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General Search Engine Marketing Issues Forum

Thinking long term
changing pages that are already indexed

 4:51 am on May 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

hi again

the advice seems to be that changing things like page names (URLs) and site structure (navigation) is hazardous with regard to search engine results if your pages are already indexed; but what about the long term affect?

We dont rely much on search engine results, but i can see that there are some fundamental changes that could be made to our site that could produce better SE results. The pages already indexed are old, and not 'optimised'. I'd like to optimise them, to the best of my ability, and perhaps lose good SE results in the short-term (tomorrow), but achieve better results down the track (6 months?).

For example, id like to change the navigation structure, aswell as some page names that arent keyword focused. I would in effect be creating some 'dead' links, but i assume these would only be short-term until my site is re-indexed?

Thinking 'long-term', would these changes be better for my site? Or would they effectively kill off the importance placed on my site by SEs for an indeterminable amount of time?

I'd appreciate your thoughts :)



 7:31 am on May 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

go for it dude.

a couple of suggestions: leave all the current pages as they are except add a redirect to the new page you are replacing it with. I do this with meta refresh zero, but others suggest a permanent redirect. By doing this, the previously established content is still there, it's just sending traffic to a page that is hopefully more relevant with the modifications, and which will end up ranked higher.

this can be a mess with a large site and once the new pages are getting traffic you may want to go back and pull the old pages to tidy up the site.


 9:46 am on May 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi sniffer,

I would do as neuron said, use 301 permanent redirect to let the SE bots that your page has been permanently moved elsewhere.

Google is really quick at picking up 301's, but it's a different story [webmasterworld.com] for Yahoo and co. (Msg #3 from Tim which is the Yahoo! official here on WebmasterWorld).

Depending on the existing extension of your pages you have two solutions:

  • use the htaccess and 301 PermanentRedirect to redirect the pages : [webmasterworld.com...]
  • if your pages are PHP you can google for php 301 redirect google safe [google.com]. Worked for me.

    Hope this helps,


  • claus

     12:40 pm on May 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Sniffer, if you think a new structure is better for your human users, and it makes it easier for the SE's to figure out what your pages are about as well, then i would do it.

    In fact i'm doing just that for a six-year old site right now, and it's not the first time, although the task becomes greater for each time - this time it's affecting almost the whole site which is a PITA but it's also the right thing to do, so i have to do it. It's a natural step in maintaining a site (ie. not just a collection of pages) as sites do develop, and their structure should reflect this.

    The only reason that i do this right now is because of the user benefit - my users will notice this immediately, while the SE's will be slow at recognizing the changes. Otherwise, if i had thought about SE's only, i might have hesitated, as:

    I have to tell you that right this moment both Google and Yahoo seems to have some problems in handling redirects properly. Also, Google has introduced some kind of a delay in the way it handles new pages and this definitely makes it more unattractive in the short term.

    I do these things:

    Ten step guide to re-organizing your site

    1) first, create the new directories and the content for them.
    2) upload it and correct the links on the site so that they point to the new URLs
    3) then create "page moved" pages for the old URL's instructing users to change bookmarks and links
    4) then setup 301 redirects in your .htaccess file from old -> new page URL
    5) then, upload the "page moved" pages
    6) observe SERP chaos (mainly wrong URLs) for a month or so, perhaps more
    7) note that your previously great PR pages are now white or low for a while
    8) remove the 301 redirects after a few months, so that your users will see the pages from (5) and hence get prompted to change their links
    9) make sure that the important SE's have shown the right URLs in the SERPS for some time before (8)
    10) Don't panic and redo stuff because of (6) and (7) - make a firm decision and stick to it

    You could omit steps (3), (5), and (8) but you will not be able to avoid (6) and (7). Step (10) is essential.

    Also, if you do (5) before (4) you will risk that some SERPS will show a "page moved" message for a long time (or whatever the title of your moved page-page is). The crawler could be visiting you just as you upload the pages. Right now, i do have #1 rankings for some keywords with a "page moved" page because i accidently did it the other way round for one directory on the site in question. (This will be corrected, however, as i now have the 301's in place. I expect a month or so with the wrong snippet+url in SERPS)

    You might find more info in this thread: Site Change of URL [webmasterworld.com] - i've written about a few different (closely related) issues there.


     2:41 pm on May 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I'm going to be doing this at the end of this year... I suggest making sure you do it all at one time... just get it over with.


