Fixing the Link.
So now that you know this “method” of SEO is archaic, ineffective and sloppy, how do you go about fixing your site?
Whether or not you should “fix something that isn’t broken” is something only you (if you have the knowledge), your in-house SEO or outside SEO firm can really answer as it really does need to be looked at on a case by case basis. There IS POTENTIAL RISK INVOLVED with changing URL structure that should be assessed. That said, I’ve had a lot of success with site structure migrations and most times, will choose to slowly migrate the site to a new, sensible URL structure.
Some tips for site structure migration
If you do choose to change your URL structure, you’ll find some tips based on my experience with my previous migrations below:
- Prepare for the fact that it takes Google a bit to “figure things out”. The more often you get crawled, the less time it will likely take for Google to get with the program. I’ve seen URL migrations take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get sorted out.
- Always choose a small, “mid-level” traffic section to start with. This way, you can see the results before enacting things on a larger scale and/or with your most important keywords.
- Make sure you have a good 301 plan in place for pointing the old URLs at the new ones. Without it, your new URLs will not “take the place” and the authority, link popularity and the rankings of your old URLs.
- Change site navigation, but use your internal sitemap as a “reminder”. What I mean by this is that I usually change the links to the new links throughout the site naviagtion and within the site content, but I leave a link pointing to the old URL on the internal sitemap (not the one you feed to Google via WMC) until I’m sure Google has seen the redirect and removed the old link from the index.
- Wait a few days, watch for the new URLs to be indexed, the old URLs to be removed and wait to ensure the new URLs take over the rankings formerly held by the old URLs.
- If everything goes smoothly then I wash, rinse and repeat with other sections. Take things slow. It takes a while, but if anything goes wrong, you want it to go wrong with one small piece and not your entire site.
In addition to the above tips, it never hurts to go out and get some quality links to the new URLs from tightly themed sites to let the engines know that your new URLs are just as relevant as your old ones and that their still important to crawl regularly (and hopefully speed up the migration process).