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The only thing the same is the domain name. All the sub URL's went from looking similar to /cat5/prod/105.cfm and now are written /category/****
We did a full redesign and full change to the urls. We submitted a sitemap on day 1 that was re-indexed in webmastertools every day since. All relevant pages are 301 directing to their new equivalent. All pages that no longer have a home are 404 directed to a page that say this page no longer exists and has a link to the new homepage. So far 260 pages have gone 404, up from 81 yesturday.
I see the beginning of the new pages starting to show up in site:www.example.com along with the old pages .cfm that have not fallen off yet. Not a lot, but some.
The site has dropped a few slots to #11 currently for the big keyword, but google has been fluxing alot on the top 10 the last 2 weeks so hopefully I shake out ok. The listing shows no new cache currently on google in 5 days, but does show it was last indexed in WMT 5/28.
The old site ranked first page or high second for last 5 years in google and yahoo search for main words. Secondary words started slipping a bit last year promting the full site change.
The risk of it is almost overwhelming, but the future was in doing a beautiful redesign with static clean urls and content. Hopefully, the search ranks don't get destroyed. I am supplementing with alot of attention to more white hat link building which will not be a quick process and upping ppc, which has been less and less effective every year. I hope it was the right decision as it took 7 months to get up as opposed to the 3 I expected.
Anyway, any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.
I'll keep you posted.
[edited by: tedster at 10:29 pm (utc) on May 31, 2008]
[edit reason] switch to example.com [/edit]
There's one step you didn't mention that can help - contact any webmasters who link to your deep pages and give them the new url so they make the change. If you include both their page and the new link in your email, you can often get cooperation. Those corrected links showing up are a bit better than just using 301s for the old addresses.
Also, from your best, and I know it's an estimated guess, how long until the sites you worked on recovered to at least their previous positions on google for their tough keywords, over 10,000,000 searches let's say. A couple weeks, couple months...more?
Thanks, as always.
The best redesign i worked with never showed any traffic drop at all after going live with all new URLs. The top keyword was showing 47,000,000 searches at the time - and after the top two keywords, the long tail kicked in and it was mighty slim.
But I tell you, we worked like crazy within the test environment to get everything right the first time. The entire url rewrite scheme was stress-tested to the extreme. And the good news after launch was that the long tail put on some weight over the next few weeks.
All the http status codes were tested, and then re-tested with every change to the platform. We did crazy server log and backlink analysis to decide which urls should be 301 redirected and which should be 404.
Google is a lot better indexing redesigns than ever before. Most problems I see come from rushing into the launch with unnoticed technical errors still in place, or doing a too-quick analysis of the existing site. But even then, recovery times can often be measured in weeks once the technical errors are caught and fixed.