If you are my long-term reader, you may be familiar with my writing style. I’d like to publish some technical tips or guide, which I really applied in real project. Last week, I studied the “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide” here. For some tips in the Guide, I think they are applicable for my website. For example, add “alt” for every images. I have never done that for my site. Consider about the well structured URL, my website also has a big room to improve. Therefore, I decide to do something by following the Google’s guide. Hope I can get some good result after that. Now, here we go!
Choose a Website to Start Optimization
To safely try the practice which is mentioned in Google’s starter guide, I choose one of my website, which has the same problems (no alt in img tag, bad url structure) as jmsliu.com. The site is created in 2011, and I already stop publishing anything there for years. As a result without maintenance, the traffic looks quite bad:
I have been running the website for several years. In the end of 2011, I add statcounter to monitor the traffic. Unfortunately, the traffic dropped from Feb, 2011. In the past of 6 years, I have not done anything about SEO, except adding several articles in the website. Let’s zoom in the traffic graph in the last 30 days:
The Google’s guide have mentioned several tips. Here I will only choose to reformat the website link, by removing the post id from url and rearrange them with category name. For details, you can check my last post “Improving Site Structure in WordPress”.
To restructure the website, it’s better to check the sitemap.xml to check the current situation. In my example website, there are lots of URL with numbers, repeated categories and tags. To build a better structure, I will reformat the post URL by removing the number and delete repeated categories and tags. But first of all, I will backup my website sitemap.xml first, which will be used to verify the new posts URL redirection.
Step #1. Remember All Link Changes
When we try to change links, it will affect the website traffic indeed. That’s why we must be carefully. For example, if I want to change some critical category link, I will write some 301-permanent redirection to redirect the old link to new link.
Step #2. Change Permalink in WordPress
After I backup the old link in sitemap.xml, now I start to change my permalink in WordPress. My old permalink format for post looks like:
To follow the Google’s SEO guide, I change the permalink format as following:
Step #3. Update Sitemap.xml
After changing all link format, please don’t forget to update sitemap.xml to new link format and submit it to Google Webmaster.
Step #4. Fix Broken Link by 301 Permanent Redirection
After changing the link format and submitting new sitemap.xml to webmaster, Google will take time to index new links. But if we don’t do anything about old link, google bot will crawl the old links and get 404 error. Of course Google shall has intelligence to find out the new link and old link has the same content, but it still make the risk of losing traffic from old links. The best measure we can carry out is using 301 permanent redirection.
It will be helpful if you have backed up the old sitemap.xml which contains all old XML links. Compare with new link, we can simple write some rules to redirect all old link to new link. If you are using WordPress, you will be lucky that WordPress will automatically handle post redirection from old permalink to new link.
In my website, I also delete some additional categories and tags. For sure Google will treat these as 404 pages and they will be removed from their database. But as I mentioned, these are duplicated categories with repeated content. I guess deleting these index pages may help my website searching performance.
For categories which I change names and links, it’s better to write the 301 permanent redirection manually as I still want to keep them in Google search. To write hard-code URL redirection is quite easy. If you don’t know how to do so, you can leave a message below the article, or you can try my new WordPress plugin, JMS URL Rewrite Rule. It will help you generate 301 permanent URL rewrite rule.
Let Google Index New Links
After I changed my site link and submit the latest sitemap.xml to Google webmaster, Google still need to take time to update it’s database. In Google’s Webmaster Search Console sitemap panel, it shows the latest submitted status and indexed status. I submitted my latest sitemap in 15 Dec. Two days later, only 9 pages got indexed. It looks a little bit dangerous, doesn’t it?
I will keep tracking on this site and updating the indexed status and traffic if there is any new progress.