Properly handling a shift from an old website to a new website
In a case where a new web site is replacing an old web site with a new one, there is often the situation where the URLs (web page addresses) in the new site will be structured quite differently from the old site.
e.g. web site page addresses from the old site might look something like this :
However in the new web site the page address might be structured something like this :
2/ http://www. yourwebsite.co.nz/red-widget/
If this situation is not handled properly, you the website owner might suffer some losses due to a decrease in traffic to your website.
The problem here is that Google has diligently indexed all your pages over the years as of type 1/ http://www.yourwebsite.co.nz/my+product/red+widget.html Then your new web site goes live with the addresses as in 2/ http://www. yourwebsite.co.nz/red-widget/. Google will not automatically know that there has been a change of address! Both Google and website visitors will see a ‘404 page not found’ when visiting the old pages addresses that still exist in Google.
As these are empty pages, Google will consider them to be of no value. Worse still, it will form the opinion that there are lots of empty pages on your site and this will have an effect on your search engine positioning. Eventually Google will pick up the new page addresses, but the delay can be significant and usually it takes some time for the new pages to rise up in Google results.
Making sure the page addresses are handled properly
Duplicate the existing page addresses?
If the existing page address is”url friendly”, it is sometimes possible to configure the new website to have the exact same page addresses. i.e. if page name 1/ above is http://www.yourwebsite.co.nz/my+product/red+widget.html its possible to mimic that structure on the new website. This would make the whole process seamless and Google positioning would not be affected.
However, if an existing site is quite old, it often has URLs that cannot be recreated in the new site. At the same time, even if it were possible to mimic them, it may not be desirable to do so. It is very unusual to see a new site with an address like 2/ above. i.e. containing a “+” or other symbols. Slashes and dashes at most is what is commonly expected.
301 redirects – The best approach
The remaining method is 301 redirects which is the recommended method to properly handle the situation.
Special entries are made into an .HTACCESS document. This doc is then uploaded to your website.This document tells Google to drop the old page address from its index, and then add the new one in its place. i.e. http://www.yourwebsite.co.nz/my+product/red+widget.html will be replaced with http://www.yourwebsite.co.nz/red-widget/ . An individual mapping for each page. At the same time, if someone clicks on an old search engine URL listing, they will be redirected to the new page. The same applies if someone clicks on a bookmark/favourite with an old address.
Even though the above approach is recommended by Google, there may still be a period of a couple of weeks where your Google results may not appear as expected. However, after this period has passed, your search engine positioning should be roughly the same as it was before the shift. Or even better if you undertake some ongoing strategies of adding content to your web site on a regular basis.
Conclusion – ensure your web designer properly handles the transition
If you are having a web site built to replace an old web site, ensure that your web designer is correctly handling the matter of old page addresses in Google. It’s an essential step and will potentially save you from an income loss created by your web site disappearing from Google search results.