Replace existing site with new design

  adrianfo 11:53 04 May 2012

Hi New here, thanks for any help you can give me.!! I have almost completed a new slim line "device sensitive CSS3" site which I intend to swap with my existing site, Importantly without losing the SEO that I have worked hard to achieve. On the new site I have kept the file/page-name and link structure of the important pages the same as on the old site. Am I correct in thinking that I can remove the old site from the server/public.html and replace it with the new site. I do have fewer pages now so any pages that I discarded from the old site can I 301 redirect them to my new index.html. Is this procedure correct or am I off the mark? I'm a bit worried about the existing htaccess file and so on. Help would be appreciated Adrian Fortune

  Ansolan 02:31 05 May 2012


If the site is staying on the same server not much to do, no issues in principle for search engines with a change of design.

Better as far as possible to 301 redirect the dead URLs to a mix of their nearest equivalent URLs, rather than all to the home page. Also worth putting up a fresh xml sitemap with just the new URLs, not the redirected URLs. Google will pick that up but you can submit the fresh map via your normal route e.g. Webmaster Tools if you wish.

Allow a little time, see how the site settles down. If "slim line" means significantly less content, that could have an effect. A percentage of redirects and possibly structure change could also see a shift in search, for better or worse.

Interesting story, a well known site (about 30 million pages now) once took down a few pages without properly redirecting them, including a hub page with 4 links to main sections. They spent a long time trying to work out their Google "penalty" until they finally found out about the self inflicted wound. An awful lot of dollars blown because someone didn't think about impact, or suitable redirects.

Not so for most of us, you may see little effect but hard to comment without knowing more about the site. The change to responsive design sounds good, little option for most sites who don't want to lose visitors. Sure you have already but if not, check the site in old browsers. Better to create a few fallbacks than lose as many people as you gain.

  adrianfo 18:58 05 May 2012

Thanks for the help. What I'm basically doing is changing to a dynamic site so that it can be viewed on phones and tablets without horizontal scrolling. I run a driving school. What I used to have was a lot of information that I had copied and pasted to create information pages which acted as a bit of fluff around the meat and two veg of the site. By fluff I mean cheap insurance, laws of the road, how to act on motorways....... and so. Now I link directly to sites that carry that information instead. The core of the new site, especially the pages/file names that link internally, such as Intensivecourses.html->Intensivecourses_prices.html I have kept intact. Every new page has an old file name.

Anyway When I am ready should I just mop up the old site into a backup folder and drop the new site in it's place. I take your point about spreading the 301s around. What should I do with the old htaccess file, does it update itself. I know that through cpanel I can author the redirects, is that it then, drop and go?? Regarding 301s: Am I right in saying that I need to let the spiders know that 123.html isn't here anymore but they can have 456.html instead. Also this may sound dumb but do I redirect the old index.html from the backup folder to the new site/root index.html or do I tell them nothing because they share the same names.......this is the bit that confuses me. Do I tell the spiders that the old site is in a backup folder, or should I not mention the old site at all and just tell them that the pages that don't exist anymore are now 123.html and so on. Wow Hope you got a spare 15 minutes to read through this. Thanks Again Adrian

  Ansolan 20:59 05 May 2012

Am I right in saying that I need to let the spiders know that 123.html isn't here anymore but they can have 456.html instead

Absolutely right and the best way to do so is using 301 redirect, as you mentioned earlier. In terms of letting search engines know, they will know when they next crawl the old URL.

What you do with the "dead" URLs doesn't matter in a sense. They are not available, will not be crawled, visitors or robots will be redirected to the new URL without touching them. Still worth keeping just in case and tidying them up into a folder makes sense.

Re the htaccess file, bear in mind there may be other functions within that which control your site. In all probability, the easiest way to redirect a relatively small number of pages will be directly using the htaccess file. There can be exceptions depending on set up but in general, all you need do is leave a blank line below whatever is in the file, the add one line entries for each redirect as in the top example box here:


The old and new index.html are the same file, no need for redirect, just different content/design. Having said that, ideally the index.html shouldn't exist in terms of being servable. Your site may already be set up fine but just in case, have a read through:

Matt's Blog

What you need to ensure is that all possible URLs for your home/root page resolve to just one. You might find this helpful re code:


Exact implementation can vary from server to server but a good start. As with other changes, might cause a wobble for a while but good timing as you are making amendments and better in the long run.

Before doing anything with the htaccess file, always good to make a copy for reference, or quick reinstatement if anything goes wrong. There are equally odd systems/CMS which don't like the index file redirected.

You may also be able to implement the redirects via Cpanel but on many hosting systems they are not ideal. Can follow odd routes, or even worse produce 302 redirects instead. To test those, or your own, use something like:

Rex Swain

You want to try to achieve a situation where all redirects are 301 and take place in one hop.

