What is the SEO Impact of Changing a URL?
The SEO impact of changing URL can affect your site traffic.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), just as the name suggests, is a process that optimizes search engines by modifying and improving the quality of a website for increased traffic by increasing its visibility on the internet.
The very fact that this process involves several complicated steps to achieve the best results explains why digital marketing experts have always been cautious about changing the URL of a website, which is also an integral part of SEO.
So, does making any changes to your existing URL have an impact on the SEO ranking of your website?
It does, definitely.
But is it bad or good?
If not done correctly, changing your URL – even adding or removing a small character – could have substantial repercussions.
That being said, should you ever change your URL?
Forget about everything else.
Let’s look at what Google’s expert has to say about changing a URL.
Google’s John Mueller has already made it clear that he doesn’t recommend changing a URL unless necessary.
In this article, you will learn about some basic questions that you need to ask yourself about the SEO impact of changing URL.
We will also give you an overall understanding of the critical role a URL plays in the global SEO ranking of a website to help put things in perspective.
You will also learn about the negative and positive impacts it could have on your website traffic.
Table of Contents
So, Should You or Should You Not?
Experts will always tell you that once you select a URL, you should stick to it no matter what, creating a solid base for the rest of the SEO to take impact.
Once you have put all your time and effort into building a secure website that lists on the first page of web results, deciding whether you would want to let go of almost everything you have achieved should be based solely on how strong your vision is bouncing back.
However, the digital landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and the need for constant improvements and modifications remains inevitable.
You might want to rebrand your website or move it into a new hosting platform.
And making any changes to the URL will have a significant impact on your website’s SEO performance.
How should you change it, or should you not?
That is the question.
To reach the answer, “yes,” you need to consider the following questions:
- Is there any problem with the existing URL?
- Do I understand the risks it would have on my website traffic?
- Can I afford to take a step back, lose my current traffic, and gain bounce back?
- Is changing the URL my only option for improving my website?
- Do I have a consolidated list of all backlinks I have created to avoid broken links?
- Again, is it necessary?
Now that you have decided to change your URL, we will look at some of the negative and positive impacts it will have on your SEO performance.
What Could Go Wrong?
Ask any digital marketing expert and they will tell you that changing your primary domain or making any modification to your URL will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on your website’s SEO performance and traffic.
That is why we decided to put the downsides first.
- Broken internal and external links
- Damage to domain authority
- Reduced organic and paid search traffic
- Broken links on email campaigns
- Loss of SEO ranking
Each of these negative impacts of modifying your URL is detailed below.
Internal and External Links
The importance of backlinks (external links directed to your website) is paramount in determining your website’s SEO quality.
And broken external links mean negative SEO, sabotaging the hard-earned organic traffic that you have built over the years.
Moreover, URLs that derail users’ journeys through your webpages will also affect their behavior because they are directly taken to a 404 error.
This will result in an increased bounce rate.
The Site Audit tool by SEMRush is excellent for checking broken links.
The primary domain of your website has more importance than you imagine.
So is the domain authority of your website.
It is the relevance of the website for the industry it belongs to.
For instance, if your business is a pharmacy, your website would have built the right level of domain authority in the healthcare industry over many years.
Changing your URL will severely affect the domain authority of your website.
Once the URL is changed, it will take time for Google to crawl and index your new address.
It would take a while for your new webpage or website to make an impression on web searches.
This will eventually lower the chance of the website appearing on the first page of results.
This could mean decreased organic traffic to your website or the particular page with the new URL.
Although considered a traditional method, email marketing is still widely used by most companies.
And if you are one of them, the email you have already sent will have the old link to your website or page.
Potential customers who might want to check out your products might be surprised when they find out that the link you shared in the email takes them to a 404 error page.
This could impact their impression of business as well.
This is a culmination of all the points mentioned above.
Hundreds of factors determine the SEO ranking, and your URL is one of the most important ones.
And everything comes down to one primary, significant adverse effect – loss of SEO ranking on search engines.
Moreover, it will be challenging to overcome the drastic changes in traffic – although not impossible.
Is There Any Benefit to Changing a URL?
That all being said, you might be wondering if changing the link will only harm your website or does it have any benefits at all.
Even though most digital marketing experts will tell you to abstain from any thoughts of modifying your URLs until and unless necessary, we think it would be unfair to point out the benefits of doing so.
But our recommendation stays – do it only if you are 100% positive.
- New clutter-free URL
- Readable link on search results
- A domain that reflects the business
We have detailed these points below.
If the new URL is going to be an upgrade from the old-fashioned and unattractive URL that you currently have, we have good news for you.
For instance, if your URL is a mix of alphanumeric characters and several symbols, it would be hard for visitors to understand.
A simple, self-explanatory URL will not only look organized and clean but also create a sense of reliability.
One of the main factors affecting your website traffic from search results is how your permalink is structured with the perfect wording.
For instance, if the SEO title of your web page does not match the words on the permalink displayed right under the title, people would get suspicious about opening the link.
Meanwhile, if the keywords used in your SEO title are repeated in the permalink, it creates a sense of trust for users, giving them an indirect assurance that they might find what they are looking for.
If your business name has changed, there is no second thought.
Having a different domain name than your business name will undoubtedly look dubious.
