flicky - 11:49 pm on Jul 14, 2010 (gmt 0)
I want to thank everyone, including webmasterworld for bringing attention to my post. I'm still waiting this out 3 weeks later. I plan to report any new developments as time goes on as to hopefully help others planning to make a huge improvement in the quality of their code.
Let me recap and give today's status.
1. Site is 13 years old, one of the most established in my vertical and enjoys a very strong inbound link profile.
2. Code was also 13 years old. Table this, table that, font this, font that... you name it... the bloat and waste was there.
3. I've enjoyed top 10 rankings for dozens of premium keywords for years.
4. Ripped my code apart from the ground up, learned CSS, opened notepad and got to work.
5. I decided to follow STRICT doctype because I'm super anal when it comes to "getting it right".
6. Adopted a minimalist approach to my code which included the following:
b. consolidated all CSS into one stylesheet
c. used CSS shortcuts to further trim down size of code
d. minified stylesheet
e. re-used stylesheet elements as often as possible within the page design to keep the code footprint to an absolute minimum.
f. compressed the final HTML page output
g. turned gzip compression on server-side
h. added cacheing details to htaccess
i. compressed all images further
7. The result of all this optimization is an average page size of 13k after compression versus the original 80k. The CSS file is 3k versus the original 15k.
8. Webmastertools shows a huge improvement when looking at the "site speed" graph - as expected. I was slower than 70% of sites, now faster than 70% and climbing daily.
9. Literally the day after I rolled these changes out, my google traffic dropped. Upon further investigation, I had lost all of the premium keywords. I was and still am getting some random long-tail queries. Not everything was gone.
10. My pages are still in the system, however most of them are only accessible when querying "domain.com premium keyword" not when searching the full title of the page.
11. Randomly, one by one a premium keyword will reappear. This has occured about 5 times. A few have stuck, but others will disappear after about 24 hours. As of today, I have about 3 of these premium keywords back. Dozens are still missing.
12. Forgot to mention that my content stays the same through all of this. I did add a "main menu" that I did not have before. That is the one thing I keep considering removing.
This has been an extremely frustrating process. You wonder if things will ever come back... you wonder if more changes are needed, but then, again worry that if you change something, it will prolong the process that "might" be in place.
I understand "googlebot shock". I understand sandboxing a site that has completely changed in order to protect google's index in case that site was hacked. But 3 weeks is a long time for a business to be effectively shut down. Especially in this economy.
Thanks again for all of your help. If anyone wants a peek at this site for research purposes, please IM me.