Whenever a website redesign or restructure is undertaken there may be changes to your site’s URLs. Changes could be due to a change in the way your site presents new URLs, e.g. /about versus /about.html, or a change in your permalink structure, e.g. removal of /category in yoursite.com/category/post-name.
It is extremely important to make sure that if there are any changes to the website URLs of any of your site’s pages that you set up a redirect to the location of the new page. There are 2 reasons you need to ensure redirects are set:
- Who wants to see “Page Not Found” after clicking a link?
- Search engines can still follow links to your content and “link juice” is maintained.
Those used to be the only things you had to consider. With the advent of “social signals” such as Likes and Tweets it has now become important to make changes to your site sooner than later.
Even if you set up 301 redirects to handle changes to your page URLs existing social signals are not transferred to the new URL, i.e. even though the page is the same you can go from having 1000 Likes on a page to zero.
This has been an issue for some time and is not going away anytime soon.
We know that Google is now tracking social signals (even if it is unclear if they have an impact on page rankings), but at this point it is not clear whether Google has any mechanism in place to give credit for these social signals that are apparently lost when changing your URLs.
So just to reiterate:
If you have any plans that will result in changes to your web pages URLs, it is better to do it now rather than losing even more social signals in the future.