For one reason or another we are tasked with a website re-development that involves a change in the domain name or changing the URL of a page. There can be many reasons for doing this including a company name change, SEO reasons (re-writing URL’s for better search ranking position) or even a change in technology behind the code (re-developing with PHP vs ASP).
Most web developers know that the correct way to handle these URL changes while retaining search positioning is by using a 301 redirect. Even if a 301 redirect is the ideal way to change a URL it is, however, still not perfect.
A 301 redirect is an HTTP status code that states “This URL has PERMANATELY moved to this new URL”. On apache servers this is handled in a text file called an .htaccess file. Google has stated in the past that with the proper use of 301 redirects its indexes will pass the value of inbound links and their corresponding anchor texts from the original URL to the new page. A major factor in search position is the quality and quantity of links pointing to your website. Thus it’s known that 301 redirects are a safe way to re-work your URL’s while retaining the search engine power of the original URL.
Too many website owners’ dismay when a change in URL occurs, even with being diligent with 301 redirects, they will see a drop in rankings and notice the resulting drop in traffic from search engines. Here is why: You 301 redirect URL A to URL B. URL A has 1000 links pointing to it. URL B has none.
Google crawls a website that has a link pointing to URL A and then crawls the actual link that points to URL A.
When Google hits URL A they get a 301 response code that sais that URL A has permanently moved to URL B.
Google updates its indexes and passes the link juice and anchor text from URL A to URL B.
You have now gained the anchor text and seo juice for ONE of your inbound links. Now this process will need to happen for ALL 1,000 links before you can regain your rankings. This process could take some time before all 1,000 links are crawled and updated. This is why, even when your web developer does a meticulous job of handling 301 redirect, we can see a temporary drop in rankings and traffic from organic search. If the benefits for re-writing your URL’s out weigh the temporary drop in rankings from doing a URL re-write then do not be scared to move forward with the process.
A proper URL structure can make a big impact on rankings. 301 redirects and having a canonical website (not having a “www” and “non www” version of your website) are very strong tools for a search marketer. The htaccess file is a somewhat complicated file and in the wrong hands can be dangerous file to tinkering with. It’s very easy to take a website down because of an infinite loop for instance. To quickly check to see if you could use help with your htaccess file you can run the following search queries: Type the following two queries into a Google search bar and see if the number of results are different: site:www.your-domain-here.com site:your-domain-here.com If the number of search results are different you could certainly use some TLC with 301 redirects in your .htaccess file. If you would like us to take a look at your .htaccess file or you would like some sound advice on changing your URL structure do not hesitate to contact us here: http://www.customerparadigm.com/index/3/Contact-Us.php