Launching a site redesign can be an incredibly complex process. Between choosing a CMS, migrating content and developing a new visual design there are a few important things that can get lost in the transition.
One piece that can slip through the cracks is the redirection of the old pages. If pages from the old site are not redirected then you can be in for a nasty surprise after site launch. Your site traffic can see a big drop and it can be too late to catch up once the site is launched.
There are a few reasons that you'll want to redirect pages from the old site:
- Preserve search engine ranking
- Ensure that external links continue to function (and even internal links if you're not editing the migrated content)
- Maintain working links from search engine results pages (SERPs) - This is different from preserving search engine ranking as it refers to the pages that search engines lists on their results pages for certain search terms. Without the redirects search engines links will take the user to a missing page
- Keep bookmarks working for visitors that have used their browsers to bookmark your site.
What to redirect
Ideally you would want to redirect every page on your site. Realistically that may not be possible depending on resources and the size of a website. If you're working with less than 100 pages then you should probably be redirecting them all. If you've got 1,000+ pages then that task can become tougher.
At the very least you'll want to redirect your most visited pages, pages receiving a lot of traffic from external links and the pages that rank highest for your target keywords in search engines. This data can be found in your site analytics and Google's webmaster tools. The number of pages you'll redirect will be based on resources, but again, the more the better.
How to redirect
You'll want to use a 301 redirect for these pages. A 301 redirect is the most search engine friendly way to redirect a permanently moved page because it is most likely to maintain ranking. Search engines will interpret the 301 code to mean that the content for that page has moved permanently.
Redirecting a vast number of pages can be a headache but without taking the time to be thorough about your redirects your site launch could be a flop. Imagine hundreds of broken links and customers trying to access your pages through Google but being turned away by error pages. Your first couple of days after a new site launch should be spent celebrating and catching up on sleep, not scrambling to fix broken links.