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Website changes = temporary ranking drop?

     
4:09 am on May 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've read that making substantial changes to your website can cause Google to send you less traffic for a while. How long does that last?
7:11 am on May 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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No reason for your traffic to decrease as long as you are careful and take precautions to preserve everything you've built up. We've relaunched many websites successfully without any changes in rankings or traffic.

Make sure your new pages are optimized as well or better than the previous versions. Make sure they target the same keywords. Make sure to setup 301 redirects for any changed URLs. Etc, etc.

1:26 pm on May 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've made 2 major changes to my site this year. The first was a major redesign of the look, including new css file, new page order/source order... the second was 301'ing '/example.html' to '/example' i.e. Cruft Free URLs.

I've seen absolutely no evidence that might suggest a drop in traffic as a result... just make sure you keep everything technically correct.

1:59 pm on May 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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301s transfer rankings immediately? I know I've read that can take a year to fully transfer.

I am targetting somewhat different keywords on my pages. That's what I meant by substantial changes and I should have said that. Should that take a little while to kick in?

EDIT: To clarify, I've changed things like h1, meta description, title, and link graph.

[edited by: Tonearm at 2:33 pm (utc) on May 3, 2009]

9:57 pm on May 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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301s transfer rankings immediately? I know I've read that can take a year to fully transfer.

We've seen them transfer immediately upon re-indexing. Even if not immediately I've never seen it take a full year.

4:27 am on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

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With 301 Traffic should transfer almost immediately (at max. 1 month) however, Page rank transfer might take some more time.
4:56 am on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

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One factor that can complicate PR and link juice transfer if is there are already many 301 redirects working on the old version of the site. If you start creating chains of redirects, that's where I've seen sites get into delayed or diminshed link juice transfer.

So if you're already using 301 redirects, it's a good idea to make sure they go to the new url in just one hop. And it's a VERY good idea, if you have a larger database driven site, to use a test environment and really "kick the tires". try all kinds of scenarios and monitor the http headers.

Another place where sites get tripped up is introducing new canoncial errors - especially in their url rewriting. There's a shortcut that some call "keyword fluffing". With this shortcut the database keys off a number in the url, and then there's also a keyword in the filepath. But that keyword can be ANYTHING AT ALL as far as the data query is concerned. It was just stuck in there to get a "keyword in the url" factor working.

This is NOT a good idea, and it opens up complex canonical problems that can delay or permanently diminish link the juice flowing through 301 redirects. As Asia_Expat said above, "make sure you keep everything technically correct."

3:17 pm on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thank you very much tedster.
9:12 pm on May 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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How do I go about creating 301 directs? I've made changes to my site and had to change some secondary urls.
9:23 pm on May 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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The technology for creating a 301 redirect is specific to the server you use and what kind of access you have. It's best to research the question in the specific server forum -- for most people that will be either Apache [webmasterworld.com] or IIS [webmasterworld.com]

Use Site Search [webmasterworld.com] before beginning a new thread - most situations are already quite well covered in previous discussions.

 

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