4 SEO Steps To Follow When Changing URLs

by Alex Harvey August 8th, 2011 

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In a perfect world every URL would be perfectly optimized from day one, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case.  URLs have to be changed for a variety of reasons, whether you are optimizing the page for the first time, reacting to a change in the way people search, or are forced to do it for other reasons, it’s something that we all have to deal with in the world of SEO. However, if the URL you are changing has a significant number of tasty links coming into it, you won’t want to lose that link equity. Additionally, you don’t want internal links pointing to an obsolete URL. If this is a problem you’re facing for the first time or just need to recap, following these four steps will help you to keep your URL structure tidy, maintain a solid internal linking architecture and retain your link equity.

1. URL Normalization

Best practice URL structure is to keep all characters as lowercase and to separate words with a hyphen. For example http://www.domain.com/page-name.html would be a well optimized URL. If you’re really fussy you may also want to drop the ‘.html’ as well, but it’s not essential. However, if you’re current URL structure is a combination of upper case characters and underscores, my advice is to follow the current structure. Whatever the case may be, ensure your new page conforms to the existing URL structure.

2. 301 Redirects

301 redirecting the old URL to the new URL is essential. This will help to pass the power from existing external links to the old URL across to the new URL. It’s also important as it will enable search engine spiders to effectively find your new page, index the new URL, drop the old URL from the index and help to transfer any existing power the old page has across to the new page.

3. Internal Linking

Ensuring all internal links point to the new URL and not the old URL is also very important. Internal linking is a very powerful signal that tells search engines which pages on your site are important. Neglecting to change your internal links after a URL change will mean that search engine spiders following the incorrect URL will be presented with you 301 page. By making life easy for the spider and correcting your internal links will help it to find the quickest route to your deeper page.

4. Legacy Redirects

Any legacy redirects that are present on your website pointing to your old URL will also need to be corrected. This is one house keeping job that is quite commonly overlooked when changing the URL structure of a page.

This is the basic list that I follow when a page URL needs to be changed. Do you follow any other steps then changing a URL? If so, add them to the comments below.

Alex Harvey

Alex works for Fresh Egg, an SEO and multi discipline search agency. He has an extensive background as a web developer.

SEO & Web Design Blog

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5 Responses to “4 SEO Steps To Follow When Changing URLs”

  1. The legacy redirects are overlooked, you're right. But so too are internal links… surprisingly often!!

  2. [...] 4 SEO Steps To Follow When Changing URLs [...]

  3. Shannon Lowe says:

    This sounds redundant, but 301 redirects need to be implemented at the page level. In other words, if content on an old page now appears on a newly redesigned page with a new URL, a 301 redirect of the old page to the new page needs to be done. Many times, 301 redirects are only implemented for the home page, or the main URL. The impact of changes to every page needs to be considered to keep search equity from falling to the floor.

  4. Thanks for the details. But one thing I am confused, if I change the URL and redirect the old URL to new one, then Google will index the new URL too, am I right? Then since the content of both old and new URL are same, will Google not count new URL as duplicate content?

  5. I recently changed some content and moved them from standard pages to become blog posts and also a very small amount of editing. . The link structure has changed eg from site/original-page to ../blog/original-page.

    Do you think I should make a 301 redirect to each post or should I keep the original page and modify it to inform visitors of the new location, e.g. a heading page saying This page has been updated and moved? or.. any other suggestions for converting from a page to blog post?