URL changes are not so simple for Google Search

Posted on Jan 18, 2022


Google released a video on the SEO impact of making URL structure changes to your site. In short, John Mueller, a search advocate at Google, said these URL changes are “not that simple for search engines” like Google. These changes, if done properly, can take several months for Google to fully process.

The video. Here is the short two minute video:

Why is it not simple. Google said since Google stores each URL as an address in its index, and each URL is on a per page basis, when you change the URL, that data for that URL or page needs to be forwarded. All the signals, all the links, all the information Google has about that URL needs to be forwarded to the new URL. That can be complicated and for that reason, Google has detailed site move documentation.

Site move Google documentation. Years ago, Google published very detailed documentation on site moves that you can find over here. John Mueller summarized the key points on the video:

Do the research before doing the migrationTime the update when it is a good time to have a dip in trafficCreate a list of the old and new URLs for mapping purposesImplement the migration with 301 redirects and internal site updates, like navigation, XML sitemaps, etcMonitor the migration with analytics and Search Console

Timing. It can take Google several months to fully process all the URL changes but Google said the “more important” URLs will be processed faster, while the less important URLs will take longer to be processed by Google.

Redirects. Google said again, make sure to leave the redirects, the 301 redirects, in place for at least a year.

Why we care. Many SEOs, site owners, publishers and webmasters have experienced site moves and migrations before. URL changes can be very scary for SEOs, so doing it properly and having the tools in place to catch errors and monitor progress can relieve a lot of that stress.

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