One of the key factors in search engine rankings is having other sites linking to you, so it’s important that those links aren’t broken.
If you are having a new website designed, it is important to take into consideration how long it can take for a search engine to re-index your site. It most cases, the pages on your new website will be named differently than your old pages, however the address (or URL) of your old pages will remain in the search engine’s index for many weeks (perhaps even months).
This is where a 301 Permanent Redirect should be used to instruct the search engines that the old page has moved and has been replaced by a new page – this is also helpful for anyone who has the old page bookmarked.
A 301 Redirect can be used for several purposes, such as pointing several domains to one website, making the www and non-www version of your website point to only one, as well as pointing and old web address to a new one.
301 Redirects can also be implemented in many ways, but the most common and in my opinion easiest way, is via an .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is configuration file used by many web servers (such as Apache) and is used for a range of things, from authorisation & authentication, through to rewriting long URLs to shorter ones.
So long as your website is running on Apache or a similarly supported platform, then you’ll be able to use the .htaccess file to configure old URL redirects.
WARNING: Fiddling with this file can break your website quite easily if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you aren’t confident in your abilities, ask your web developer to help you.
Firstly, you’ll want to get the .htaccess file off your website. The most common way to do this is via FTP. Once you have the file, open it in a text editor (e.g. Notepad).
Now, add in a new line at the bottom of the file that looks like this:
redirect 301 /oldpage.html http://www.yourwebsite.co.nz/newpage.html
If you want to add in multiple redirects, then simply put each one on a new line each time.
From a search engine optimisation point of view, having these redirects in place will mean that any website that points to your old page will not have to be updated to point to your new site, which means the search engines will still be able to find your page when crawling sites linking to yours.