     2:15 am on May 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

    thanks for you replies :)

    claus i read through that whole thread, and i think its interesting that a tutorial in the "dynamic" form of a forum/thread is twice as helpful as their static counterparts (some of my questions have already been answered and i havnt even asked them yet)

    anyway, cheers


     2:28 am on May 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Does anyone have any idea when Yahoo is likely to fix their problem with 301 redirects? Or when they are likely to update their index to get rid of out-of-date links?

    creative craig

     6:43 pm on May 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I went through a large change on a site at the begining of the year as well, I used 301s as I was updating the nav and also the URLs. Google loved it and the hits started to increase with in a couple of weeks :)


     12:09 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    My isp host s my site on a Windows server which does not allow htaccess. How do I do the url redirects with Windows?


     2:23 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Myth: you will loose ranking by changing your site.

    it is BEST to periodically change and add to your site, as this improves it and keeps it fresh. These are key elements for BOTH users and search engines.


     6:21 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Forgive me, but I thought redirecting pages caused search engines to penalize a site for spamming?


    [edited by: pageoneresults at 1:23 am (utc) on May 12, 2004]
    [edit reason] Turned off Email Notification [/edit]


     7:08 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I would add one point to the wonderful list from claus that you have a good 404 page which helps them to navigate their way to where they want.


     7:41 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Its important to update the content fresh...maintainting the rank of the page.

    [edited by: pageoneresults at 10:52 am (utc) on May 11, 2004]
    [edit reason] Removed URI Reference - Please refer to TOS [/edit]


     8:38 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)


    Easiest solution is to change providers NOW! Trust me, the day will come that you don't want to be on a windoze server anymore. Perhaps when the next worm comes around in a few weeks...

    Second, even for windoze there is Apache. And Apache allows .htaccess. So I have to conclude that your provider does not even use the most used web server software there is (i.e. Apache with now about 70 per cent market share) but some other software. Again, change providers NOW! Well, even other web servers have the possibility to somehow send raw headers.

    And if your ISP at least allows PHP on their servers it will be as easy as replacing your current pages with a script that outputs these two lines:
    header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");
    header("Location: [example.com...]

    And you're done! Oh, if your original pages weren't PHP to begin with you may need to convince your web server to treat whatever file extension they were as if they are PHP scripts.


    [edited by: pageoneresults at 10:52 am (utc) on May 11, 2004]
    [edit reason] Examplified URI [/edit]


     8:45 am on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)


    Generally correct. If you have a page stuffed with nice little keywords for a search engine to pick up and after getting to top rankings you introduce a redirect to get your site visitors to another page, that is spamming.

    But to let your site visitors (and search engines) know that a previously found here page has moved to over there is not only okay, but good practice. It stops people running into broken links and helps understand search engines that the page still exists, but has "Moved Permanently". No spamming.



     10:20 pm on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    >>redirect to get your site visitors to another page, that is spamming.

    I just saw some site that's had top rankings for years do that with a change in file naming one on one from .htm to .shtml. They're using meta-refresh and they've disappeared altogether from Google for all of those pages and the homepage. It's only a matter of time 'til Yahoo catches it as well.


     11:24 pm on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    How do I do the url redirects with Windows?

    You will need to have your host install a third party ISAPI filter. I recommend ISAPI_Rewrite.

    Once your host has installed the global files, they will then drop an httpd.ini file in your local root directory. That file will contain all the instructions for redirecting from old to new. The lines within that file might look like this...

    RewriteRule /old-page.asp http://www.example.com/new-page.asp [I,O,RP]

    P.S. Your host will need to be familiar with Regular Expressions as they will probably be the ones who need to do the rewrite for you. Or, you can always hire a third party who has experience with ISAPI filters and they can configure an ini for you which can then be uploaded to your root.


     11:44 pm on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

    >> 6) observe SERP chaos (mainly wrong URLs) for a month or so, perhaps more

    I don't know if it's just me that's lucky, but with Google i see these changes (301 redirects) picked up really fast at the moment. And done right too. I have seen the URL being changed in SERPS in less than five days.

    Still, it's not a general rule. I think it will take longer time for very deep pages or low PR pages (pages that are not so often spidered).


     12:04 am on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

    To the person that said 'MYTH'....

    I just changed a site around the lazy way. I removed the links from the homepage and put them on a page one click away from home.

