I heard another tragic story this week from a Cape Town based business that launched a new site and lost all their traffic from Google (from whom a good proportion of their revenue came). It’s tragic because it could so easily have been avoided.
So what happened?
1) Google had indexed the links to different pages on their old website and was happy. These links were as follows:
2) The new site was created and with it new urls for the pages:
3) The new site was then launched replacing the old one.
4) A potential visitor goes to Google and types in a search bringing up a link to the companies website.
5) The problem is, it is a link to the old website. So when the potential visitor clicks on that link it goes to an error page. Google starts to become unhappy and has no reason whatsoever to keep sending people to dead pages.
So how do you resolve this problem when you launch a new site?
First thing to remember is it needs to be done before the new site goes live.
The way we do it here at Word Wide Creative is to start by listing all the url’s from the old site and placing them in an excel file. We then go through the new site and place the new url’s next to the most relevant old web pages in the excel file.
This is the preparation work that is then used by our programmer who uses a 301 re-direct (301 basically means permanent). You place a bit of code on the server that permanently re-directs anyone looking for a specific url on the old site to go to rather go to a specific url on the new site.
So now what happens is when google sends someone to your old link, the visitor is re-directed to your new site instead. More importantly they go to the right page on the new site.
Once you have gone live, Google’s “Webmaster Tools” is a great resource and will help you to find any broken links you might have missed.
Note: Sometimes even with 301 re-directs your ranking positions will go down (sometimes considerably) in the short term. This is just the search engines figuring out how the re-directs are working.