Search engine optimisation

Hands off new URLs! Why you should never change your old URLs


Picture of a beautifully tidy garden

New URL, new luck? Not at all! A website relaunch can be a huge dilemma in terms of SEO. Experience has shown that new website addresses are not at all popular with search engines. Changing a URL can therefore be risky. We explain why here. You can read the summary at the end of the article.

Changing an existing URL - here are the SEO risks

Search engines like old website addresses better than new URLs. Why? Imagine Google is a little leprechaun: it busily collects data about websites, compares content from competitors and analyses visitor flows. The industrious leprechaun invests an incredible amount of time to form an opinion about a website. It wants to know exactly: What is it about? Do users find the content interesting? Do the authors know what they are writing about? Is the expertise confirmed by real experts? These are all questions that drive the leprechaun. Once it has formed a positive impression of the website, it displays it high up in the search results as a reward.

If you now change a URL or carry out a complete website relaunch, this can undo your previous SEO successes. Because now the leprechaun starts to waver and ponders: What kind of page is this again? Is the information coherent and relevant? What is behind this new URL? This confusion will unfortunately result in a poorer ranking of the page. The search engine has to warm up to the new URL again and puts it through its paces. It will only end up at the top of the hit list when the leprechaun is sure that it is a valuable page. This SEO risk always exists when you change a URL and applies to every single subpage of your website.

Tips for more sustainable, SEO-friendly URLs

When you set up a website, you should plan the entire URL structure in advance. Think very carefully about whether you can live with these names for years to come. Define a separate keyword for each subpage that is chosen in such a way that it will not change again depending on the season or demand.

For individual subpages as well as blog articles, you can avoid constant changes by only using very general keywords from the outset. For example, if you report on the most beautiful spring flowers every year, then always use the same URL with the keyword "spring flowers" for this article. Overwrite the texts every year so that only the current article can be found at the same address. This will save the leprechaun the work of checking your gardening skills every year.

Emergency scenario website relaunch

You should generally only give up a domain name in an emergency. This is where the highest SEO risk exists. If your product platform or company name changes fundamentally, new URLs are sometimes unavoidable. However, introduce changes gradually. Refer to old brand or company names in reference texts and at least hold on to particularly well-visited URLs. Use automatic redirects for each subpage to create a link between the old and new URLs that Google can follow. This will help the leprechaun to orientate itself and get used to the new situation.

Always weigh up the benefits and risks carefully: a well-founded and SEO-friendly website relaunch, taking into account a well thought-out URL structure, can ultimately also lead to an improvement in rankings.

In a nutshell:

  • Plan the entire URL structure SEO-friendly before publishing your homepage to avoid changes later on
  • Changing a URL always harbours an SEO risk, as Google has to check the page again
  • URLs that Google has already rated as good should remain as unchanged as possible
  • Rather overwrite old posts again and again than constantly creating new URLs
  • A website relaunch harbours risks, especially if the domain name is changed
  • However, new SEO-friendly URLs may be necessary in justified cases; you should always introduce changes gradually