With the flood of SEO tips you come across here and there it is easy to become paranoid and screw your site up in an effort to make it more SEO friendly.
Tweaking URL structure is one of those site optimization steps that should be treated with particular caution:
- URL system is often screwed by the site CMS and you may have no idea how it works and which site performance elements could be affected when you attempt to change the URL paths and folder system;
- There is no one definitive way to treat “dropped” URLs, e.g. those URLs that stop being valid after you change the URL structure. Remember my last year’s post on best ways (notice the plural) of treating multiple “extra” URLs and our not-really-friendly discussion at Sphinn? No one will be able to tell for sure which way (404 or 301) is better and what the outcome will be.
- You need much expertise and tech knowledge to make sure everything is going to work properly.
- Screwing the URL structure may result in months of hard work to get Google trust your site again or just figure it out from scratch.
I’ve seen multiple people who turned for help to an SEO consultant and the first recommendation was “Change the URLs and get rid of extra “virtual” folders”. Trying to stick to standard patterns is good unless you risk to sacrifice too much. So just saying that would be right thing to do isn’t enough, you should consider all pros and cons first.
Here’s a solid thread at WebmasterWorld discussing the consequences and possible remedies of one such poorly considered decisions.
I don’t mean this is always a bad idea (though, often it is) but before making that kind of recommendations, two important steps should be taken:
- Warn the client of all risks to ensure he is going to take action with all due caution;
- Make sure the client has all necessary knowledge and / or reliable technical support to do everything right.