One of the objectives of our recent site relaunch was to maintain the inbound links into the old site, mapping them to the new site via 301 redirects. I know from my days as a retailer the critical importance of inbound links, both for visitor traffic and for SEO ranking. This was the first time I worked closely on a URL migration, and wanted to share some things we learned in the process:
- Identify all of the pages on your old site up front. It was easier for us than many sites because our site is small.
- Find all of the links on the pages. Make sure that you haven’t missed anything. We didn’t do this, and missed a handful of files, mostly small applets. It turned out these were fairly popular. We even got emails from folks asking where they went.
- Don’t forget the images. You may want to do spring cleaning when you move to the new site, but finding and moving missing images after the fact is painful.
- Keep a copy of the old site available. It’s been a valuable resource. It’s fine to have it behind the firewall after the move to the new site.
- Start testing internal site links as soon as possible. We use an internal self-spidering script and Apache logfile scraping to find missing links referenced from our new pages.
- Watch for external broken links. The Google Analytics and Google Web Master Central 404 reports were a great way to find content that hadn’t been moved or re-mapped.
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to do it right.
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