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WIll website revamp cause a loss in rankings?

how change in website design will affect SEO

7:11 pm on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have a client who wants to revamp/redesign their website. We have spend the last year implementing a successful SEO campaign, and have achieved strong rankings for the desired terms.

1. Will redesigning the site casue a loss in rankings, considering we use the same basic copy/body content?

2. If we move from simple .html pages to css with .php will that negatively impact rankings? Should we keep the page names/file extensions the same?

3. What advice would you give someone looking to redesign a website with strong rankings in a competetive industry?

Thanks all for your help!

7:28 pm on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Not sure about the effects of a redesign, I think that's probably survivable, but I wouldn't change the existing page URLs for anything.
9:07 pm on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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If you can keep your document names (including the extensions!) the same this will be best for your transition. Here is why:

As you probably know, the best practice is to 301 redirect links to old documents to your new documents. This will transfer the link-passed strength of the old documents to the new documents.

Unfortunately the process is not instantaneous. Depending on the number of documents, how many document/folder layers, and the number and quality of external links, it can take up to several deep crawls to re-index your domain completely. That can take weeks.

After you update your web site, and before any crawling occurs your old pages still have 100% of your ranking strength and your new pages have zero ranking strength.

As Google bots attempt to crawl old (removed) pages and uncover your 301 redirects, the off-page strengths are transferred to the new pages.

As new content is crawled on-page ranking strengths are assigned.

So what does this mean to you? Here is an analogous demonstration:

  1. Take two glasses. One represents old content. The other represents new content.
  2. Fill the glass representing old content with water. The water represents ranking strength.
  3. Put the two glasses next to each other. Notice that the glass representing old content has all of the ranking strength and the new glass has zero ranking strength.
  4. Now pour a quarter of the water into the other glass. This represents search engine crawling and indexing. Now your new content has 25% of your total ranking strength and your old content has 75%. (Do you think your rankings will go up or down?)
  5. Pour water more water until the glasses are half-full. Now all your content has 50% of its ranking strength.
  6. The pause between pours represents the time periods between crawls and indexing.
  7. Pour another quarter. 75% new / 25% old.
  8. Pour the rest. Now your old (deleted) content and new content is fully crawled and indexed. You are back up to full strength.

While the search engines are crawling and indexing your content the ranking strength of your old content is transfered to the new content. During the transfer none of your content has the full ranking strength of your domain and incoming links behind it so your old pages will fall in the rankings and it will take time for your new pages to earn their place. Add in the potential for perceived duplicate content and a host of other issues during the transition period and you can understand why your rankings (and traffic) will tank until your website is fully re-crawled and indexed.

Obviously this simplifies the process quite a bit, but it does offer a solid, general understanding of what happens to your ranking strength when you redesign a web site and rename all of your content.

The more documents you keep with the same name the less water you have to pour.

[edited by: Komodo_Tale at 9:28 pm (utc) on Feb. 23, 2007]

10:33 pm on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for that well thought out response. I am scared to revamp the site as we are dominating in our industry and I fear any significant change to the code will cause a decerease in rankings and subsequently traffic for an unspecified amount of time. Hmmmm....I'd like to hear other people's experiences regarding such a change.

6:01 am on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Client just did a complete site rebuild, dumping old table structure and going entirely to css. Kept the same urls. We've monitored all major engines, and there's been no adverse effect at all.

It's probably a good idea to go over each page template with a microscope, and then to check one or two important pages after content has been added. You might catch a few things you'll be happy you spotted.