For every business owner, there inevitably comes a time when you need to change the URLs on your website. Changing URLs can be a total disaster when done incorrectly. You could potentially lose domain authority, organic rank can suffer, and ultimately see large decreases in traffic.
Why would a URL change?
This is commonly done when redesigning a new site, changing CMS platforms, or moving the location of a specific page in the navigation. I’ve also seen instances where clients want to change URLs to target specific keywords, or were looking to change the entire focus of a page.
To avoid a total disaster, only change a URL when it is absolutely necessary and follow these best practices.
- Change Page URLs with 301 Redirects – Redirection is the process of forwarding one URL to a different URL. There are three main kinds of redirects: 301, 302, and meta refresh. The 301 status code will tell search engines that a page has permanently moved to a new location. Implement 301 redirects at the server level to retain up to 99% of your original link juice (ranking power).
- Fix Broken Links – Use a link checker service to find and fix broken links. There are many free tools online that will allow you to crawl your site. Look for the http response “404 not found error”.
- Resubmit A Site Map – After you have fixed all of your links, submit a new sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Creating a sitemap helps search engines better crawl and categorize your site. You can easily create and verify a sitemap for any of your publicly viewable sites through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Make A Note In Google Analytics – Note the date URLs are updated, to track and measure traffic changes. Don’t be alarmed if you notice a small dip initially, but keep an eye out for significant drops. Large changes could be an indicator that you’ve missed a 404.
You can change URLs on your site, but know that it almost always has a significant impact on SEO. URLs and navigation are the directions search engines use to crawl and index a site. So when URLs change, your place in organic search results change too — often for the worse.
Keep this in mind and weigh the pros and cons before making the jump. If you decide it’s worth it, use these tips to minimize the impact.