How To Maintain Existing Links & SEO Integrity With Website Changes

 
Sustaining Current Online Success
 
September 10th, 2019

Seamlessly Prepare For URL & Path Changes Without Worry

Neon sign that reads change

Digital products play a large role in an organization’s visibility and brand identity. When things are going great with consistent website traffic, support in a movement, lead generation, enrollment, or conversion rates, the analytics reflect that positivity and reinforce connected achievements.

Several things can interrupt your website’s current online success, and a main source of interruption is URL changes.

Why Would An Organization Make URL Changes?

There are countless reasons why URL and path changes are required, and it can be as simple as removing a service or product from a website.

Sometimes, brands purchase domains that are similar to their existing organization in name, services, products, or subject matter to protect their brand identity or generate more search traffic to their website.

The other main reasons online paths will change can include:

  • The organization’s top-level URL may change with a new branding mission

  • The paths to critical pages or sections may change as the purpose or message of the content itself changes

  • The overall information architecture changes to accommodate new requirements, features, or simply improve the overall experience and structure 

When brands have purchased several domain names to boost traffic, it is important that the original website maintains its search authority. 

When organizations change their URL completely, or reroute content from existing pages, users should still be able  to access the old URL, or click on a previous link without receiving an error. 

Leading traffic to the new pages without interruption requires their digital paths to change. These changes should never lead to diminished user experience or losses to your search engine optimization resources and ranking authority, but if not thought through ahead of time, there are many problems that can occur:

  • Published materials might include direct links to paths that are changing 

  • Links to previous landing pages, content, or other functionality likely exist on other unrelated sites, such as personal blogs, of which you are entirely unaware

  • Digital advertising in the wild may link to paths that are now changing

  • Users may have bookmarked key content on your site for easy return access

The bottom line: if your paths are changing in any way, it needs to be easy for your users to still get themselves back to the content.

The solution is simple when it is properly planned: implement proper redirects or rewrites from the old URLs and paths to the new ones. 

  • 301 redirect
    This is when a rule on your nameserver or on the hosting server will seamlessly transfer the user from one path to another. For example, if the user types in mygreatsite.com/destination, and there is a 301 redirect to smartstuff.com/something, then the user’s browser will simply look at the first URL, receive instruction to go somewhere else, and then it will switch to the other URL. This matches full URLs from beginning to end, so the entire string must match and will only have one destination.

  • Rewrite rule
    This is when the server will rewrite a string in the URL to something else any time it sees it. For example, if mygreatsite.com was changing to my.greatsite.com, you would want a user who had mygreatsite.com/blue and mygreatsite.com/red to go to my.greatsite.com/blue and my.greatsite.com/red, without having to create individual 301 redirects for every single potential path. With a rewrite rule you tell the server to change any instance of mygreatsite.com that it sees to my.greatsite.com, and to leave the rest of the path alone.

Both solutions are powerful for different reasons, but you’ll want expert help in selecting which approach is right for you, as well as planning for and implementing the specifics.

What Happens If Website Changes Are Not Implemented Properly?

Designating route changes on the server will ensure that anyone using the old path will be redirected to the new one. Even if they are typing in the old web address directly from existing print collateral, or clicking on an old link from a dated email or online document.

The key to the website’s success is that each existing path must be redirected properly, or:

  • Users become frustrated by broken links or non-existent pages and abandon the search

  • Search engines continue to crawl old paths, compromising SEO performance

  • Search engine algorithms will recognize that paths lead to broken links, and will penalize the brand source in performance

  • The path may not be secure when using a 301 redirect between an older HTTP and the newer HTTPS version

  • Redirect chains may result from a series of two or more redirects between the initial URL and destination URL, and slow the transition

  • Redirect loops can occur when a URL redirects back to one of the other URLs in the chain, creating an infinite loop

When a brand is changing its company or website name, a 301 redirect is integral to maintaining the power of inbound links to the original URL on the migrated new domain.

The truth is your website must run optimally, no matter how many paths change.

When using Drupal or WordPress, we also include the administration module to make it easy to add redirects after launch when/if analytics tell us that people are trying to reach a page for which a redirect was not created because the value of that page may have been underestimated.

We focus on the user experience and the precision of analytics to ensure each redirect is implemented properly, securely, and successfully.

Will 301 Redirects Affect My SEO Value?

If it were 2015, the answer to “Will 301 Redirects Affect My SEO Value?” would be very different than it is in 2019.

Since technology continues to evolve at the speed of light, the consensus is a 301 redirect passes 95-99% of the page authority from an old URL to a new URL.

301 is the number code representing “permanent change,” so this is essentially the equivalent to telling the post office, DMV, or voter registration roles that you have moved.

When properly configured, 301 redirects can replace the previous path in the search engine results in as little as 24 hours, giving the redirected page just as much ranking power as the original page.

A 301 redirect maintains a website's search rankings and domain authority when the site's URL changes. Visitors do not have to type in a different URL. The redirect will send visitors and search engines to the newly assigned URL, instead of the one they originally requested.

301 redirects also transfer the inbound links from the redirected domain to the new one, which helps prevent any dip in search traffic.

Does Your Organization Need To Redirect Website Traffic?

Fundraising campaigns. Scientific breakthroughs. Milestone anniversaries. Community growth. 

These are all common reasons why organizations may require their website traffic to be redirected, as they expand their relationships with donors, volunteers, and advocates.When your website it running optimally, the idea of making any changes may seem intimidating.

It doesn’t have to be. At Stauffer, we provide the technical experience and personalized service that allows our clients to understand exactly what is happening when we build new digital products, so they can educate their teams on the upcoming transition.

By providing no-nonsense solutions and straight-forward answers, we remove the disconnect from the technical world to the marketing universe and deliver results.

Contact us today to learn more about how to successfully launch your new digital product from the inside out.  

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

About the writer.

 
stauffer
Lindsey Hockman
Marketing