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SEO Question - Introducing new URL structures to huge retail site without causing major problems in search results

Experts-

I have a retail site. The site is old (registered 1997), and seems to reap some benefit in search rankings due to its age. The URLs of the site were quite messy, though, and we decided to rewrite them to improve the number of pages indexed by Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

Sample old URL structure (http://www.domain.com/products.asp?pID=32&cID=2)
Sample NEW structure (http://www.domain.com/product-name-32.html)

My concerns are the following:

1. There seems to be a good deal of weight put on the age of a domain when returning results, especially in Google. Does the same hold true for the age of a page on a given domain? If the domain age is the only thing that matters, then introducing new URLs should not affect our current rankings. If page age is also considered,then new URLs could hurt us tremendously as we would be losing the old ones.

2. What's your input on the following 2 scenarios.. which is a better approach?:
A) Flip all URLs at the same time and go live. 301 redirect all old URLs to their new location.
B) Keep all current URLs live. Introduce new URLS as orphan pages to gradually grow site. Keep a spider map to old URLs forever, but flip all main areas to use new URL structure. There would be duplicate content concerns here, but as long as the pages are different enough, we should effectively double the size of the site while introducing our new and improved URL structure.

3. Does a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one preserve any legacy "value" of the original URL in the new URL?

4. Is there a concern of "shocking" the search engine by changing an established site's makeup, size, etc. drastically in a short period of time?

Looking forward to everyone's input here. Really want to make the URL switch, but don't want to destroy the site's rankings in the process.

- Chris
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cjason
Asked:
cjason
2 Solutions
 
ashishjvwCommented:
1. There seems to be a good deal of weight put on the age of a domain when returning results, especially in Google. Does the same hold true for the age of a page on a given domain? If the domain age is the only thing that matters, then introducing new URLs should not affect our current rankings. If page age is also considered,then new URLs could hurt us tremendously as we would be losing the old ones.
-YES OLD DOMAINS AND OLD PAGES ARE CONSIDERED MORE RELIABLE TO SEARCH ENGINES. STILL, THERE CAN BE SANDBOX FOR NEW PAGES ON OLD SITES TOO.

2. What's your input on the following 2 scenarios.. which is a better approach?:
A) Flip all URLs at the same time and go live. 301 redirect all old URLs to their new location.
-WHY WOULD YOU WANT ALL TO HAVE A 301 REDIRECT WHEN YOU ALREADY HAVE THE PAGES. BELOW IS THE ANSWER I GAVE ONE OF THE OTHER QUESTIONS REGARDING THE '?' IN URL :
"Although i do not advice my clients to go for url like abc.php?xyz=123, i do not think that makes a lot of difference anymore.
if you stick to the basics then everything should be fine.
Example search for alexa rank booster on google.com and you will find the top two having '?' in them.
The 6th one is the same.
Regards,
ASHISH T."

B) Keep all current URLs live. Introduce new URLS as orphan pages to gradually grow site. Keep a spider map to old URLs forever, but flip all main areas to use new URL structure. There would be duplicate content concerns here, but as long as the pages are different enough, we should effectively double the size of the site while introducing our new and improved URL structure.
YOU CAN INTRODUCE NEW URLS WITH NEW STRUCTURE AND LET THE OLD ONES REMAIN, IN THE SITEMAP. NO NEED FOR DUPLICATION OF CONTENT.

4. Is there a concern of "shocking" the search engine by changing an established site's makeup, size, etc. drastically in a short period of time?
NO. LET THE THEME, CONTENT REMAIN SAME. SIZE? - ADDING LOADS OF PAGES IN A SHOT MIGHT BE A PROBLEM AS SEARCH ENGINES MIGHT THINK YOU'RE SPAMMING.

Looking forward to everyone's input here. Really want to make the URL switch, but don't want to destroy the site's rankings in the process.

- Chris


REGARDS,
ASHISH T.
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esw074Commented:
Chris,

We did something similar last fall, and went the route of your option "A".  Our search engine rankings dropped for about two months, and since then we've been climbing like crazy (way ahead of where we were before the switch).  
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cjasonAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm interested in what others think as well.

Ashish, have you had any personal experiences with doing anything similar to what we're discussing in this question. what were the results of your actions?

Thanks,
Chris
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desertcitiesCommented:
Q. "1. There seems to be a good deal of weight put on the age of a domain when returning results, especially in Google. Does the same hold true for the age of a page on a given domain? If the domain age is the only thing that matters, then introducing new URLs should not affect our current rankings. If page age is also considered,then new URLs could hurt us tremendously as we would be losing the old ones."

A. We don't know exactly how much weight Google's algorithym uses for the domain date.  We do know it is a factor, among many.  An existing domain older then 1 year is considered as a site that's probably content-driven and planning on sticking around for awhile.

In regard to your individual pages, adding new URLs to existing pages or new pages depends on what those URLs are doing and pointing to.  Preferably they are URLs with good anchor text related to the content and theme of that particular web page.  Having lots of outgoing URLs, whether new or old, is not going to boost your site's ranking up. However, incoming URLs with strong anchor text can be very positive.  Do make sure to make each web page search engine friendly.

Q. "What's your input on the following 2 scenarios.. which is a better approach?:
A) Flip all URLs at the same time and go live. 301 redirect all old URLs to their new location."

A.  I would recommend path "A" too.  The reason being that your new search engine friendly URL structure will get picked up quickly and your old listings will eventually get expunged by the search engines if they no longer exist.  However, if those URLs are permanent pages you would want to use 301.  But if those URLs are former dynamic URLs, just leave it alone and go with the new structure.

I would eventually create a new Google sitemap and submit it to Google.  The sitemap helps the search engine spiders to fully index all of your pages.  It's not a replacement for your site's indexing.  

Q. "Is there a concern of "shocking" the search engine by changing an established site's makeup, size, etc. drastically in a short period of time?"

Usually the search engines shock us <grin>.  But no, there should be no shock as long as each of your pages are SEO friendly.  New content is good.  You don't want to block the visiting spiders for whatever reasons.  Have good navigational text links connecting your pages to one another. Have a sitemap both for Google and another version for your users.  

I'm sure you're site will do well and not get penalized for anything.  Just give it some time.  

Good Luck!

Mark
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ashishjvwCommented:
Hi Chris,

1.
No i have not tried http://www.domain.com/products.asp?pID=32&cID=2) to NEW structure (http://www.domain.com/product-name-32.html) because i am happy with the old structure of '?'.

However, i have decided to start a new blog on the very same domain of mine this time i will use the new structure and let the old structure remain for old pages and store.

2.
Yes, i am sure google favours old domains but i have experienced sandbox for new page on old domain.


Regards,
ASHISH T.
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cjasonAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the input guys. I've decided to not do a 301 overhaul. Instead, I am going to introduce the new URLs slowly, try to get them spidered, and then make them the primary URLs. I will preserve the old URLs in the index since there's so many of them spidered. Since the templates for each version are significantly different, I shouldn't experience any duplicate content issues. Hopefully, I'll effectively double the size of the site while introducing the newer, cleaner, URL structure as the primary pages.
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