During the Q&A section of the hangout on 09/10/2021, John received a question from a webmaster about URL structure changes.
The webmaster asked about URLs that are not configured properly per existing best practices—things like no hyphens between words, vague descriptions, etc.
Their question was whether it is better to simply keep the URLs as is, change them all at once, change them in staggered stages, or do something else entirely.
John explained that the effect of the URL structure is so small that it’s not something that will be of great benefit if you went and made large-scale changes across a site because of that.
His recommendation, in this case, is to leave these URLs the way they are and make a plan to do a bigger revamp later in a type of “URL revamp” checklist.
If you do, however, perform these changes on a large scale, then you create changes that could make fluctuations happen for a number of months before things settle down completely rankings-wise.
In the end, the results will likely be the same as before you made those new changes or even worse. before.
So don’t make changes for the sake of making changes unless they impact the larger picture for rankings and traffic.
This conversation occurs at approximately the 39:20 mark in the video.
John Mueller 09/10/2021 Hangout Transcript
John (Question) 39:20
Let’s see…if many URLs are not configured according to best practices—so no hyphens between words, vague descriptions, underscores instead of hyphens—is it better to leave them as is, to change them all at once, change them one or two week, or something else?
John (Answer): 39:35
So I, from my point of view, the effect of the URL structure or the kind of the way that you put things into the URL is so tiny that it’s almost not worthwhile to go off and make bigger changes across a website just because of that. So my recommendation there would generally be to just leave them be and maybe set up a document somewhere with things that you would like to do if you do a bigger revamp. And at some point, maybe a few years down the line, you decide to do a bigger revamp of your website, then take that list out and if you notice, like, well, you should be doing different URLs and maybe at that point, go off and include that and change that there as well.
I think, in general, if you go off and change the URL structure across a website in a large way, then you create a lot of fluctuations for, I don’t know, a couple of months. And, in the end, the results will likely be exactly the same as before. So you kind of have that long period, where things are worse and then, in the end, you have the same result. And, in the end, I don’t think that’s worthwhile.
Whereas if you go off and do a bigger revamp of your website anyway, where things will be confusing and worse anyway in between, then you might as well clean that up as well and improve that. Or if you’re creating a new website, then it’s, it’s obviously something to take into account. And you don’t have, kind of, fluctuations associated with that you’re basically just doing kind of the best practices from the start. So that would be kind of my direction there.