Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Changing URL

Time and again, we come across webmasters that change their Web site page URLs – either as a result of upgrade of the site platform (for example, from classic ASP to ASP .NET 2.0), or to change the site structure, or for some other marketing reason.

In most cases, these webmasters don’t realize how these changes impact the optimization of the site and don't take the proper steps to mitigate the effects. When they change the page URLs, the search engines won’t be able to detect the association between the new URL and the old URL on their own. Instead, the search engines simply drop the old the URLs from their indexes and start indexing the new ones. The pages will be treated as new completely new pages by the search engines--and the link popularity they have attained is lost. This causes the site to lose its search engine rankings, resulting in a probable loss of visitors and sales.

What is the Solution?

Implement 301 redirects. A 301 redirect typically tells a search engine that page A (the old URL) is moved permanently to page B (the new URL). A search engine will see the 301 status code and log that page with the new location. With 301 redirect, over time, the search engine would replace the original URL with the new URL in the search results, as well as transfer all or most of the links and signals associated with the original URL to the new URL. This process happens quickly in Google. Yahoo is usually next to pick up on this and, although Ask.com is slower, they eventually get it as well. MSN/Live is working to improve their indexing capabilities in this area.

Concluding Thoughts

When you consider making changes to your website -- whether it is a major revamp of the site or just minor changes -- consult with your SEO agency, and plan the steps carefully. Whether it is site wide 301 redirect, or individual pages, professional SEOs will be able to help outline the best course of action, and will be able to make sure that your search engine rankings are affected as little as possible, if at all.

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