What happens to your old pages when you create a new website?

I’m not here to teach, but I wrote this for a web marketing blog at work that never went live. Didn’t want it to go to waste.

Thinking about a website upgrade? Is it on a new system with all new pages? Is anyone thinking about the links to the old pages? You’ll want to make sure you can identify and redirect the most important ones for the sake of your users and your Google rankings.

There will be various ways to get this list depending on your setup, but one good way is to get a report from your analytics tool (Google Analytics is a popular example). Most tools can provide a list of the most commonly visited URLs over a certain date range. Set that range to a year or so and you’ll have a hefty list of your most important pages. Next you’ll want to use your analytics software’s export feature (most will have this capability) to save the list into a text or excel format. If you don’t see an Excel specific format, look for an export format called Comma Separated Values (CSV)  which can be opened by Excel.

While your website may have had many more working links, discovering them and redirecting them to appropriate pages on the new site will offer diminishing returns due to their light use.

Now that you’ve got the list of URLs you want to keep alive, you’ll want to identify the best matches for them on the new site. The matches don’t have to be exact. For instance, we redirected all our old individual calendar events and news items to our new “News and Events” page. That said, avoid redirecting the entire list to the homepage of your new site if you can. This isn’t helpful for users and Google even explicitly recommends against this in the great video on this page about 301 and 302 redirects. That page even includes some links on how to actually code these changes on your web server.

If you have questions about any of the specifics just post in the comments!