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Don't Touch Old Content!

     
6:23 pm on Jul 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It may be tempting to make an odd change or two to older pages but it's just not worth the risk if that page is getting ANY traffic from search. Unless there is a glaring reason a page may be losing rank it's best to leave them alone.

This, unfortunately, applies to the index page and all category pages too. Simply adding new content to a site that hasn't changed in a year can be enough to send your traffic plummeting.

It's apparent that the perceived value of a page increases over time if it remains unchanged, and if the link structure proping it up also remains unchanged. I've seen FAR TOO MANY sites take a beating after having done well untouched for the longest time. Even minor improvements may have the exact opposite effect.

I figured I'd better put this warning here since it doesn't exist in Google's documentation.
6:33 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Based on what Sgt?

Our heads are spinning with all these things...but no recovery :)
6:48 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've made changes to a 15 year old site in the last 7 or so months and seen traffic nearly double. Every single page on the site saw substantial changes. One page in particular has gone from page 15 to #5 on page one after changing the layout and some of the content.

I would do it again in a heartbeat.
6:52 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@Atomic How do you know the changes are responsible? Lots of people have done nothing and seen equal increases due to Panda.

I think that's the point... there's no way to know what will work... even when it does.
6:55 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Because the increase in ranking was gradual and over time rather than an event.

Even so, I made changes and my rankings did not suffer. The argument was not to make changes beause to do so harms rankings. Sure, making changes may do damage. But it's definately not valid to say that if you make changes, your rankings will suffer.

[edited by: Atomic at 7:05 pm (utc) on Jul 15, 2011]

7:00 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It's true there's no way to know that things we try are working, because we lack any kind of true control of all the zillions of factors involved, including the flow of traffic from one time period to the next. The world makes a pretty chaotic laboratory.

But I doubt changing content hurts. Aside from the fact that I update my content regularly and it doesn't SEEM to hurt, I've mentioned before that a website that I filed a DMCA on rewrote all their content - not a sentence was the same, I swear - and continued to surpass me in the rankings to reach and hold the number one spot in the SERPs for a moderately competitive keyword. This was a pretty blatant keyword-domained, MFA site offering pallid value but a nice layout. Changing their content didn't make it surge - it was rising anyway - but the rise never faltered until it got to the top.
7:46 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Depends on what "odd change" is being made. Examples:

Page "doing something one way" learns there is a "better way". Thumbs up.

Old nav sucks, new nav rocks. Thumbs up.

Quirks code eliminated for compliant code. Thumbs up.

If the content of Evergreen pages needs updating I'd do it in a heartbeat, but change for the sake of Panda only... I'd avoid that like the plague. We don't really know what the Panda likes or dislikes thus we are only treating symptoms, not the disease itself... which is a metaphor and not a suggestion that Panda is a disease.
7:58 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Curious. I'd have thought the opposite. If there have been no changes whatsoever in years (no new products? no newly discovered useful links? no occasional spit-and-polish to ensure that it looks nice in current browsers?), I'd think the site had been abandoned or at least back-burnered.
9:03 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've also witnessed changes having the desired effect so I'm not saying it's impossible to improve a sites traffic, obviously it's not. I'm just reporting what Ive seen happen MANY times now on sites that had not been touched in any way for over a year, up to 6 years in one case. They were getting steady predictable traffic and immediately following minor changes the traffic plummeted.

Minor changes included
- Addition of advertising
- adding text to existing pages
- a new template
- new content which pushes the old further into the archives

The other thing was that the effect couldn't be reverted even if the site was restored to it's previous status, as if it had been grandfathered in some way(given a Panda pass).

I can't be the only one who's seen improvements or even new content (added to an old site that had not been touched in 12+ months) cause a sites traffic to nosedive?
9:20 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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...on sites that had not been touched in any way for over a year, up to 6 years in one case. They were getting steady predictable traffic and immediately following minor changes the traffic plummeted.


could it just be that since google hasn't seen new content / changes in 6 years, it needs to reassess the page when there is a change (to make sure the page hasn't been hacked, or something else along those lines).

Have you seen ANY recover in traffic / rankings for those pages? If so, what was the time line?

