When it comes to making URL structural changes to your website, it is very important to ensure you 301 redirect your old URLs to the new URLs. Common cases of doing this are migrating between pages on a site or migrating between sites.
Doing 301 redirects for migrations has SEO and usability impact and if not followed correctly, may cost your site valuable organic traffic and rankings.
4 reasons why you should and must 301 redirect your old URLs:
- Search engines (such as Google) most likely have crawled and indexed your site on the SERPs. If a user then queries and finds your site organically on the SERPs, it would be poor user experience if the link found lead to a 404 page.
- Search engines may recrawl your site via the old URLs and if stumbles upon a 404 page, will most likely drop you out of the SERPs if they can’t see the association to the new URL. This is also because of poor user experience as search engines place high importance on ensuring users find what they’re looking for.
- You will lose link juice from external sites as these trust & authority juices aren’t flowed from the old URL to the new URL. Loss of link juice means your site will lose authority & trust: 2 important factors in SEO.
- If you did not update your internal links to point to the new URLs, you will have a lot of broken links too which will negatively affect your internal PageRank flow.
You’d be surprised but I have seen websites lose 50%+ organic traffic due to this oversight. Imagine if you ran a multi-million dollar e-commerce site. What are the implications of not doing this?
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In my line of work, there has been a widespread belief that Google is unable to crawl “unoptimised” URLs and that ideally all URLs should be in a directory structure. This is totally untrue as mentioned by Google’s blog post.
In fact, Google actually says that they might have problems crawling and ranking your dynamic URL if you try to change it to look like a static URL.
However, this post will give you my opinion on why URL optimisation should be considered and to what extent should we optimise it to.