Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, revealed that changes to a site’s URL structure is not so easy for search engines. Google recently put out a short, 2-minute video explaining the kind of SEO impact you should brace for if and when you decide to change your site’s URL structure. Turns out that the entire process could take months…when done properly!
Here’s the video released by Google: https://youtu.be/FHjVmi1tkEw
What Makes the Process Not So Simple
As per Google, each URL is stored as an address in the search engine’s index on a per-page basis. When you change the URL structure, all the data for the original URL, including signals, links, and other important information that Google has on that page, needs to be forwarded to the new URL.
Things to Bear in Mind When Considering URL Changes
Google’s Site Move Documentation
As the URL change process can be quite complicated, Google has taken efforts to detail site move documentation. Muller has summarized the key points from the site move documentation.
1. Do your research before initiating the migration.
2. Go for the update when you can afford to have a dip in your site traffic.
3. List all the old and new URLs for mapping purposes.
4. Make use of 301 redirects and internal site updates, such as navigation and XML sitemaps, to implement the migration.
5. Keep a close eye on the migration through analytics and Google Search Console.
The Timing of the Migration
Google states that while completing the URL change process can take months, the search engine will process the “more important” pages faster. On the other hand, the less important URLs will require more time to be processed.
Google recommends that the redirects used during migration, the 301 redirects, are left in place for at least a year.
SEOs, site owners, webmasters, and publishers know just how scary URL changes can be. Hence, going about it the right way with the right tools in place to monitor the progress and catch any errors along the way can do a great deal to reduce your stress.