|Website vanished from SERPS|
What caused the disappearance?
I recently (last month) had my website redone by a web developer. The site had been difficult to navigate. The site is ecommerce using oscommerce software. The site now is using the newest version of oscommerce and has had the URLs made to reflect the products sold, rather than random numbers. At first the site was doing very well. First page for my search terms for most products. Then, all of a sudden, all the pages vanished from the SERPS. I'm trying to figure out what happened. The only things that had been done just prior to this was the site had to be newly verified in GWT (added a special html page to do that). Also, there were some issues with the site automatically updating the sitemaps daily to all the search engines. Some script change needed to be done. GWT indicated my sitemap disappeared, so had that fixed. Also, in order to keep the old links pointing to the newly designed site, an automatic 302 redirect was put into place to the home page. The new site makes it very easy to find any of the products from the old links, so the developer thought that would be the easiest way to keep my customers. But perhaps I need to do the 301 permanent redirects instead. Can anyone see any clues as to why my site disappeared? The site is still there if you type in the site name, but you can no longer find my pages using my search terms.
When major changes to URL structure suddenly occur most Search Engines will sandbox the site and reindex (trust) over time. One way to test that is to roll back to your original design and see if that makes any difference (providing you have backups of that site snapshot).
What module are you using for the seo urls in your store? For seasoned stores, transitioning urls with plain arguments into seo ones, require some method to be in place.
So for seasoned stores the proper thing to do is to configure the seo module such that, if the old url with the plain arguments is requested, the server returns a 200 Ok and gives the right content and not do a redirect. And although these old links still show the same content, there are not exposed anywhere in your site for spiders to see them again. Over time spiders will drop the old ones and use the friendly urls because there will be no reference in your site. During this transition you may see in the GWT some duplicate references but they will disappear over time.
Some of the oscommerce seo modules have configuration switches to do exactly that. To force or not, a redirect when an original osc links is requested. For newly created sites of course you want to expose the friendly links immediately so best to force the redirect.
My site is using Seo Urls 5. And I may have spoken too soon. It appears the pages are now beginning to move up in the SERPS. It would seem the spiders like the new URLs. Those are appearing (rather quickly, too) and the old links are disappearing.
I was panicking because my orders had dropped off, which is odd for this time of year. But it must have been the change that caused the slowdown. Maybe the weather, too.
Since my developer has the site set to redirect any old links back to the index page using a 302 redirect, is this something that should be kept in place forever, or is it something that can be (or should be) stopped after awhile? I'll ask my developer about the settings you mentioned, Enigma1, for the module. I think a 200 server return would be better than a 302.
The original ultimate seo urls was having a switch to enable automatic redirects. I don't know if the version you're using has this.
And if you do redirects for this purpose, you better use 301 not 302 otherwise the old links will never disappear from the spiders.
redirecting a large number of urls on a wide variety of topics to a single url (as in the home page) is a recipe for disaster.
using a 302 tells the search engine to index the home page content at the originally requested (legacy) url.
this makes the problem worse because now you have created a large duplicate content problem for yourself.
if you do a site: search for a quoted string using text unique to your home page you will probably see all the legacy urls indexed for that content.
using a 302 also prevents any inbound link equity from being passed to the new target url.
you should use a 301 status code to redirect each legacy url to the new url which serves equivalent content or use a 410 Gone response if there is no relevant url to which the request can be redirected.
for 410 or 404 responses, you can use a custom error page with helpful navigation and site search that keeps the visitor "on your site".