Changing URLs

Once a page is published we do not recommend changing the Universal Resource Locator (URL) path for the page. Most of the content management systems allow you to customize the path which may be a good idea if you are going to use it on print materials or promote it a lot. Always try to think about this before you publish.

Sometimes it’s Unavoidable

To figure out how disruptive the change will be, you can review the referral traffic to the page in Google Analytics.

  • Navigate to BEHAVIOR < Site Content < All pages
  • Type the part of the URL path that you want to change into the Search field so that you are only looking at that one page
  • Add a Secondary Dimension of “Full Referrer”
    analytics full referrer
  • If you need help with this, just let the web team know.

The report will give you a lot of information about where links are to the page that you will need to get updated. If anyone is linking to the original URL path, you must ask them to update their link.

The original URL path for the page has been “indexed” by Google and other search engines for search engine results. It will take a little time before they know the URL address has changed. Sites with a lot of broken links will be lower search results. I wouldn’t expect it to be broken for more than a day or two.

Be prepared that visitors will end up on the “Page Not Found” page. In other words, they will see a broken page and may not know how to find the content they’re looking for. If you have the capability to edit your “Page Not Found” page, you can add a link on it to the new path.

If the Disruption is High

The Web team has the ability to programmatically redirect traffic from an old URL to a new one. The redirects are not permanent. There are numerous reasons why the redirect code may go away and when it does we don’t like to be faced with unexpected broken links. It’s best to deal with the change than prolong it for a time when it’s less transparent.

However, we do not want thousands of people hitting the “Page Not Found” page. If it is a high-traffic page, please let us know.

Afterward

We recommend reviewing Google Analytics for visits to the “Page Not Found” page. This will help you determine if you missed any incoming links that still need to be updated.