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I'm planning to launch the new site in the next 24 hours, and I was wondering if the big change is going to freak out the google bots... anyone have experience with this?
Googlebot will definitley crawl your new urls, assuming all is technically solid. Depth of crawl will probably be frustrating for a while.
But getting crawled and getting ranked are not the same thing. In short, I think you have a major bump in the road coming. I would highly suggest letting the old urls resolve as they are and having a link to that cluster of old pages from the new Home Page -- maybe call it "archive". Don't remove the old pages until the new pages are ranking for you.
I had thought of doing that, but what concerns me is the fact that the content on the old pages will also be on the new pages as well - I'm worried that I'll get penalized for duplicate content... does it matter if the dupes are from the same site?
There wouldn't be any "penalty", that's a commonly used word that isn't really accurate. But Google would make an algorithmic decision as to which version of the dup;icate content to show in the SERP -- and most likely the old url would win and the new one wouldn't get established.
If you have a big old pile of pages, maybe work through a search engine referer report from your server logs and prioritize which urls matter the most for your site.
All of the old pages were 301 redirected to the equivalent new page. Changes were kept to the minimum needed to fit the new format. I added new content gradually after the bots had a good chance to spider the new pages.
The old pages continued to show up on Google with their old ranking, with the new pages showing a TBPR of 0. The new pages have recently started to get ranked and the old pages are disappearing from the index. The site still has over 10% of the old pages listed, even though the cache shows the new page. These tend to be the highest ranking pages so I'm not complaining. The new pages mostly have a lower ranking than the old ones, but this is improving.
I believe that redirecting the old pages to the new ones was critical to the success of the move. Everything else is pretty much guesswork. The results have been mostly good, though, and that's what counts.
I have a script which will catch all the old links a do redirect to new locations but I wonder which root would be best to take with Google, let him slowly discover the change or dump him a brand new sitemap and hope for the best. :-/
Also don't if it is better to include old links in sitemap so they get dumped from index quickly to avoid duplicate content penalty.