Rack::Rewrite + Google Analytics Makes Site Transitions Seamless

At SmartLogic we recently rebuilt our website in rails. The previous version was a MediaWiki installation with a ton of content that had garnered a decent bit of Google juice that we did not want to lose. By setting up 301 permanent redirects for the old URL's, we can hold onto that juice.


Google Analytics Navigation

Enter Rack::Rewrite. Rack::Rewrite is a Rack middleware for defining and applying rewrite rules. Though it's not a full replacement for Apache's mod_rewrite, a great deal of rules I've previously written in Apache config files can be replaced by Rack::Rewrite. Run gem install rack-rewrite to install the gem.

In order to determine which URL's were most important to issue 301's for, we turned to Google Analytics. By reviewing the most popular landing pages of the past two months from our site, we were able to methodically write our redirect rules.


Google Analytics | Top Landing Pages

Here is a subset of the associated Rack::Rewrite rules.

config.middleware.insert_before(Rack::Lock, Rack::Rewrite) do
    # original wiki smartlogicsolutions.com website
    r301 '/wiki/Main_Page', '/'
    r301 '/wiki/John_Trupiano', '/john'
    r301 %r{^/wiki/(Charity|Charities|Local_Connection)$}, '/gratis-work-and-charities'
    r301 '/wiki/Category:Portfolio', '/portfolio'
    r301 '/wiki/ExxonMobil_-_Brand_Asset_Center', '/portfolio/exxonmobil-brand-asset-center'
    r301 '/wiki/In_the_News', '/in-the-news'
    r301 '/wiki/Getting_to_our_Office', '/driving-directions'
    r301 '/wiki/Category:Employees', '/our-team'
    r301 '/wiki/SimNet_for_Office_2007', '/portfolio/simnet-for-office-2007-and-vista'
    r301 '/wiki/VNC_Collaboration_Application', '/portfolio/shared-desktop'
    r301 '/wiki/Contact_Information', '/contact-us'

This scheme is great for landing pages, but what if we had querystring information that we wanted to keep around? This is common for tracking codes -- many marketing platforms generate URL's that embed data in the querystring for recording and tracking purposes. We can leverage the following trick to maintain the querystring across a rewrite.

r301 %r{^/wiki/Main_Page(\?.*)?$}, '/$1'

Note the following:

  • We are conditionally matching a querystring so that the rule continues to match in the absence of a querystring.
  • We are leveraging substitution patterns to reconstitute the querystring in the rewritten URL.

Many more great use cases for Rack::Rewrite are covered in the project's README.

Check out our other articles on Rack::Rewrite:

Rack::Rewrite 1.0.0 Released

Rack::Rewrite 0.2.1 Released

Rack::Rewrite for Site Maintenance and Downtime

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