New website rollout advice

Hello Experts!

We will be rolling out a new website at the beginning of the new year and I need some tips and advice. The original site is a mish-mash of page extensions. It will be replaced by bright, shiny, new aspx pages. Nothing like 100% continuity throughout a site.

Here are  the questions:

1) How would you do it? What are the pitfalls? The old site has been crawled for years and has an OK -  decent presence on the web. Changing names and extensions are basically going to make us lose our page ranking, right?
2) We have Google Analytics code on the old pages. Is there a way to tie into all that old info once the new site is active? Would we want to? The new pages have their own analytics code.

3) Who do we need to inform that our site has changed? I know that there are entities on the web that need to be updated/ informed/warned of such changes.

4) We've never done anything of this magnitude (1,500 pages - knocked down to a couple of hundred). We've rolled out major redesigns and all that in the past but for the most part web page names and extensions stayed the same. This is a whole new ball of wax. We are changing the fundamentals of the site completely and any suggestions you might have are appreciated.

5) Am I asking all the questions I need to ask? Feel free to ask, then answer them for me. ;)
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Steve BinkCommented:
1) Pretty much, but you can mitigate this by using forwarding.  For example, if your old page was contactus.asp, set up a redirect rule to your new contact-us.aspx page.  Google will silently recognize that redirection.  Having new content is not necessarily a bad thing, either.  I have heard some SEO professionals claim that stale content (i.e., not changed in awhile) can earn you penalties, and just going in and updating a textual "Last Modified" footnote makes Google like you more.  

2) As long as the domain name is the same and you're using the same account, you should not lose any stats.  If you're using a different code, that is a different account.  There may be a way to tie the two together, but I'm not familiar enough with it to know for sure.

3) You should not need to inform anyone.  Google and other search engines will automatically crawl your site if it is already indexed.  They just follow the links found on your home page and on other sites.  That is another good reason to use redirection for your old content - other sites may have 404 links after your modifications, which can hurt both of you.  If you are using a new domain, you will want to submit the name through Google's index submission page.  It could take a few days for a new domain to be crawled even after a manual submission.  What entities were you thinking about when you posted the question?

A major change can obviously have a major impact on how the search engines rate you.  If you are very concerned, and search traffic is a big part of your online presence, you should have a team of people watching the results and reacting as necessary.  Remember that Google and the other search engines have released very few facts about what makes pages rank well.  Almost everything you hear from SEO companies is based on anecdotal evidence with a generous portion of guesswork.  

Of course, I'm no SEO genius myself, and have rarely had to deal with these topics.  The best advice I could probably give you is to find a reputable SEO company (somewhat like finding an ethical lawyer, IMO) and have them work your site for 6-12 months.  Also, stay tuned for other experts...I'm sure there are more here with much more experience than me in this particular area.
Ray PaseurCommented:
@routinet: You got most all of it!

Here is an example of how to achieve the "redirect" in PHP.  I am fairly certain you have similar header() controls in the ASP world.  Set the value of the $newpage variable to something that makes sense -- perhaps the new home page.

If you have only .html pages now, you might consider installing PHP and parsing all the .html pages through PHP.  That would let you set up different redirect headers for different pages, if that sort of thing makes sense for your site.  You may be able to do this with ASP, too.

In my experience the most important SEO items are the page title, the meta description and the H1 tags.  If those are succinct and well-targeted, and your pages are linked correctly you can just relax and go fishing -- the engines will find your content.

You might want to consider adding a Google Site Search feature to your new site.  Can't hurt to give them all the new URLs.

HTH, ~Ray
header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");
header("Location: $newpage");

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"Changing names and extensions are basically going to make us lose our page ranking, right? "

If you do it the way most people do, YES.  But there is a way to do it where you do not lose the rank.
A 301 redirect appears to be the best way to preserve page rank. The following is an excerpt from the site linked below which provides direction for how to establish a 301 redirect on various systems.

301 redirect is the most efficient and Search Engine Friendly method for webpage redirection. It's not that hard to implement and it should preserve your search engine rankings for that particular page. If you have to change file names or move pages around, it's the safest option. The code "301" is interpreted as "moved permanently"
CementTruckAuthor Commented:
Great info. Thanks everyone!
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