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Here's my question, if anyone has experience with it let the info flow:
A client of mine has recently redesigned their web site, and a number of pages that were pulling in traffic now no longer exist.
I don't know exactly how the 301 works, and I don't want to lose that optimization for those pages that no longer exist.
One more question assuming a 301 is the way to go, is it feasible to redirect 5 or 6 pages to the index page? My understanding (very limited mind you) is that a 301 says something to the effect of "this page has now moved here". If this is the case then wouldn't it be a mistake to remove the pages that no longer exist since they do no have identical pages in the new site?
> I don't know exactly how the 301 works, and I don't want to lose that optimization for those pages that no longer exist.
If they are gone, they're gone, and so is your optimization. If you mean you don't want to lose the traffic, the PageRank, and the link-popularity, then a 301 will preserve all or most of that.
> One more question assuming a 301 is the way to go, is it feasible to redirect 5 or 6 pages to the index page? My understanding (very limited mind you) is that a 301 says something to the effect of "this page has now moved here". If this is the case then wouldn't it be a mistake to remove the pages that no longer exist since they do no have identical pages in the new site?
You should redirect to new pages that are relevant to the request for the old pages. If there is no feasible direct replacement, then maybe you've got a site map for that subject-section of the site that would be appropriate. If not, then providing some kind of resource that will help the user find what they wanted is the right thing to do.
It's not a very good idea to just outright delete pages that are getting traffic. Providing some kind of logical replacement page is better. If you have no other options, then redirecting to the home page is a last resort, but I prefer returning a short, apologetic explanatory page with a 410 response (use 404 for HTTP/1.0 requests, though) and a text link to my site map and home page. On this page, I also put a 15-to-20-second meta-refresh to the site map.
So the bottom line is to use 301 if you have a logical replacement, and 404/410 if not. This is the protocol defined by the HTTP [w3.org] specifications, and things work best of you follow those.
Page Rank and Link Popularity have little importance in my view, what's important is that people who are searching for a particular service using a specific search string find the site. The old pages are placed well for those strings and the new ones are an unknown quantity.
Thanks for the tip about doing a 301 to a site map, that might be a good idea.
What I'm really trying to weigh up here is whether or not by doing a 301 to a "similar" page as the old one (though without the same content and tags) I would achieve top search engine rankings for the new page. If not then I think it's in my interest to leave the old page up on the server with a client side redirect.
Let say I have a page called buggy.htm which is pulling in traffic for people searching for red winged flying buggy things at the north pole.
The new site no longer has this page, but has a page called bug.htm.
The new page (bug.htm) does not bring in as many people searching for red winged flying buggy things at the north pole because it focuses more on blue winged flying buggy things at the south pole, though some still do come in while searching for red winged flying buggy things at the north pole.
If I place a 301 from the old page pointing to the new page will it help bring in more traffic as before for the search red winged flying buggy things at the north pole.?
it would pass the PR to the new page - seasoned instantly but it would fall in the SERP's for north pole altogether eventually but rise in the SERP for South Pole, although it would probably hold steady for 'flying buggy things', as long as the new page is optimised as well as the old one for that phrase.
just my humble opinion.
No, because you have removed the page. The page content is one of the factors that determines its ranking, with keywords in the URL playing only a minor part. So, you've removed the page's content and it therefore can't rank for the red-north variant basd on page content. The 301 will retain the PageRank passed to your original red-north page by the incoming links to the old URL, and the link-text used on those old backlinks will still make it possible for the new page to rank (although not as highly) for searches matching that link-text (which may or may not include the red-north keywords).
If you want to rank for "red winged flying buggy things at the north pole," then you should have a page about "red winged flying buggy things at the north pole."