“Ask an Expert“ is an occasional feature where we ask ecommerce experts questions from online merchants. For this installment, we address a question about redirecting users from old URLs to new ones. It comes from Brian Rogers, web merchandising manager for 511 Tactical, an online (and physical) store that sells specialized clothing and gear to law enforcement and fire-protection professionals.
For the answer, we turn to Jill Kocher, manager of the search consulting services team at Covario. She is also an SEO consultant and a regular contributor to Practical eCommerce.
If you’d like to submit a question, email Kate Monteith, staff writer, at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll attempt to address it.
Brian Rogers: “We are currently changing the URLs on our website to become more SEO friendly. We are planning on using the 301 command to redirect the old URLs to the new URLs, but will we lose all the valuable in-bound links [which help with search engine optimization] we have going to the old URLs?”
“Only the 301 redirect accomplishes these three important goals:
Redirects the user agent to the content at the new URL
Passes the old URL’s link popularity to the new URL
Prompts de-indexation of the old URL
“The other common forms of redirects, 302 redirects and refreshes, will only accomplish the first goal of redirecting the user agent to the content at the new URL.
“Keep in mind that a period of ranking and traffic volatility tends to follow URL rewrites. Typically the engines will have adjusted their indexation and rankings to reflect the new URLs within 30 to 90 days of successful implementation; but, depending on the scope of the URL rewrites and the flawlessness of the redirect implementation, it can be a bumpy ride. It’s a good idea to plan URL rewrites and other structural changes for slower seasons, leaving a good 90 days before the site needs to be performing for a peak selling season again.”