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Assume that in a website in order to view a user's profile you only need to append the username to the end of the URL. For example: twitter.com/myusername

In some websites like Twitter this username can change; thus the address of user's profile will be changed. For example: twitter.com/mynewusername

How does this affect the SEO of the page?

How can it be engineered according to SEO topics?

  • Profile pages don't enjoy great search engine rankings usually to begin with. Most profile pages are sparsely populated. Only a few users on any site have lots of content on their profile pages. Even with content, the pages are usually only of interest to those searching for that user (ie. not many people.) Because of the content problems and low searcher interest, the pages don't typically rank for anything at all competitive. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 20 '17 at 19:58
  • Twitter allows users to change their profile. Twitter's business is based on the profile page. You can search user in Google according to his/her name and the result's URL will be twitter.com/username. How do we explain this? @StephenOstermiller – PKa Sep 21 '17 at 13:59
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    Profile pages are relevant if you are searching for the user name, however most users don't get searchers. Also twitter is a huge company, people expect to find twitter profiles if they search. That is probably not the case for your smaller website. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 21 '17 at 14:01
  • That's right. Let me give you an example. We search for Donald Trump Twitter. We get https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump as the result. Many people visit his profile on Twitter. What happens if he changes his username from realDonaldTrump to something else? @StephenOstermiller – PKa Sep 21 '17 at 14:05
  • If Twitter doesn't redirect, the search engines (and real people) will have a hard time finding the president. If there is one thing that President Trump likes, it is lots of attention. I don't think that is something that he (or any other famous people building brands) is likely to do. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 21 '17 at 14:27
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Assuming twitter.com/myusername becomes a Not Found page - search engines don't like lots of broken links, which is why many websites prevent (or limit) username changes. For example, Google gives every website a "crawl budget" - if Google finds lots of broken links (from old usernames), it won't crawl as many of the live pages, and so therefore might not find the new username pages. If Google can't find the page, it won't rank at all. It depends on the size of the website, but generally a small percentage of Not Found pages doesn't do any harm (though I do recommend fixing them if the resources are available).

If you want the profile pages to rank in search engines, a 301 Moved Permanently redirect should point from example.com/myusername to example.com/mynewusername - that will pretty much wipe out the negative impact of the non-existent page for the old user name, as it tells search engines where to find the new page (and is also helpful for anyone following the old link).

  • So could you please tell me why Twitter allows their users to change their profile's URL? – PKa Sep 21 '17 at 14:00
  • Maybe some people don't want to start over and don't want to be found. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 21 '17 at 14:25
  • Twitter is a huge website (in terms of number of profiles and traffic) - a few users changing their URL isn't going to hurt Twitter. If you search for the name of anyone who has a Twitter profile, it's likely you'll see Twitter towards the top of Google's results. If a famous person changes their Twitter URL, it probably won't be long before their profile is ranking in Google again, especially if it's verified (as Google can link the profile straight to the celebrity). – Alex Harford Sep 21 '17 at 15:38

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