Are you talking about cruft free URLs [google.com]? Without the .html, .php, or .asp extensions?
It would really depend on how your current site is laid out. Essentially you'd just set up the new schema and 301 the old structure to the new.
Right... I recently redesigned my website and corrected a lot of errors I made with the original design i.e. I made much better choices about where to place PHP includes etc for ease of maintenance. I'm now mulling over other ways to future proof the design and doing away with .html and .xhtml would be a big step towards that... but I fear it is a huge task for an established webaite. I'm not sure if it's worth the upheaval.
How many pages are we talking about and how well do they rank? I made the move to cruft free URLs last year for a popular section of my site, less than 100 pages. I 301'd the files to shorter URLs and had no problems with ranking, Google maybe even liked it :-) The rest of my site has .php files.
In the long run if it will be help then 301 and go for it. I'm not quite sure how you would only drop the extension on new pages only...
About 250 static html and xhtml flavour pages, some of which are hitting top 3 for some top keywords in my niche... I want to do this but I'm afraid of upsetting the apple cart.
Should I head on over to the Apache forum and go for a definitive thread? I'd like to see a step by step 'Cruft Free URLs For Dummies' tutorial.
[edited by: Asia_Expat at 2:46 pm (utc) on Jan. 26, 2009]
If it were me, I would not bother with removing the extensions. Especially if you rank well with our current pages. File extensions are a normal part of the web. It does not hurt anything to leave them, and they don't take up much useful space since they are all the way at the end of the URL.
I must be missing something... is there a compelling reason to drop extensions? I find them very useful in maintaining the website! This is a serious question... what benefit is there to dropping extensions?
The primary reasons for Webmasters to drop file extensions from their page URLs are: File extensions have no useful purpose on the Web -- Content-type is determined by the HTTP Content-Type server response header, or in the case of MSIE, by 'sniffing' the content itself. They represent wasted bandwidth.
File extensions in your page URLs 'expose' your underlying site technology and require that you change your URLs (and/or use mod_rewrite, MultiViews, etc.) if/when you change that underlying technology.
Extensions makes your URLs harder to type in, increasing the chances for errors.
They also make the URL harder to transmit by voice (e.g. by phone or radio). This might result in only a few frustrated/lost visitors, or it might result in a totally-wasted advertising budget or a last-minute URL-redirection fire drill when your radio or print advertisement ends up wrong.
For those who want every advantage, superfluous extensions may dilute keyword-in-URL factors.
The perfect time to drop file extensions from your URLs is *when* you do a site re-design and are already facing the task of changing these extensions or base URLs. Instead of changing them (for example) from .html to .php, just drop them altogether, with the knowledge that this will be the last time you'll ever have to change them due to a site-technology change.
A URL on the Web is not a file, and therefore does not need a file extension. It is the server's job to convert URLs to filepaths, and most modern servers offer multiple ways of mapping URLs to filepaths -- usually with support for doing so conditionally as well.
Thank you, Jim! Explains it perfectly.