We are doing a redesign as well. I don't have an answer regarding your questions, but I am curious about how you are dealing with the changing URLs issue itself in relation to URLs printed in publications, signage, etc. I'd love to chat about your approach if this is a concern for you.
I can offer some feedback about your question, though, now that I think of it. If you do going to redirect route, make sure you use the proper redirect which passes SEO credit along.
I found this article useful:
Thanks for your response. For any urls we've used in publications or other such purposes we are just copying the page with the old file structure with a redirect to the new page. This might be what we also do for our other higher ranking pages in google, but I don't want to do that unless it is entirely necessary!
Thanks for the article. For the redirects we do decided to do, we will definitely use 301 redirects!
Good luck to you!
Have you considered an updated XML sitemap?
This is how we approached a similar issue during our last redesign. On a completely unrelated note...do you happen to be from Toledo? I think we may have some Whitmer friends in common ;)
Thanks for this. XML is an option. Not sure what we'll do at this point.
And YES, I am from Toledo and went to Whitmer! Small world!
Hi, Jen. We went through a redesign by a vendor a couple of years ago that did not go well. One of the problems was that the URL structure changed completely. As a result, we not only lost rankings, but search results linked to the old URLs and so searchers clicking on them got 404 errors. It took weeks, if not months, to get our pages back in the index. We're working with a new company now and made sure that SEO and URL forwarding were included in the RFP.
Good to know and thanks for the warning!
At a minimum I would create 301's for the top 100 pages on your site - preferably all pages. Without 301's your Google Webmaster Tools 404 report is going to be a huge mess instead of an aid. Take a look at your analytics for last month for referring URLs that didn't get sent to your homepage - now consider all of those will be 404's if you don't 301. And finally, yes you want to pass on the pagerank juice that all your existing pages have acquired.
We did this in April 2010 and only suffered 2 weeks of minor drop in traffic but I had written hundreds of 301's before I made the new site live.
Brad - wish I would have known this 1 1/2 years ago when we did our redesign. They saddled us with an inexperienced server admin, also, so I had no help. But we got through it and our rank looks good - still catching up on getting pages re-indexed.
Thanks for this and the suggestion!
So I would have to recreate the url by copying the file structure into our new site organization, correct? And then put a 301 redirect on each? Does it have to stay there for a certain amount of time? We are trying to clean up our architecture so having all these pages copied into the new structure is going to be messy but worth it to save our rankings.