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Site redesign: serps plummet
redesign your site and google sandboxes you!
vampke




msg:754356
 1:56 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi guys,

I don't know if this subject has been covered already, so appologies if it has been...
I have noticed that after a complete redesign of a site - the content remains the same - google wouldn't show me in the serps for several months. I have noticed it on 2 of my sites, so now I'm very reluctant to change anything in my other sites who are scoring pretty well in the serps.
Any ideas on this?

My question is: how far can you go in modifying a site without the risk of being 'sandboxed' by G?

cheers!

 

phpdude




msg:754357
 2:18 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Did you change the page names when you did the redesign?

jrs_66




msg:754358
 4:14 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've seen this before, however, it seem very temporary and if the new design is well done- ranks will improve.

texasville




msg:754359
 5:19 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I redesigned a site last May and plummeted. Have not ranked well since. From now on it will be a very slow process.
<edit to add to>

I believe that it is a safety mechanism in google to prevent domains being bought and used to capture the old sites ranking.

Onders




msg:754360
 5:26 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

It would be great if you could let us know in more detail what exactly you changed - as mentioned, did you change the URL's? How substantial were the changes in the coding? Was it implemented all at once?

idolw




msg:754361
 5:48 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I believe that it is a safety mechanism in google to prevent domains being bought and used to capture the old sites ranking.

sure, but what if you do entire redesign of your website to make it easier and better?
it is stupid to have a part of new and a part of old redesign. i'd never buy from such site.

havent you changed your URLs?

kevinpate




msg:754362
 6:26 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't know the outer edge of 'how far', but I know this much. Last summer I did a new look/feel to an info site.

Different background, different logo image, shifted the menu to the right side (it looks better and hey, it seemed to not impact this place), some content change (very minor in my opinion) and a lot of code cleanup.

We saw no changes as to the serps at the time, nor since. Being somewhat happy with where the site sits in most situations, holding steady wasn't a bad thang at all in my mind.

Lorel




msg:754363
 6:37 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Vampke,

Did you by any chance "upgrade" from HTML to asp or php script? If so, session IDs will stop Google in it's tracks.

phpdude




msg:754364
 7:02 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you changed the page names or extensions, the pages are being treated as new and will no longer rank the way the old ones did unless you did a 301.

I have done many site re-designs but have always left the page names the same for any pages that were ranking well and have never had a site lose it's positions because of the redesign.

jenkers




msg:754365
 7:09 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

same here - have changed design / structure etc on a number of sites quite radically but never lost rank. If you have pages that rank in the search engines then keep the page names / extensions the same.

On my old static sites I generate the 'old' html pages from a db from scripts (asp/php whatever) - some of the pages are 8-9 years old - no way I'm giving them up.

kwngian




msg:754366
 7:15 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

it is stupid to have a part of new and a part of old redesign. i'd never buy from such site.

heh.. sounds like my site. part asp part php with a perl script to boot. No wonder my sales is so bad.

2by4




msg:754367
 7:23 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

this is almost always caused by failure to rewrite old urls to the new ones. From my experience it doesn't matter what you do as long as you handle the new urls correctly, I've done this on very large sites and had zero issues, except maybe a bump up in the serps because google sees all new pages, it likes changes, but it doesn't like poorly executed changes, failure to rewrite to new urls, creation of duplicate content, etc.

I'd put this type of error as probably close to the top mistake I see year in and year out. Easy to understand why too, it's very hard to do the rewrites correctly. And on asp shared hosting, it's essentially impossible to do those rewrites at all.

Genie




msg:754368
 10:26 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Over a year ago I removed frames from my information site, which meant the addition of menus on every page, and changed from tables to CSS. The site plummeted in Google and hasn't recovered. I rearranged some content, which meant new urls, but nothing like the whole site. And it isn't just those pages that have suffered.

mearts




msg:754369
 11:46 pm on Feb 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

In Jan. we redesigned our entire site, kept the same file names and added new pages. We anticipated being dropped from Google and within 24 hours were gone. Before we ranked in the top five for our keywords. It's now 45 days later and we still MIA for our keywords in google but kept the same ranking in every other search engine. We emailed google and after 3 replies said one of their engineers would look into it. That was a couple weeks ago. To make up for the lost traffic we increased our links on related sites and advertising elsewhere. Sales in Feb. were the highest ever.

acersun




msg:754370
 12:52 pm on Mar 2, 2006 (gmt 0)


jenkers:
If you have pages that rank in the search engines then keep the page names / extensions the same.

phpdude:
I have done many site re-designs but have always left the page names the same for any pages that were ranking well and have never had a site lose it's positions because of the redesign.

mearts:
In Jan. we redesigned our entire site, kept the same file names and added new pages. We anticipated being dropped from Google and within 24 hours were gone.

