Somewhere in the multiverse, it’s possible to create the perfect URL for your site. In this other ‘verse, the URL you first create would continue to be solid forever. It would continue to attract lots of traffic. It’d be one of the factors that put your page on the first page of Google, Bing, etc. More importantly, once that URL put you on the first page of the search engine, it would be enough to keep you there. However, in this section of the multiverse, it’s often necessary to make changes to our websites, including to the URL structure of pages. It could be that you’re completely moving your site. It could also be that you’re thinking about working with a webmaster to create a better optimized site. Regardless, the SEO impact of changing URL ’s can be significant. Your site’s URLs, along with page titles, meta descriptions, etc., can mean the difference between web searchers finding your content or not. Let’s discuss the effect that a changed URL has on your site’s search engine optimization and the benefits of creating optimized URLs.
SEO Impact of Changing URL’s
Before you can understand how a changed URL can affect your search engine optimization, you first need to understand the role of the URL. According to Moz, the URL is a replacement for numbers. (Think IP addresses.) While Moz says that these strings of words and dashes communicate with the server and tell the search engines something about the structure of a website, for our purposes, we need to simplify this explanation a bit.
Let’s go back to the idea that the URL replaces the IP address. Now, think about an address’s real-world equivalent. Let’s use your home address. Let’s further assume that you have such a large yard that you decide to sell off half of it. (Keep with me here. There’s a reason for this analogy.) So, you sell off half of your land, and the person who bought it decides to put a house on it and to live there. Now, there’s a problem, (aside from the fact that you and your new neighbor can’t decide on who owns the rose bushes). That second house on what used to be your property messes with your home address.
To make things formal, the USPS sends you a notice telling you that your old address, 2802 Any Street, now belongs to your new neighbor. Your new address is 2804 Any Street. You still have the same house. However, your address has changed. Here’s the thing, there will be people who still know your old address and who will still send mail to the old address. If you have a savvy mail carrier, then you’ll still get your mail, but let’s say that you don’t. Let’s say you have a new carrier who doesn’t know who you are. As a result, your neighbor who lives on your old side yard comes over pretty much every day to deliver your mail to you.
SEO Often Worsens Before Improving
Now, let’s take this situation back to the web. The real estate – that is the webpage in question – stays the same, much like your house would, but the address (the URL) to that page has changed. Now, the people looking for this online “house” of yours can’t find it because you’ve changed the address. This is the sort of thing that happens when you move your website or when you create new and improved URLs. Ironically, in the latter case, you often do this so that your website gets better results on the search engines. But very often, your site takes a hit, tossing your webpage further down on the search results in the short-term. Patience is neccesary when changing URLs!
How to Change URL Structure Safely
If you have had to change your site’s structure, which means that you’ve had to change some URLs, the following information will help make that process a bit easier. The first step is to utilize 301 redirects to show visitors to your new “house.” A 301 redirect allows you to direct the traffic away from your old address to your new one, which in this case is a newly optimized URL. When the search engines initially crawled and indexed your site, they made a note of the URLs that you’re now trying to change. Since these bots are the search engine equivalent of your daily postal worker, you have to assume that, like a new postal worker, they won’t know where your new address is.
The 301 redirect is like sending a change of address to the post office. The mail carrier (the bot) can still read the original address on the envelope (your old address) and can see from reading the yellow USPS-issued sticker (the 301 redirect) that you have moved. There are few better things you can do for these bots, except for maybe giving them a map, that will help them find you like a 301 redirect can.
You may be all excited to be at your new site, but there is something to be said for making the changeover more gradually. Gradually redirecting your traffic to your new site/ page allows you to see if you’re missing anything. If you decide to go this route, then choose a strategy for doing so, like maybe you’ll do your product pages first, then a certain section of your blog, and then another, etc. Doing this also helps you to ensure that your site’s internal links get redirects as well.
In a perfect world, you would have created perfect URLs to begin with. This is rarely the case, however. While there are a number of ways you can structure your site’s URLs, sometimes, the best way is to normalize the URLs. That means you’ll separate the words with a hyphen. You’ll also make sure that all of the words start with lower-case letters. This creates optimized URLs.
SunCity Advising Specializes in URL Optimization
The SEO Impact of Changing URL ’s can be significant. It affects the traffic to your site, causing your website to drop in ranking in the search results. Granted, sometimes you have to change your URLs because you’re either moving your site or you’re trying to better optimize your old pages so that they do better in search results. SunCity Advising is a digital marketing agency that specializes in search engine optimization. If you have any questions regarding your website’s URL structure, don’t hesitate to contact us.