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The Cons of Changing URLs 
Posted by blog - Monday, January 15, 2007
Here is a question about changing URLs that I recently received that I thought would be of use to others considering a similar situation:
"We are considering changing our policy regarding URLs for sites. Right now each one has its own URL, i.e., domainname.com. We are considering changing them to: www.ourbrandname.com/olddomainname/. There are strong business reasons to do so. Are there any SEO ramifications (good or bad) for our sites if we do this?"
My response:

There are numerous issues with changing URLs. Here are a few considerations:

1. The old URLs have been published to the web and are part of the content and link history associated with any site they link to. The change to the new URL will not bring with it, any link equity that has been previously built up.

2. Search engines have indexed the current URLs, some sites have linked to the current URLs and some people have bookmarked the current urls. Changing to the new URL syntax brings with it the issue of redirecting all old URLs to their new counterparts. This is a coding issue that is handled at the server level so both search engines and users are re-directed to the proper content. It also means that the top referrers of traffic will need to be contacted and advised of the new url format. ie, ask them to change the URL they link to.

3. If redirection of old to new URLs is not handled properly a few issues will occur:
a) Users that find the site in search engine results will click on the link and get a "not found error" or possibly a custom not found page that suggests other places on the site to look. Neither of which is the content the user is looking for.

b) If search engines are not provided with permanent redirect instructions (301) then they will continue to maintain the old URLs in their databases, retaining any link popularity and traffic to the old URLs and not passing it on to the new site URL.
4. The current URLs are short and user friendly. The new urls are not and contain additional branding elements, therefore diluting the brand.

5. There is an advantage to yourbrandname.com by having multiple, active sites producing content and attracting links under the same domain, but you will be starting from scratch.

6. There are numerous free blog services that offer sub domain URLs (name.wordpress.com, name.blogspot.com, name.vox.com, etc). A subdirectory URL (www.ourbrandname.com/olddomainname/) would be perceived as less credible than a domain name and less than a sub domain.

What other issues (pro/con) can you think of in this situation?

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