Good luck with the update. If you are getting rid of content which is available elsewhere a positive move which may help.

  adrianfo 23:44 05 May 2012

Hi So glad I bumped into you. I wrote earlier that my new Driving School site will be dynamic, sorry, wrong phrase, it's actually "Device-Sensitive CSS3" hence the lack of horizontal scrolling (17 year old potential drivers with i-phones surgically attached). Reading the info on the links you presented I think this may have some bearing on what I do. The new site is reduced from 35 down to 10 pages, every page on the new site has the same name as a main page on the old site and is structured so - Http:// Consequently the only folder with a trailing slash will be the actual domain name, cos there are no individual folders. All pages/files are in the root folder. I don't know if that is a good thing or not, it's just the way I did it 3 years ago when I had even less of a clue than i have now. SEO What do I do with the meta from the head tags on the old site? I have copied the meta-description tags from the old heads and placed it in the corresponding tags on the new pages. Each page has a different description tag. I have tried to base the content around the old description tag as I did back in the day. Should I use the original page meta-keywords tags as well? I did a lot of reading on SEO when I originally set the site up and I'm pleased to say in my geographical area most search terms regarding driving schools return my site on google page one so I need to get this right. One more question regarding 301. Does it get its link info from the xml sitemap? Best Regards and Many thanks Adrian fortune

  Ansolan 00:58 06 May 2012

Hi Adrian

For main search engines:

Title Tag - Of use, needs to correspond to the current content, not be too long, or spammy.

Description Tag - Of no direct SEO relevance, plays no part in ranking. The benefit is in enticing visitors via search snippets. Bear in mind Google in particular are using these tags less and less, making up their own, should be relevant to have a chance.

Keywords Tag - Completely ignored and of no use, enter your laundry list if you wish.

Having a flat structure for a smallish site isn't a problem, quite likely better than many small sites who create poor structure for the sake of doing so.

I only have one surgically attached 17 year old (to my wallet) anyone who spends their days teaching hordes of them has my admiration.

You might ask them to highlight your site on their favourite social networks, including Google + if any use that. Or gratefuly deposit one way links to your site from any they run.

Also a good idea to have a quality entry on Google Places/Maps but I suspect you are ahead of me on that. Again re your pupils, if anyone feels like adding a positive review directly to the Maps entry, or other trusted sites, can help.

A minor but important point for your mobile visitors and a few more, clickable phone numbers:

Click To Call

The iphone detection is okay but not 100% and android users plus others will be happy.

  adrianfo 15:41 06 May 2012

Hi Again One more and then I think I'm ready to drop this on the host. On the old site, I created five sub-domains which consist of one page. Each page covers different villages and towns around my home. Each sub/page has basically the same title, description and content as the index.html. All I have changed is the village names in the afore said page title, description, file name and page content. I then redirected the sub-domains to my home page. Here's the question should I recreate that scenario with the sub domains or can I redirect something that is already redirected......gulp!! I'm so grateful to you for your help and patience, as soon as the site is live I'll give you the link so you can have a peek Best Regards Adrian

  Ansolan 19:05 06 May 2012

Hi Adrian

If the subdomains are redirected to the root, their content doesn't in a viewable sense exist. Depending on the redirect (301 or 302) the URLs either wouldn't be accessed at all, or be accessible/indexable with the content from the home page.

If the subdomains are/have always been 301 redirected, therefore never indexed, they have no effect. A little like people going off and buying dozens of related domain names and 301 redirecting them to the main domain. Apart from ad use, or accidental typeins, they add zero.

The 302 is not a good scenario, as you are creating indexable duplicate URLs of the home page. Even if filtered out in results, still can have a negative effect. If they are 302 redirected, you should change this to a 301 for all of them. Should they already be 301 redirected, nothing to do.

As a tactic for search, neither is good. This sort of approach has often been tried, perhaps allied with creating value first and/or chosen anchor text on inbound links to the subdomains. As with anything in existence primarily for search, has risk plus may likely end up being ignored.

Helpful to appreciate how good search engines, Google in particular have become at ignoring most of what people try to do in "SEO" terms, either from day one or whenever. Vast numbers of supposed Google penalties amount to something that was counting not counting anymore through being better understood, no penalty as such.

The rule of only do what is valuable for users is a good one. You could set up a couple of interlinked, unique and useful pages for each village, or real mini subdomains. If they are adding value to the web and for your visitors, why not.

The only thought is whether many people search for related terms and if the effort of creating them, plus publicising them, seeing them shared. might be better spent on the main site. You know your customers and if you feel having pages dedicated to their precise needs/location will help conversion rate, worth a few days.

  adrianfo 12:45 07 May 2012

Almost done I've searches around a bit but come unstuck......... As with the "click to call" that you pointed me to, do you know if there is code for "click to text" for example This would be click-able -> "Text Us for a Free Callback" that would then send me a text message saying "drive" and I then just call them back.

I already have it on the site longhand, one click would really appeal to the young uns Thanks Adrian

  Ansolan 19:36 07 May 2012

Hi Adrian

Not aware of an instant solution, you could look through a few scripts in places like:


A simpler option might be to collect incoming via a form (thinking about security issues) or look at your phone provider's options. As an example:


Your point on the user rate for your demographic is valuable though and could be worth looking at an integrated solution. One example:

Text Connect

Who offer what you want via their API and a fair bit more, for not a huge cost. Give their free trial a go if you think relevant, or other similar providers.

  adrianfo 00:37 08 May 2012

Hi Again Once again, many many thanks for all the help with this little project of mine. If you would like a look it's here at It looks so sparse when compared to the original which is parked here for the time being. It's a pain resizing single images 3 times for a device friendly site plus they'll slow it down when the phones have a slow connection, so for the time being - no images. There's just one page missing and the final proof didn't get done but it's been a long weekend. Tomorrow is another day. Please feel free to comment as you see fit. I hope the SEO is somewhere close. We shall see. Once again, many thanks Adrian

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