Posted by Lee Jackson on Google+ & filed under Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

One of the banes of working in SEO is to suddenly find one day that having invested huge amounts of time, effort and energy promoting a specific page on a client’s website, that the client suddenly decided one day to change the URL of that page, rendering all of your backlinks null and void.

Not only is this inordinately frustrating from the point of view of the people who have worked hard on creating copy and backlinks, but it can have a very real negative impact on your site. Obviously one of the first problems is that the new articles, blog posts, forum posts and other external marketing material which include links back to the specific page which now no longer exists under that name will be pointing to a dead link, or 404 error page.

The result of this is that many of those people who have come across the external marketing material and who found it useful enough to click the link to your site will be sent to an error page. The first impression of your business is that you can’t get something as simple as a basic hyperlink right. That’s not a good start, and you’ll quickly lose many of those potentially new customers.

Dead links aren’t good news for any website, and so what you’ll also often find is that the websites on which your marketing material is published will remove your content. So having paid an article writer to produce SEO articles for your website, those articles may well be removed by the article directory once the links become dead, even though they were correct to begin with.

So now you’ve lost potential customers, given people a bad impression of your site and had the marketing material you’ve paid for removed from circulation. All in all you’re out of pocket, people’s time has been wasted and the only end result is that your website is worse off than it was before everyone started, and all because you decided to change the name of a page on your site!

If you are thinking of changing the structure of your site, or renaming a page then there are two things you should always do. The first is to tell your SEO company as early as possible – preferably well before you implement the proposed changes. This gives them time to advise you on whether your new URL is likely to be good in terms of SEO, and also to implement changes to the links which they have already distributed.

The second thing is to create a 301 permanent redirect, assuming the new page will permanently take over from the old one. If it’s a temporary change then use a 302 redirect instead. A 301 redirect means that even if the links included in the articles, blog posts and forum posts aren’t updated or changed, they’ll still work, so that people will be able to visit the correct page on your site regardless of which URL is used. It also means that the article directories won’t be tempted to remove your SEO articles. There’s a good video on this here;

As far as the search engines are concerned a 301 redirect means that they will be compelled to visit the new version of your page, and will crawl that successfully, even using the old URL link. Just make sure that when you create a 301 redirect you’re not lazy, simply redirecting everyone to the root page or home page of your site. This is a wasted opportunity and very frustrating for visitors. Make sure that whether you’re just changing the name of a page or you’re moving to a new domain that you create a 301 redirect which goes from each old page to each new equivalent page.

Don’t worry about creating too many 301 redirects – Google has made it clear that there is absolutely no upper limit on the number of 301 redirects they will follow from one site to another, or within a single site.

If you would like a little more advice about setting up redirects, the difference between 301 and 302 redirects, or if you have any concerns about the use of redirects from an SEO point of view just leave a comment below and we’ll try to offer advice. If you have any tips yourself about the use of redirects, please take a moment to leave a comment – you know it’s always appreciated!

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