Rank improvement by changing URLs

Back in December 2011, almost one year ago, friendly URLs were introduced in order to improve CTR. The old parameterized URLs were indexed, but even when ranking highly, the CTR was far from impressive.

The switch to URLs with clear and appropriate keywords to provide a logical structure has helped encourage additional visitors to click, and there has been a corresponding increase in rank. Of course, whether this is a causal relationship is up for debate – but either way, the statistics are interesting…

The following graph shows the steadily improving position in SERPs for the friendly URL since their introduction at the start of the year:

Rank improvement from friendly URLsThe chart shows a starting rank of around position 50 in Google back when the URLs were changed. As of last week, the URL is in the top 20 and has featured in 5th position regularly in recent weeks.

This positional change is not due to link building to the page:

No new backlinksThe backlink chart above suggests that no new links are being built in easily discoverable parts of the internet. The total number of backlinks reported has remained zero throughout the period of the rank improvement.

Similar improvement in rank is seen across other friendly URLs.

One explanation is that Google tests URLs for CTR. Those exhibiting favourable metrics e.g. low bounce rate, time on site before returning to search again could be used to indicate results that are the most valuable to search. Those results should be promoted to better positions. This promotion in search results takes time.

Even before Penguin, there have been alternative approaches (beyond simply building keyword rich anchor links) to improve rank. Improving the appearance of snippets to increase CTR is one of those techniques.


Is link building dead ?

The appearance of fresh links may provide a useful signal to Google – to test a URL higher up in the SERPs – but if that URL doesn’t engage the visitor, then other metrics will be poor and the URL is more likely to slip in the ranks than climb.

Heavy linkbuilding may simply hasten the decision to demote a poor performing site, based on the engagement metrics of the URL targeted.

What do you think?

Please leave a comment below.



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One thought on “Rank improvement by changing URLs

  1. That's good news, link begging building is one of my least favourite SEO'y activities. Probably just above paying my AdWords bill.

    I wonder when all those FAP links will be dropped from Google as they're all being (presumably) 301'ed away to the big Z. Where's the period of noindexed search results pages though? :))

    Years and years ago I coded up some friendly URL versions of product search results for an affiliate site I was running. New pages + FURLS meant my site ended up above the merchant I was promoting for key terms for a good few months, I'm sure they loved that 🙂

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