SEO friendly CMS changing

How to change a content management system of a site (CMS) without losing site rankings in search engines? It is one of the first questions which sites owners face while moving a site to a new CMS.

CMS changing is enough labor-intensive process which is connected first of all with necessity to expand site functionality, adding new modules, useful scripts and so on.

Changing URL addresses of pages is the basic problem for SEO, because it can lead to a loss of existing site positions and traffic. A lot of site owners even don’t pay attention at problems of correct moving regarding SEO at this stage, and as a result they lose link weight of old pages which had basic traffic.

Let`s weight all pros and cons

The more pages and links to these pages are on a site, the more carefully you need to prepare for changing CMS. For beginning, a site owner is recommended to answer several questions:
• That will moving to a new system give me?
• How much will implementation of new requirements to old system cost?

Make a comparative list with all pros and cons of moving to a new CMS system. Sometimes there are cases when it is impossible to introduce new features in old system. This solution is not always simple and convenient and the most important thing is that it is not cheap.

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Try to keep the old pages

This is the first advice which you will hear at almost any professional SEO forum. Keeping old pages is a good solution for multipage site. In this case, addresses and content of pages remain unchanged, but, unfortunately, it is rather difficult to implement such scheme in practice. If the work of new CNC (Computer Numeric Control) script is identical to the old one, such scheme is possible, but you should also consider a method of directory forming and other conditions.

It is worth mentioning that this is possible in rare cases, because the absence of CNC on an old CMS is one of the main reasons for moving to a new system.

Use 301 redirect

To make moving to the new CMS system gentle, you should indicate that pages are changed for search engines and people who come to old address.

To change a URL-address which is displayed in search results, we recommend using 301 redirect performed by a server. It is the best way to provide users and search engines transitions to the necessary page.

Status code 301 means that the requested page is permanently moved to a new location.

While planning a work on setting up 301 redirect, you should consider several factors associated with a current site and its interior pages status.

Do you need to redirect each page? A massive redirection at a large site is a complex and routine process.

Pages which should be moved in the first turn:

Thus, 301 redirect is recommended for the most important site pages that generate and convert traffic, have backlinks and attract visitors to the site.

On other pages, in some cases, you can set a 404 error and invite visitors to go to site main pages and search engine will be notified that this page no longer exists. With the lapse of time, new pages simply will be indexed and old will disappear from the search at all.

New files mass redirect

The massive redirection is used for old content sites that have a large number of pages and backlinks to different pages. Selecting the most important pages in this case is very difficult task. Mass redirect allows creating a “page to page” redirection and fully conveying weight of old pages to new ones.

The main problems concerning massive pages redirect:
• Inclusion of all changed addresses to .htaccess file will take a lot of time;
• Large number of records in .htaccess file will cause Apache servers crashes;
• Probability that you will be mistaken while entering such quantity of information is really high.

Solution

The best way is to hire a web developer who can write you a dynamic redirection.
The following example is written in PHP, but it can also be performed in any language. Suppose you changed links system to a new one and all files ending with the old ID should be redirected. To do this, create a table in a database which contains old ID and a new URL for redirection old_id INT new_url VARCHAR (255). Than write code that will connect your old ID with the new URL-s.

After that, we add the following line to .htaccess:

RewriteRule ^/product-(.*)_([0-9]+).php /redirectold.php?productid=$2

than create PHP file redirectold.php, which will support 301 redirect:

function getRedirectUrl($productid)
{
// Connect to the database
$dServer = “localhost”;
$dDb = “mydbname”;
$dUser = “mydb_user”;
$dPass = “password”;$s = @mysql_connect($dServer, $dUser, $dPass) or die(“Couldn’t connect to database server”);
@mysql_select_db($dDb, $s) or die(“Couldn’t connect to database”);
$query = “SELECT new_url FROM redirects WHERE old_id = “. $productid;

$result = mysql_query($query);
$hasRecords = mysql_num_rows($result) == 0 ? false : true;

if (!$hasRecords)
{
$ret = ‘http://www.yoursite.com/’;
}
else
{
while($row = mysql_fetch_array($result))
{
$ret = ‘http://www.yoursite.com/’. $row[“new_url”];
}
}

mysql_close($s);
return $ret;
}

$productid = intval($_GET[“productid”]);
$url = getRedirectUrl($productid);
header(“HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently”);
header(“Location: $url”);
exit();
?>

Now all requests to your old URL-s will recall redirectold.php that will find a new URL and return the 301 response with your new link.

Main stages of site moving to a new CMS

If you decided to change CMS system to a new one, we recommend you to follow next stages:
• Before you start moving your site, consult with SEO specialist. Deep analysis of the current site condition will allow keeping more traffic;
• Examine whether there is a possibility to save the old links for a new system;
Don’t use one redirect for all pages which lead to the same page
• Analyze your pages; define which pages contain most of traffic and backlinks. Perhaps, using a mass pages redirect will not be necessary;
• Use 301 redirect “page-to-page”, this will keep most of traffic;
• Recheck all external and internal links. Try to change all links from old to new ones.
• Use the 404 error page for old pages to which the redirect is not applied;
• After finishing site movement process use links checking tool by Xenu to ensure there are no broken old links to the site.
• Create a Sitemap file listing all new URL-pages. A Sitemap file helps inform SE about your website pages that might be skipped during scanning.

Following these rules, you can make quite a smooth moving to a new CMS system, retaining the old traffic and search engine rankings. Good luck at your moving!

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