDe Mar 21 '18 at 7:56
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First of all, having new URLs in the sitemap does not guarantee them to be indexed.

It will take some time before Google can process a sitemap that you have submitted. Note that Google can't promise to crawl or index every URL in your sitemap because we rely on complex algorithms to make crawling decisions.

That explains why you are still seeing the old pages indexed.

In my experience 301 redirect works as a charm for deindexing URLs and avoiding a bad user experience. It's faster than 4XX errors and prevents workflow problems since the first moment.

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    Without 301 redirects they are risking all of their existing SEO. When moving pages you have to redirect pages to their new location if you want to preserve existing rankings. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 21 '18 at 10:14
  • "That explains why you are still seeing the old pages indexed." - coupled with the fact that "we have kept the old pages too live", which is going to result in duplicate content (unless redirected) and is going to further hamper the new URLs being indexed. – MrWhite Mar 21 '18 at 12:24
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It's far better to 301 redirect old pages to their new URL whenever possible. These pages will retain their Google indexing, page authority and link juice with the 301.

By using a 410 gone, these pages will all be deindexed, lose all of your link juice as well as the page authority.

I also personally believe that using a lot of 410 statuses could hurt your rankings, as Google has shown that it wants to index websites that it knows will be there in the future. Google doesn't want to index pages that it thinks will disappear in the future, as it risks sending users to pages that don't exist and that is a bad user experience for its customers.

I would 301 redirect the pages to the new URLs. If that is not possible, I would 301 redirect the pages to the homepage to retain link juice and page authority.

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