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Our useability required has outgrown the PN model and besides it's not SEO friendly at all so we're moving to a CMS which is far more customizable on these fronts. In fact, at the time the site was built I had no idea what SEO was even about..
Anyways, long story short, we're moving to Joomla which is going to be running much more updated SEF stuff when we're done with it. PHPBB2 is going to be movin' on up to vBulletin, Gallery to Gallery2, etc etc etc.
All the content (well hopefully close to all of it) will be making the transfer to the new site (same site name, different pages, same content). However, what I don't want to do is loose the search engine rankings and links that we've already aquired.
I've been doing a lot of reading on 301 redirects and they seem perfect for smaller sites. However for 30,000 pages it seems like there HAS to be a better option.
Can someone point me in the right direction?
You will indeed take a hit as the search engine spiders get re-oriented on your site. Over time, if your new URLs are better and more structured than your old, then this hit will fade, and you'll likely see an overall improvement over previous rankings.
But the take-home message here goes beyond SEO: Dont' change your URLs ever again. Sit down right now, while both your old and new site structures are fresh in your mind, and design a new URL-structure that you will never have to change again, regardless of technology changes.
Now to be completely forthright, it's true we cannot see into the future and the technology changes it will bring, but do the best you can so that future changes will be minimized. Imagine your site at ten times its current size, at a hundred, or a thousand times bigger; Will your URL structure still be workable, maintainable, archivable? Will you be able to take a part of it and easily move it to a second sever to take a load off the main server when the site is a hundred times larger and more popular, but servers are only ten times faster?
Get rid of anything that ties you to your back-end technology: eliminate filetypes on pages, eliminate query strings, eliminate application-specific cookies or make them extensible to support future needs.
See this rather old, very important, but unfortunately very much ignored article by one of the two co-inventors of the World-Wide Web: [w3.org...]
the base url of the site will remain the same but the structure and pages where the content is stored will all be different. Is a 301 really the best bet here? The only way I can see that working is setting up a redirect for EACH page and there's no way in h311 I'm going to do that manually for that many pages ;) Is there something I'm missing here?
I also really like your comments about future scalability. This is of great concern to us and what we will go with will reflect that to the greatest extent that we can at this time.