I’m pulling the trigger on something I haven’t had the guts to do before, but it’s long overdue. After nearly 3 years, I’m changing the permalink structure on my blog, although it’s not for the reasons you might think.
Besides search engine visibility, the more realistic answer is simple “user-friendliness”. People really aren’t that much different than search engine spiders when it comes to determining the relevancy of a link.
Another reason is that someone sent me an e-mail recently asking me if I’m such an expert, then why aren’t my own URL’s optimized for best performance?”
Well that person had a good point, and my answer was that I didn’t know any better when I first set it up, and I’ve just been too busy/lazy to change them, and afraid of even the temporary ranking drops that go along with changing URLs.
As more and more users look at the URLs in their browser status bar before they click, having keywords in your URLs is going to improve click-throughs.
For example, a while ago I wrote a blog post called “Things to hate about office 2007” and I needed to send someone a link to it.
When I pasted the URL I saw this – http://www.pdxtc.com/wpblog/archives/462 and that’s just not very compelling or informative. However, once I changed my permalinks, it looked like this – http://www.pdxtc.com/wpblog/microsoft/things-to-hate-about-office-2007/
“Are you crazy?” you might be asking yourself… “Doesn’t changing your URL’s or permalinks create 404 errors?”
Well yes it does, but not if you do 301 redirects.
“Are you even more crazy?” you might be thinking… “Isn’t doing hundreds or thousands of 301 redirects a complete pain in the neck?”
Well, yes it HAS been in the past, but there’s a cool WordPress plugin called Deans Permalinks Migration that made the process so easy it’s hard to believe.
With 301 redirects in place for all of my old URL’s, there’s really no risk of permanently losing search visibility, since all of my indexed URLs will still work, all of my inbound links will still work, and finally, the visible Google PageRank should flow to the new pages I’ve created with the next update.
The downside is of course that all the pages will show as a PR0 until at least the next update, and possibly two, but since we can’t sell links anymore, who really cares?
The other downside is that traffic and rankings will likely drop, but only temporarily. Exactly WHY this happens is in my opinion, on of Google’s shortcomings, but it does. Show me a domain that changes URL’s, but loses no rankings temporarily, and Ill call it a fluke. Things always drop.
That said, with a properly implemented 301 strategy, ALL of your rankings should (and will) return just as strong as ever, provided you don’t have other radical changes that would negatively affect visibility.
Check out the plug-in, and if you want to see how easy it is to use, I’ve added a 3 minute video –