Original Poster

Advice on URL structure before we get burnt again

I've read the FAQs and searched the help center. 
My URL is: www.rightboat.com

Our sites URL structure was built with no care or consideration for readability nor SEO. We want to make the URLs readable by visitors and easy to navigate to different sections.

Google has about 30k pages of our in the index. Of those I would suspect 20k of them are good pages that we have listed in our sitemap XML, the rest are old pages from previous versions of the site. We have had a rough time with SERPS over the last 2 years, which we have partly blamed on duplicate URLs linking to the same pages, creating millions of 'thin' pages. Therefore we thought we should reach out for advice before making any changes so we do not get burnt again.

Our site has 3 main sections, article, guides and a large amount of classified advert pages. We are looking at changing the URLs of searches for the classified adverts

Current examples


We are planning to change them to


The rest of the site has URLs such as 

1) Is this a good idea?
2) What impact are we likely to see? Next month is a busy time for us and we do not want to drop in ranking
3) We plan to 301 old pages to new, how long should these be left in place? 
4) We already have canonical tags in place, for example:

We will update these to be:

Will Google see the 301, remember the redirect, then update to use the new canonical tag?

5) Is there anything else we need to consider or change?

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All Replies (20)

Before we get into your question at hand, are you aware that you currently have all of your boat profiles set as meta noindex,follow ?

Now onto your questions:

1) Why are you wanting to change the format of your URLs specifically? This will help decide if it's a good/bad/indifferent change.
2) Your rankings are going to suffer as you move from one URL format into a different format. It could take Google 6-8 weeks to crawl through and re-index all of your changes, at which point you'll start to see your rankings return to their former levels assuming nothing has gone wrong in the change.
3) As long as practical, if you aren't inconvenienced by leaving them in place - I'd recommend you leave them.
4) Google will see the 301 redirect from /search?manufacturer=fairline... into /boats-for-sale/fairline... and process it. Seperately, they'll see the canonical tag on the second URL and process it as well (this could result in changes or no changes depending on the configuration)
5) Caution & lots of testing. Site migrations are one of the most poorly handled tasks relating to SEO in my opinion and can go very wrong if not dealt with properly.

Corruption Private
Corruption Private
I think it is for better organization.
As to the noindex part, I noticed they are search results and thus may have duplicate material in them.

Also, look at if the old page you are redirecting actually have any back-links or are getting traffic. If not, then I would say you can get rid of them.
If they do, then you can use a redirect. You may also want to contact the people with any good backlinks there and tell them of the change if you are just going to drop the page.

Just looked at the backlinks for http://www.rightboat.com/ and I can say right now that it looks spammy. That is just the top 100 results. You have over 7k of them according to Backlink Watch, so probably more in reality
Michael  Wechsler
Michael Wechsler
I agree with Alistair on this one and for the following reasons.

1. Google has long been able to crawl and read through query strings. Impact on humans may be negligible.
2. For many reasons it is better not to 301 redirect if you have a choice not to redirect. It's not like choosing red or blue and has repercussions.
3. Why are indexing your search results pages?
4. Putting keywords into your URLs isn't going to magically boost you up in the rankings. I'd carefully consider changing your URLs because of the issue of redirects, the fact that a strong backlink profile might be affected (even though minimal in theory) and that alistair's statement that you should see a return is not guaranteed, just probable - or so we believe.

I see 22,000 boats for sale. Lots of incredibly thin pages. No dates when these went up. Is much of this content yours or are your users posting ads on multiple sites? I'd say your gains from changing URL structure is not the most impacting.

1 - Thin Content
2 - What does it mean to go to another website? Where is this content from?
3 - Duplicate content all over the web: https://www.google.com/search?q=%22please+visit+the+bhg+marine+web+site+for+more+details%22

hi matt, I'm not sure how to answer your question but i was wondering if you can help me with the 301 redirect code as i am trying to to the exact same thing.

Michael  Wechsler
Michael Wechsler
Could you please start your own topic if you have issues?

Any 301 redirect information can be found here - but please no follow up questions on this topic here. Matt is considering a 301 redirect, not yet ready to implement.

301 redirects - https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93633?hl=en
Webado General 301 Redirection on Apache server - https://sites.google.com/site/onlyvalidation/page/general-301-redirection-on-apache-server

Original Poster
Hi Al,

Yes we no index the boats themselves as we were informed by John Mueller that we had a site with lots of 'thin' pages. 

- We cannot control how much data is inputted within a boats listing.
- We have about 20k listings

Therefore we decided to noindex the boat pages, so Google index held fewer, but stronger pages.

The URL structure change was for several reasons, to make it easier to read the URL for the visitors, to make the URL reflect a breadcrumb feature we are planning, and to ensure Google could see what the page contained.

Thanks for your response
Original Poster
Hi Corruption Private,

"Just looked at the backlinks for http://www.rightboat.com/ and I can say right now that it looks spammy. That is just the top 100 results. You have over 7k of them according to Backlink Watch, so probably more in reality"

Wow, this is news to me. I thought we 1) didn't have many links and 2) the ones we had were clean. What tool did you use to see them? I am very concerned.
Theresa S
Theresa S
If it were me, I would change the canonical to this:

I just don't see any need to index pages & pages of multiple parameters (like price range and sort order). You will dilute the manufacturer pages and create more duplicate content in the process. Canonical is a great way to save yourself time & energy trying to code the "noindex"

Original Poster
Hi Black Belt,

Thanks for your comments.

1) As mentioned above, we are aware we have thin pages, there is nothing we can do about that, it is up to the seller to put up as good a listing as possible, however some feel that they would get more enquires by just posting a teaser.

2) We discourage the use of links within our listings, but have to allow them.

3) We cannot control if a seller advertises their boat for sale on other sites, then uses the same content.

For all these reasons we noindex the boat listings themselves and instead index the search results.

You mention about the dates in which the page is created. Is this important? We can easily add it, but some sellers may not want the fact that their boat has not sold for 2 years to be listed. Again these pages are noindex so I assume not relevant?

With regards to content, we do have our own content which we are adding to each week:


Corruption Private
Corruption Private
I used Backlink Watch http://www.backlinkwatch.com/
Just remember to check out both http://www.rightboat.com/ and http://rightboat.com/
You will get different results.
Original Poster
Hi John,

Many thanks for taking the time to respond. It is great to know that we would be wasting our time, we will spend our time elsewhere.
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