Google on whether URL changes can affect your SEO Performance
We’ve all encountered a situation where we wanted to tidy up the URL structure and have clean URLs. Changing the URL of these pages, however, could be tricky if your website is already ranking well for particular keywords. Google’s John Mueller outlines the impact of URL structure changes on SEO in a recent video from the #AskGooglebot series.
Addressing the question about URL changes
Rody Stolwijk posed a question on YouTube, which John Mueller answered. The question read as follows:
“We’re currently going through a site migration and we’d like to restructure the URLs on the site. Does this impose any risks?”
John Mueller used this question as an opportunity to explain to the SEO community what should be done if you want to change your website’s URL structure with minimal impact on SEO performance.
Google Search Engine stores the index on a “per-page basis”. This makes it troublesome for Google when the URL of a page is changed.
URL changes affect SEO Rankings
Google’s John Mueller advises doing thorough research before making a URL structure change. This is because URL changes have an impact on your SEO rankings until Google fully comprehends your new URL structure.
Here’s what John Mueller recommends:
“It doesn’t matter if you’re completely rebuilding a website or if you’re just removing a slash from the end of URLs, these are all essentially site moves.
..In particular, we recommend first research the options and the potential effects. Since these changes take time and have ranking effects, it’s also recommended to consider the timing of when you make the move.”
Proper 301 redirection is Key
John Mueller recommends making a list of all the old URLs that are currently on the websites. Maintain a list of the new URLs you’ll be replacing them with as well. This will help determine whether the URLs were correctly migrated and will also alert you if any pages are missing following the migration.
Ensure that all old URLs are 301-redirected to the new URLs. This will make it easier for Google to find your pages and pass along the valuable link juice.
Update all the Internal Links
Another important thing to remember when changing the URL structure is the internal links. All the Internal links should point to the new URLs rather than the old ones.
“Also, update all internal mentions, such as links, forms, structure data, site maps, and the robots.txt file”, said John Mueller – Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.
How long does Google take to understand the new URL structure?
If you’ve changed a few URLs and used the right 301 redirects, Google will be able to quickly identify them. In the case of a site migration, however, Google may take several months to fully understand the new URL structure.
Here’s what Google’s John Mueller said:
“Finally, monitor their migration. Check all pages for the redirect in Google Search Console’s Report.
You should see a quick change for the most important pages and then a slower change as our systems reprocess the rest. Overall, this can take several months to complete. Redirects should remain in place for at least one year.”
Changing the URL structure is not as simple as it appears (for SEO). However, in order to pull it off effectively, you’ll need to do proper research and collate all the necessary data. Make sure you have the proper 301 redirects in place and that all of your internal links are updated (point to the new URLs). You can follow Google’s documentation on URL changes here. It’s vital to keep in mind that changing the URL structure may result in a decline in SEO rankings. We recommend only modifying the URLs when absolutely necessary.
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