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Changing URL for new ones with targeted keywords - caveats



6:14 am on Jun 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

We have decided to changes the urls of the pages of our website which was developed roughly 6 years ago with no seo in mind, hence the urls do not make much sense and do not contain any useful keywords in them.

I think the time has come for us to make a better use of the URLs so we want to enrich them with relevant keywords. The problem is, the pages have already got PR and there are considerable amount of links pointing to them, so we are afraid that by changing the URLs we will loose more that we can gain.

So here are two ways we can go about the problem - it's either 301 redirect or URL rewriting (I am not sure the second one is appropriate in this case).

I get the idea that in the case of establishing redirects we will loose all our PR, which isn't a thing we want. Or am I wrong?

Are the any ways which could allow us to make our URLs look pretty without loosing anything?


5:18 pm on Jun 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

The value of keywords in the URL is thougt to be fairly negligible so it's probably best not to change anything.

In case you decide to still make the change, a 301 redirect loses *some* link juice, not all.


8:15 pm on Jun 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Agree with jimbeetle, I would not bother to change them either. Some of our url's are over 16 years old - never seen it make a difference.

How many users will actually type in an exact url ...

effect on SERPS - minimal, spend your time on something else


9:27 pm on Jun 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

it's either 301 redirect or URL rewriting

No. It's either 301 redirect combined with a renamed physical file, or 301 redirect combined with rewriting to unchanged physical file.

You can't change an URL without redirecting.


10:42 pm on Jun 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

What you decide to do may depend on how your URLs look like now and whether they point to:

1) a physical file on the server (e.g. some-page.html) or
2) to a database driven script with parameters in URL (e.g. somescript.php?param1=a&param2=b).

In the first case I would agree with jimbeetle and johnhh that changing URLs just to add keywords in URL is probably not worthwhile. But if you do so, then you do as Lucy24 said: you rename physical file on the server and you implement 301 redirects from the "old" URLs to new changed files on server.

In the second case changing URLs may have some other benefits: you avoid the order of parameters issue that may generate duplicate content and URLs may look more attractive to a visitor, encouraging click-through (providing that the new URLs do not look spammy). If you create nice short URLs, then you can also avoid the problem of .. in URLs which may happen when scrapers scrape the SERPs and Google picks up such URLs from scraper listing. If you are on IIS then with a good design of your new URLs you may avoid the capitalisation issue in URLs that IIS suffers from.

For the second case, to change URLs you need to combine redirect with rewrite, that is, you need to internally rewrite the request for a "new friendly keywords rich" URLs so that the request is forwarded to the script that generates the page, inclusive of parameters that script would need for this particular page. You also need to set up 301 redirect from old URLs (with parameters) to a new friendly URL.

For the second case this would result in:
- request for an old URL (script+parameters) responding with 301 to a new friendly URL
- request for a new friendly URL resulting in request being internally "translated" i.e. rewritten into the format script+parameters and forwarded to this script which would build the page and respond with 200 OK

In both cases you should also change internal links on your pages to point to a new URLs, so that clicks from within your website do not go via redirect.

To answer your second question:
Are the any ways which could allow us to make our URLs look pretty without loosing anything?

Google will need to "process" not just your new URLs but also the old ones in order to see the redirect. This may take some time, depending on the size of your site and how often it is being crawled.

If you implement your changes technically correct, you will probably see temporary drop, but usually afterwards comes the recovery. If change of URLs has also addressed some other issues such as duplicate content created (for example) by order of parameters in URL, then you may also see an improvement. Following Google processing the redirects, the PR should be transferred to new URLs (minus the damping factor of, according to Google's Matt Cutts, about 15%), but you will not be able to see that in visible toolbar until Google exports PR to toolbar again.


12:17 am on Jun 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

To add:
Having just seen this thread of yours: [webmasterworld.com...]

I personally would not change URLs to be in Cyrillic (Russian characters), and transliteration would most likely not help for Google to see the keywords in URL. Using Cyrillic in URLs would create very long URLs and you will start to suffer as they cannot be easily copy/pasted, you may start to have a problem with scraper sites and the damage you may suffer may be much higher than any benefit you may get. Add to this a small loss of PR because of 301 redirects - I do not think it is worth it.

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