In such situations, it is wiser to take a step back and change your URL to reflect your business’s new name even though it could mean loss of traffic and SEO ranking.
Improving and enhancing your online presence is an ever-ending process.
Few Things to Consider Before Changing Anything
Before making any changes, make a note of the following and be cautious throughout your journey to ensure a minimum negative impact on your site’s traffic and SEO ranking.
- A reliable and robust plan
- List of all internal and external links
- A detailed map for redirecting links
- A chain of redirect links
We have detailed these points below.
Planning and Organizing
Everything that’s perfectly planned out has a lower chance of failing.
This applies to your link restructuring as well.
Overlooking this step, even though you are confident that you will be able to fix things, should anything go wrong, will only bring trouble.
For every step, you take, have an alternate plan as well.
Eventually, you might be able to lower the SEO impacts of changing the URL.
Identify all your internal and external links that would be affected by modifying the URL.
If you are changing their primary domain, this would be a hectic task for you (if you have a strong backlink portfolio for your website).
And if you are changing only the link of a particular page, it would be easier to identify the internal and external links redirected to that page.
Either way, have a list handy.
As mentioned earlier in this article, modifying your URL means creating broken internal and external links.
Links from email campaigns sent before the new changes will also meet a dead end.
To avoid this mishap, you need to be aware of all the external links, such as in emails, that you cannot possibly change, but redirect to your new URL.
Having a list of all such links will help you from losing potential visitors to your website.
You must redirect your old link to your new URL.
But what you shouldn’t do is redirect an already redirected link to a new one.
In such situations, you would be creating a chain of redirects, which will slow down your website loading time, eventually, increase the bounce rate.
However, we wouldn’t say you should avoid it if that is the only best option.
So, Now What?
Now you have here, after making a change to your website, that will have significant effects on its SEO ranking.
However, what is decided and done is a closed chapter.
The next best thing you should do is waste no time rebuilding your SEO ranking and organic traffic.
We have compiled a list of the most important things you should do after the changes.
- Fix your broken links and set redirects
- Keyword evaluation and addition of new ones
- Be patient and keep trying to gain back your traffic
- Leverage social media channels for brand building
- New and updated SEO-optimized content
- Be patient that let the search consoles do the rest
Heal Your Links
Earlier in this article, you read about how your internal and external links will be affected.
And we asked you to have a list of all the links that would be affected by the change.
Now is the time to consult that list.
Fix all your broken internal links.
If you have backlinks on other websites, collaborate with their admins to have your links fixes as early as possible.
Even if you haven’t made any changes to your website, it is essential to have an overall evaluation of the performance of your keywords.
And after a URL is restricting, the need for an evaluation is essential than ever.
Do extensive keyword research and have a strong keyword strategy.
Moreover, ensure that the strategy is often revisited and improved from time to time.
Google Search Console is our first choice for useful keyword research.
The loss of traffic should be compensated with as long as your new link is strong enough to perform as much as its predecessor did, or even better.
And for this, you will have to improve your organic and paid SEO performance by sharing the new link on available online platforms to increase traffic.
There will undoubtedly be a setback time, but with the right amount of untiring effort, you will be able to bring back the traffic.
The power of social media is off the table for debates for long now.
Proper use of the right platforms for your business can either destroy you or help you build a strong brand presence.
While Google is busy finding your new domain and indexing it, you should be busy creating a brand presence on your social media channels.
Post regularly for attracting people to your new link.
If there has been a significant change, raise awareness among your followers.
Your URL has got a new look.
How about your content?
Take this as a chance to update and refresh the content on the page.
You should identify outdated information, if any, and keep it optimized for SEO targeting.
However, keep in mind that too many changes can have the wrong impact by affecting on-site optimization.
Now that everything is said and done be patient.
Rome was not built in a day.
And your website was also not built in a day.
Stay calm, keep boosting your on-page and off-page SEO works, keep attracting more organic visitors to your site, and you should see results gradually.
All that being said, don’t panic if you don’t see your traffic returning to normal in a short period.
Building a strong SEO base takes time, but the good news is that it will stay longer.
Even Google’s John Mueller suggests that changing the URL of your website should be a last resort because of its adverse effects on SEO ranking and site traffic.
That being said, we should also acknowledge that change is inevitable, especially in this fast-paced digital environment where new web structures are evolving, enhancing user experience.
At times, taking a step back, thereby bearing some setbacks, is the only way to ensure that you are on the right track to bouncing back with better results – both in terms of on-page and off-page SEO, and traffic.
Moreover, you must treat SEO optimization as a never-ending process.
In simple words, no matter what you do or don’t do to your URL, or any part of your website, on-page and off-page SEO optimization should continue.
This article by Google will help you have a comprehensive understanding of changing existing domains or URLs with minimal SEO impact.
All that being said, remember that changing your URL should undoubtedly be your last resort.
Ensure that you have a good plan for the smooth execution of the process, including all external and internal links that could be affected.
Above all, keep a habit of auditing your entire website from time to time for broken links and other areas that might affect the SEO score.
Remember to update all your advertisement materials – both online and offline – with the new links.
If planed with caution and carefully executed, you can certainly reduce the negative one of SEO impact of changing URL.
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