Jenkes and phpdude seem to avoid the problem by sticking to the old name/ext, this is what I also do when redesigning. Being a SEO newbie, this was for me just "common sense".

I wonder why mearts had with this strategy no success and why he has even anticipated this whereas many others succeeded with the strategy of keeping the old page names and extensions.

Anybody to comment on this?

Wlauzon




msg:754371
 7:47 am on Mar 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

The idea of a total makeover vs Google has always kind of scared me, so for the past couple years I have tried to stick with partial or progressive upgrades whenever possible, and also use the old file names when possible.

It is a bit more work at times to keep the old and new pages compatible, but since 1999 we have never dropped below #5 for the three or four major search terms.

Obviously this is not always possible, but it does seem to avoid the Google hit.

ap_Rhys




msg:754372
 8:01 am on Mar 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

Softly, softly, catchee monkey. Old Chinese saying (supposedly).

A little bit at a time is much safer than wholescale major changes.

jatar_k




msg:754373
 8:04 am on Mar 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> A little bit at a time is much safer than wholescale major changes

I disagree, if your site is to the point you actually need major renovations and you understand the repercussions

just do it, no use messin around

Komodo_Tale




msg:754374
 2:20 am on Mar 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

I recently redesigned our whole site, switched to a new server and a new IP. While Google is not listing all the pages, they immediately listed the ones that matter (to me) and gave the site a very nice rankings boost. No drops.

Make sure you use 301 redirects in your .htaccess.

If you have a Google Sitemaps account, monitor for crawling errors and address them promptly.

vampke




msg:754375
 9:28 pm on Mar 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hey guys,

Interesting replies so far.
The sites I was referring to are only about 20-35 pages and full of usefull info for a very specific crowd.
I had the last site on a server from my internet access provider using the free webspace they offered (url shaped like [user.isp.tld...] but recently registered a proper url and moved the site to a professionnal server. the serps for the new site where up to snuff in a couple of weeks, since I asked the linking sites to chanhe links to the new site.
I used a little php in the new design (just includes, no dynamic url's) and switched from html 4.0 to xhtml. The content is practically unchanged and the pages still have the same url's.
Since the move to a 'real' url I have a couple of incoming links from dmoz and 4 from wikipedia (4 different languages). According to the 'live pagerank extension' in firefox the PR has risen to 5 where it was only 2 before the move.
Still I'm doing VERY poorly in the serps :'-(

Haecceity




msg:754376
 10:10 pm on Mar 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, that's not a redesign. That's a new site. And new sites get sandboxed.

Haecceity




msg:754377
 10:12 pm on Mar 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

PS. Didn't mean to sound harsh! You have my sympathy. Your site will bounce back, but it's going to take time, so have patience, and know that you did the right thing in moving to dedicated hosting.

vampke




msg:754378
 10:39 pm on Mar 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

You're wrong: the site ranked ok before the redesign
I also had it with another site of mine: exact same thing ('upgrade' to xhtml), but without moving to another server

tedster




msg:754379
 10:52 pm on Mar 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just to clarify the case we began discussing. You did put the redesigned pages on a new domain name, correct? It was not just a move to a different server, but you now own your own domain name rather than using free webspace.

If so, this means that the urls for those pages cannot be the same, because now they all begin with a different domain name. And this is the principal challenge you now face with this domain. A search on these forums for "Google Sandbox" will return thousands of posts discussing this issue.

vampke




msg:754380
 11:09 pm on Mar 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

again: I moved the site, it scored well in google
I redesigned it: it plummeted
Other site same thing, but without move, only redesign

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