Importance of Using Redirects for New Sites

When businesses and individuals decide to give their website a facelift their main agenda is having a new site that looks well designed, give a professional feel and is easily manageable with a CMS (content management system).

That is all good and well but what happens to the old site once the shiney new one is up and running and how will it impact hits and leads that are generated.

Managing the transition should carefully planned out with consideration of your current standings within search engines, how your site is portrayed on search engines play a factor in the amount of traffic you site receives.

Looking at the web analytics statistics of the many businesses that Wiliam has worked with, most sites receive approximately 50-65% of their traffic from search engines, so it is very important that traffic does not take a major turn for the worse when switching on the new site.

Consider the following situation:

Currently you have a page that ranks well for the term "facebook applications" then the site goes through a big update where a new and better site is in place and the page URL of the facebook applications page is now

If nothing is done the previous page will eventually drop out of the index of search engines and all traffic generated from that keyword previously will be lost.
To top it all off all the SEO done to have that page ranking so high will be all undone and the new page will start from scratch again.

This is where setting up redirects comes into play

Redirects come in 2 main flavours differentiated by numeric HTTP status code returned by the server for a URL:

  1. 301 - Indicating that the page has been permanently moved to the new URL defined
  2. 302 - Indicating that the page has been temporarily moved to the new URL defined


Given the above situation the idea solution to not drop out search rankings for "facebook applications" is to apply a 301 redirect to point to the new page. Applying a 301 not only tells search engines and users where to go to find the new page but also passes on the PageRank, a Google measurement of the importance of a page not to be confused with search engine page ranking, that is a determining factor to how a page ranks for search terms.

Using 302 for redirects is usually avoided for SEO purposes as each search engine treats 302's differently depending on the destination domain. I have seen in some cases where sites have chosen to 302 redirect a majority of the pages from their old site to the homepage of the new site (under the same domain) and end up with hundreds of pages indexed in Google with different titles and descriptions pointing to the one page.

So before switching over to a new site think about doing the following:

  1. Take a look over all the pages content of your existing site

    I find using a sitemap tool to generate a list of URLs on a domain very handy for locating pages. A handy sitemap tool can be found here

  2. Try and find the equivalent page on the new site

    Locating a new equivalent give the new page a fighting chance to maintain the rank that the old page had for it keywords. If a previous page about facebook applications was pointed to a new page about content management systems then it is unlikely that the new page will rank for search term “facebook applications”.

  3. Apply a 301 redirect for the old pages to the new equivalent and if there is none point it to the homepage

    Using this as a last resort if an equivalent cannot be found, at least the PageRank is passed on. I’ve mainly seen this used for old article pages originating a few years back where the new site chooses not to display it, however care should be taken as some old articles still generate a lot of interest and can be worth considering making a new page on the new site about it to redirect to.