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Paul Silver

Making websites for companies and helping advertise them

Changing the language of your page without damaging page rank

As a website grows, becomes a nightmare to handle, or just needs to change system, you might need to move all the pages to another address. For instance, you've started with standard HTML pages everywhere, but now need to move over to dynamic pages using PHP.

There are various ways of automatically moving visitors to the new page address, but many of the automatic server-style redirects upset the search engine web spiders - they don't like being automatically sent to a new address, it tends to make them suspicious that you might be showing them content that other people don't normally see, or trying to cover up something nefarious.

So you need to set something up that: redirects your human visitors from the old pages that they find through the search engines to the new ones with the minimum of effort; as well as telling the spiders to drop the old pages and spider the new ones instead.

The solution is simple, but it does involve editing all of your old pages. Still, that should be the last time you have to touch them, apart from deleting them in a few months time.

You need to edit all of the affected pages. Inside the tags of the page you need to add these codes:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow" />
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="1; URL=new_page_name.cfm">

And in the body of the page you need to remove all of the old content, and replace it with a clickable link to the new page:

I'm sorry, the page you were looking for has moved, please follow this link to '<a href="new_page_name.cfm">new page title</a>' or wait and you will be redirected automatically

Once these are set up both types of visitor are handled:

Your human visitors will realise the page address has changed, so they can update any bookmarks or links they have from the old address to the new one. Due to the automatic redirect, they will generally be shown the new address with a minimum of delay.

Spiders coming to check the content of the page will discover that it has changed. Not only is the page now asking not to be indexed, just the links followed (the 'meta name="robots" part of the code.) Even if the spider ignores the meta code, which is not supported by all spiders, it finds the page doesn't have anything worth indexing - just a link to a page with actual content. The redirect page will therefore get a very low page rank, as there is hardly anything in it worth searching for.

The spiders can take a long time to come back to your website, so it is probably worth leaving these redirect pages for six months to catch anyone who is still coming to old information. If you know which search engine sends the most visitors your way it is worth re-submitting your home page to the engine as there is a chance it will come to re-spider your website more quickly.

Paul Silver. December 2003

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