Think Twice Before Changing Your Site URL Structure

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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.
Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project,
Ann Smarty
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  • Julio

    You make a mistake in your post. Both “treating multiple “extra” URLs” and “not-really-friendly discussion at Sphinn?” link the same website.

    Can I give my opinion, I think blocking with robots.txt isn’t a good solution. Because you have a lot of errors in webmaster tool. I’m extremely sure that it has some penalties.

    Thanks for your article.

  • Don M

    There is a great 301/302 redirect plugin for WordPress which works great. I used it on a 3 yr old blog with 1000+ entries and didn’t lose much in Google at all. The hard part was staying on top of all the redirect notifications at first, but having a GUI to modify all that stuff really was a godsend.

    Thanks for the article.


    • Michael Kjeldsen

      Hi Don M,

      can you provide a link to this plug-in?


      • Ed


        It’s called “Redirection”:

  • Ann Smarty

    The link is edited, sorry…

  • lee johnson

    HI Ann,
    great post. I work as an SEO manager for a large multinational in the UK. I have been doing some £)! redirect testing and I have found this works an absolute dream. thought I would share it with you:

    #301 Redirect
    RewriteCond %{http_host} ^ [nc]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [r=301,nc]
    RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^.*/index.*
    RewriteRule ^(.*)index.*$ [R=301,L]

    This stops all PR loss via canonicalization of the index page of a website.


    If you want to see a demo go to

  • India

    Nice article. 🙂