Does changing a URL impact SEO?
Quick Answer: Yes, it does. The effect of doing so can be severe, as it makes your site more susceptible to issues like 404 errors, broken links, and lost links — all of which negatively impact your SEO. And, not addressing these issues ASAP will make it harder for Google to properly index your site. Even when these URL changes are made to optimize your site (and are performed properly), it will take time for Google to re-crawl your new URLs. In this time, you may experience a drop in rankings and traffic.
Changing URLs may seem like a simple task, but if not done right, it can lead to disastrous results. If you’re thinking of revamping your website, changing URLs may be part of your list. However, you should know that this can lead to fluctuations in rankings. To try and lessen the effects you may experience, today I will be sharing with you how changing URLs can affect SEO.
When Should You Change Your URL Structure?
Before we begin, let’s set things straight. Changing your URLs will require intensive planning and strategizing before any application. If you can revamp your site without changing your URLs, that would be the more optimal choice.
However, sometimes it’s inevitable, especially during specific instances. First, when you may want to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to secure the privacy of your site visitors. Second, when you may want to optimize your URL paths for SEO as well as for easier navigation. And lastly, when you may want to change your domain name to improve your local SEO.
Whichever reasoning you may have, it’s important that you know the possible ways changing URLs can damage your SEO.
How Changing URLs Can Damage Your SEO
Changing your URL structure is not a decision that should be made lightly. Why? Even if you do every step right, Google will still have to re-crawl all of your new URLs to determine its authority as well as the quality of the content. This will take some time to accomplish, especially if your site has a large number of URLs. During this time, you may experience changes in your rankings.
The worst-case scenario? You experience a major drop in rankings. Your landing pages may get pushed down a few pages or, even worse, be put outside of the Top 10 pages. This can lead to a decrease in your pageviews, engagements, leads, and more. Errors such as incorrect redirects can also lead to a loss of link juice. Without careful planning, months or years of your hard work may end up going down the drain.
To give you some tips on how you can prevent this, here’s how you can change your URLs without affecting SEO.
How To Change URL Structure Without Affecting SEO
The key to changing URLs without any major ranking changes is planning. Your goal should be to smoothly transfer the link juice from one page to another. Here are some of the best ways that you can do that.
One of the most important things you need to do when moving from one URL to another is a 301 redirect. 301 redirects tell Google that you are permanently moving one page from one URL to another. This is also one of the best ways that you can pass on most of your link juice. Make sure that before you start, you create a list of where each old URL will be going to. This is to ensure that no rankings are lost.
Keep 90% Of The Content
If you’re thinking of moving from one domain and you don’t want to lose rankings, it’s important that you keep 90% of the content the same. Why? If your old pages were ranking well, then it means that Google has already deemed your content as high quality. The algorithm has already seen that your content fits the keyword’s search intent. This means that the best chances of you keeping your existing rankings are by keeping at least 90% of your content the same.
Create A New Google Search Console Property
If you’re going to be moving from HTTP to HTTPS, you’re going to need to create a new property on Google Search Console (GSC). This also goes for those that want to change their website’s domain name. These new properties are where you are going to need to submit your updated sitemaps.
Update and Resubmit Sitemap
Even if you have your 301 redirects in place, Google will still need to crawl your new URLs. As I mentioned earlier, if you have a big website, chances are it will take a longer time for the recrawl to be completed. If you are not going to be changing your domain name, one way to help ensure that all your pages will be crawled is by updating and resubmitting your sitemap on GSC. On the other hand, if you are planning on changing your domain name or making the switch to HTTPS, create a new sitemap and make sure to submit it to its respective GSC property.
Double Check Domain History
Lastly, remember that you should always double-check your new domain’s history. Before you make the switch, do your research to see if the URL has had any previous violations from Google. Investigate as well if there are any unwanted or spammy backlinks leading to it. Even if your content is kept the same, Google will still see it as a new domain. Meaning that any problems caused by the previous domain owner will need to be resolved for the search engine to see you as an authority.
Now that you know how changing URLs can affect your SEO, it’s up to you to make the final decision. If you’re still keen on changing up the URLs on your website, follow the steps I noted above to try and lessen the effects that you will feel.
Make sure that your redirects are planned and executed properly. Make sure you update important factors such as your sitemap and GSC property. And lastly, make sure your new domain doesn’t have any questionable history.
While this doesn’t guarantee a 100% success rate, it should be able to prevent major fluctuations from happening. If you want more advice on this topic, click here to read Google’s documentation on moving websites.
Do you have any other tips on how to change your URLs without affecting SEO? Let me know in the comments section below!