I renamed my Free Resources page, which is the #3 most popular page on my site, to Printable Bingo Cards, which both more accurately describes what is available there and is a much better title for SEO purposes. This required some slicing and dicing in all of my HTML files because that is a link which appears in my navigation bar. Luckily, bash was adequate for the task as always.
for htmlFile in *.htm
sed s/free_resources\.htm/printable-bingo-cards.htm/ $htmlFile > temp1.txt
sed “s/Free Resources/Printable Bingo Cards/” temp1.txt > temp2.txt
mv temp2.txt $htmlFile
rm -rf temp?.txt
I also redid the title tag (“Free Resources from Bingo Card Creator” to “Printable Bingo Cards from Bingo Card Creator”), updated the site map with the new URL, and added a RewriteRule for the old URL to my .htaccess so that I don’t break any links from the blogs and schools who linked to it. This is a fairly key step for any change you make that affects a popular page. If you do not do it, not only are you hurting user experience on third party sites which trusted you with a link, you’re squandering PageRank that you’ve worked so hard to gain. Adding in another rewrite rule takes like 5 seconds, so do it!
## put me somewhere near the top
## put me in the big block of rename rules you’ll be creating
RewriteRule ^thanks-for-downloading\.htm$ http://www.bingocardcreator.com/thanks_for_downloading.htm [R=301,L]
printable-bingo-cards.htm is, by the way, pushing it on how many words I would suggest you have in a filename. I’m fairly sure that is under the threshold to get penalized because one or two of my competitors use three word filenames, sometimes after having the same three words in a directory listing. That is a bridge too far in my book, and I expect Google will smackify it sometime soon. Repetition in the URL gives no useful information to human users, and it is not a “natural” design technique for a website either, so I suspect that Google will eventually toss it out as a useless SEO technique, the same way they habitually ignore overly-long-file-names-stuffed-with-keywords-like-this-one.htm .
Finally, don’t forget to resubmit your updated sitemap to Google.