    No redirects or anything wise mentioned in this thread.

    I then lost 2500 pages from that site in the google index.

    I guess I now believe in myths.


     10:52 am on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

    i asked my host about 301 redirects, and they replied saying they "do not support customer error documents via IIS"

    what does that mean? i read through that thread... am i missing something? Asking the wrong thing?


     3:12 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Sniffer, Girish: Welcome to WW.

    i asked my host about 301 redirects, and they replied saying they "do not support customer error documents via IIS"

    what does that mean? i read through that thread... am i missing something? Asking the wrong thing?

    Sniffer, you are asking the right thing, your host seems to be missing a clue or two.

    Search WW
    [webmasterworld.com] for "301 redirect IIS" and you will find a lot of information here.

    Sniffer & Girish
    If your host is unable/unwilling to do this (redirects) for you, you could use an ASP script similar to the one posted in msg 2 of this thread. [webmasterworld.com] Or you could consider moving your site to a more helpful host. HTH



     5:41 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

    We use asp and aspx for our pages, here's the 301 code we use:


    <%@ Language=VBScript %>
    Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently"
    Response.AddHeader "Location", "http://www.sitename.com/page.asp"


    <%@Page Language="C#" Debug="True"%>
    <%@Import Namespace="System.Xml"%>

    <script runat="server">
    private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
    Response.Status = "301 Moved Permanently";

    Hope it helps


     10:09 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

    About 5 months ago I changed all the extensions on my site from .php to .html I used a program that comes with my hosting service to redirect users (CPanel). Currently google has indexed all the new pages, but AOL, Yahoo, and MSN still have the old ones. Recently, yahoo has began listing the old page and the new page near each other in RP for certain searches. I Dont mind that a bit!


     12:35 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I recently completely changed my site structure at [snip], and am in fact continually updating sections of my websites to become more SE friendly, using mod_rewrite. (time consuming though!)
    - Example of old URL: www.******-*****.com/?p=********&cat=2 (&start=20)
    - Example of new URL: www.******-*****.com/**-*********/*_*****[/url] (/2)
    I'm using a PHP 301 redirect to prevent pages dropping out of the SE indexes (try the old URL above).
    Google picked all new pages up in just 2 weeks, excellent!
    Other example is my search engine site, www.******-*****.com/*****/*******.htm -- Google seems to love .htm extensions! That site also has all 'static' pages, from the outside anyway..
    Never forget a 301 redirect -- I had numerous pages dropped from Google by not redirecting to the new location.
    At all times, be sure that everything is working alright & fully tested before you show the new page locations to the public (and to the SE)!
    Finally, if you delete pages, use the 410 header ("Gone"), or the "404" header ("Not Found"), to keep search engines clean and happy, and redirect to another page so you don't lose any traffic/visitors.

    [edited by: pageoneresults at 12:55 am (utc) on May 13, 2004]
    [edit reason] Removed URI Specifics - Please Refer to TOS [/edit]


     12:57 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

    clog u supported using the redirects to change the sites but what about the SEs guidelines stating that don not submit URL that is redirecting to some other page. is it not a voilation of guidelines, which could result in banning the site.

    please clear my doubt.


    troels nybo nielsen

     11:15 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Not sure that I understand your problem correctly, Navdeep, but if I do the solution is simple: Don't submit that URL. There is seldom any good reason to submit a URL to a search engine. Generally it is much better to let the search engines find those URL's themselves.


     11:18 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

    >> SE guidelines

    Mozart is right. Redirecting is not against guidelines, only some special types of redirects are against the guidelines.

    Example 1:
    You have a good ranking page about apples. You redirect that page to another page that is really about "widget sales", but only if the visitor is not the Googlebot. So, people see an apple page in the SE listings, but the page they see when they click on the link is a widget sales page in stead. That is the type of redirects that the SE's don't like.

    Example 2:
    You still have a good ranking page about apples. You move that page from the section "food" to a new section about "fruit". It's the same page, it's just moved to another URL. That is not against any guidelines - it is perfectly okay with the SE guidelines to do that.

    Example 3:
    Your company changes name from "food-co" to "fruit-co". For that reason the website URL and name needs to be changed as well, so you move all your pages to the new domain and redirect from "food-co.com" to "fruit-co.com". That is also perfectly okay with the SE guidelines.


     4:23 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

    thanks claus for description.

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