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.