URL Restructuring and 301 Redirection: Custom Website Design Tips

Since the URL restructuring will lead to reduction in page ranking and even the reduced ranking can be regained only after few weeks, it is better to leave the URL as it is, unless it is really necessary. However, proper URL structure will make it easy for Search Engine Crawl and will also result in higher Click Through Rate. Here, we are discussing about redirection using .htaccess.
There can be four levels of changes possible:

(a) Domain
(b) Directory
(c) Page URL
(d) Blog Items

It is always better to do one act at a time, that is, avoid mixing up everything at once. Further, if you just change the URL without changing the content, you may regain the ranking faster. Once you restructure, it may take about 3-10 weeks for regaining the previous ranking, and initially it may be lower! Now for doing this, there are five steps that are required to be taken so that you do not loose much of your page ranking and regain it faster.

1. URL Structure, Length, and Style
The ideal URL length is 3-5 words separated by either dashes or underscore, but dashes are better, for aesthetics. For example, Organic Green Tea can have the URL:

http://www.yourdomain.com/organic-green-tea.html

And, this will make it clear for Search Engine as well as readers. Too lengthy URL can become confusing and too shorter one can be unclear. Further, avoid special characters; keep it simple; and in flow with the key words you target.

2. 301 Redirection using .htaccess
301 Redirect means ‘moved permanently’; and it is done for avoiding the loss of your higher page ranking for the existing pages while moving to the new ones. The redirect is done by using .htaccess file. And, 301 redirection is done at nine levels or even more:

(1) Non-www to www domain (Non-Generic Method)

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdmain.com
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

(2) Domain Change
This is to be done at the root directory on your server of old domain. If you do not have an existing .htaccess file, then open your notepad and create a file called .htaccess. Please remember to keep the dot at the beginning, and it will NOT have any extension like txt, html etc., and then upload the file to the root directory. And, place the following code in the .htaccess file. If a .htaccess file already exists, then leave one line space below the existing codes and write the code given below, and save the file.

redirect 301 http://www.newdomain.com/

Please note that there is a character space after the word redirect, and another space after 301.

(3) Changing Domain, Directory, and File
If you are changing to new domain, new directory, and new file name, you may do the following:

redirect 301 /old/someolddirectory/someoldfile.html http://www.newdomain.com/somenewdirectory/somenewfile.html

In addition to the character space mentioned above, there is another character space required just before the http. Do not add http://www. before the old directory. Save the code, then take any browser, and enter the old URL, now you will see the new URL appearing.

(4) Changing Domain and File
If you want to change file by file to new domain, then type the following code for each of the file on the .htaccess file, save, and keep it in the root directory of the old domain.

redirect 301 /old/someoldfile.html http://www.newdomain.com/somenewfile.html

(5) Redirecting Files to New Directory in Existing Domain

redirect 301 /somefile.html http://www.domain.com/somenewdirecoty/

(6) Redirecting Folder to new Folder without changing the Files:
That means when you move the folder, for example from cars to the new folder foreigncars, the existing file /cars/honda.html or /cars/nissan.html will remain the same.

redirect 301 /cars/ http://www.yourdomain.com/foreigncars/

(7) Adding additional layer of Folder:
Here, if you want to add another folder layer of ‘foreign’, without changing the content files in the end layer folder.

redirect 301 /cars/regular/ http://www.yourdomain.com/cars/foreign/regular/

(8) Redirecting File on the Same Domain
Here, you are just restructuring the URLs without changing the domain or directory. Now, if there is no .htaccess file exists, create a .htaccess file in the root directory, that is the directory where you have your index file exists. And, now assume that you want to change the URL from green-tea.html to organic-green-tea.html, then, add the following code to the .htaccess file:

redirect 301 /green-tea.html http://www.yourdomain.com/organic-green-tea.html

And repeat the same method, that is, add one line each for each of the new URL, on the same .htaccess file, save it and then upload.

(9) Blog Pages, Articles, Images etc.
If you have wordpress blog page, you can download the plugin called ‘Redirection’, upload the zipped folder to the wordpress folder in the admin panel of the blog, and activate the plug in. Now, if you have deleted any blog or article, you may redirect the queries to another similar blog or article, in order to avoid 404. Assume that you want to redirect blog file #15 to blog file #40. You can do it by going to:

Installed Plugins> Redirection > Settings> at the bottom you will see the space for entering data; enter

Source URL: /blog/?p=15
Action: Redirect to URL
Target URL: http://www.yourdomain.com/blog/?p=40

Then, click ‘Add Redirection’

Once you have added the redirection, you can also click any of the redirected URL and change the ‘HTTP Code’ from 301 to 302 or 307

3. Meta Tag Changes
You need to go to Meta tags of each of the web pages you changed the URL, and make appropriate changes to the title tags, meta descriptions, key words, canonical settings etc.

4. Changing Links
After completing the entire URL restructuring, you need to go to each of the web pages and change URL of each of the links. Once the changes are complete, go to each of the web pages, and check by clicking each of the links on every page, like text links, image links, menu, sub-menus etc. and ensure that every link is working properly.

5. Testing
Now, you may open any browser, copy and enter an old URL, and you should see the new URL coming up on the browser. Do this test for each of the old URLs.

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