And what was the backlink profile for those sites like?
11:40 pm on July 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Long untouched sites with new changes might hit a new g sandbox and will revert in 30 days or so... the general g sandbox. If it needs a change, change it, else take it down... that's the RIGHT way to do things... however the web is not like that. People put things up and leave them up, right or wrong, for years at a time. No wonder the g is confused!
7:15 pm on July 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Quirks code eliminated for compliant code. Thumbs up.


If Google is going to reward us for using good HTML then they should start by setting a good example. I just ran Google's own source code through the W3C HTML validator and it spat out...

(...wait for it...)

67 ERRORS.

Woops. Maybe I shouldn't have said that.... (*gulp*)

Uhhhh... VERRRY sorry, Mr. Panda, sir!

Very sorry.

My most humble apologies. Won't happen again.

Sir.

(*ahem*)

heh heh...
12:02 am on July 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If there have been no changes whatsoever in years (no new products?...)


No new products? What about simple price changes or discontinuing products that manufacturers have decided to stop making?

You get no choice over those matters at times - pages *have* to change for ecommerce sites and for some on a regular basis.
2:16 am on July 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Google doesnt want to give away any details on how they rank our sites and pages. Therefore perhaps making changes will not improve your rankings on its next cache, otherwise you would have webmasters tweaking every single combination and permutation there is to improve their rankings.

I have changed pages with negative effects, and I have changed pages with positive effects, new and old. So as usual, you can only go on speculation and opinions.
3:08 pm on July 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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My understanding is that, if content is old & is continuing to get good, varied links, it is treated as 'evergreen'.

In my experience, Evergreen is preferred to fresh which is preferred to old and dead. Think about it - if a piece of content is so good people are still talking about it 5 years later, that's surely a good indicator of its quality, right?

That could be why some are experiancing leaps when they update their content (Going from 'dead' to 'fresh') while others like the OP experience drops (Going from 'evergreen' to 'fresh')

Perhaps. Maybe. I dunno. I'm tired. Leave me alone.
3:39 pm on July 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I agree with the SGT. I think if an established site is languishing between bottom of page 2 or 3 or deeper, go ahead and experiment with layout and content changes. If you are in top 5 or so of first page, you are close to MAX performance, thats when you want to avoid major change.
ON a side note, I have seen Google search results that were like policy breaching MFA sites. ALL ads top and side, with 2 place pages peeking up above the fold. And we all know the place page is 2 Google pages about your website or business when you count reviews. Kinda slimy.
Many of us will be forced to use adwords to stay above the fold, even if your number 1 because people just can't find a better search engine. And theres poor ASK, a coulda been contender, wasting so much money on adwords.
9:17 pm on July 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Speaking as someone Pandalized since day 1, I can tell you that I've made TONS of changes to my site. Some drastic, some minor, some big, some small, of all types.

Not once has there been even the slightest impact on any of my Google rankings. Not even once.
5:08 pm on July 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Not once has there been even the slightest impact on any of my Google rankings. Not even once.

To clarify,in my previous post i was refering to competitive searches (results 10-20 million) for example. If results are 200,000 and you cant make top ten, something else is wrong.

There's a chance that something other than layout,content or seo tweaks could be affecting it. I've maintained dozens of sites over the last few years and saw many positive, and sometimes negative serp fluctuations as a result of code and content changes, link gathering etc., but a couple of the sites seem to be dead in the water too. I am almost sure its server stuff but havn't taken time to study it. Just in case , you might check who else is hosted on that server, check dns settings, etc.
11:33 am on July 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I got clobbered again overnight in the Google SERPs to the tune of about 15% of my traffic. I strongly suspect that this is a result of restructuring my site menu to adhere to a Google recommendation to keep your pages to under 100 links per page (I was averaging about 150 / page). I made the changes to my site menu at the end of June along with a complete overhaul to my site design. I also rewrote about 15 category introductory pages because I suspected a duplicate content problem (introductory pages were constructed by taking the first paragraph from each page in that section; essentially borrowing a little bit of my own 1000% original content to create a user-friendly intro page with links to all the pages in that section).

So in light of the changes I made, I suspect that restructuring my menu to split up my site into four sections caused a lot of my pages to lose internal links which then lost them rankings. That's the only thing I can think of. As I said, all my content is 1000% original written by myself through a lot of hard work (7 year old site). My feedback page is pushing 400 comments all praising my writing and teaching skills so I don't think I have an issue with my content except maybe that a small portion of it may be outdated (working hard to correct this as well).

This Panda thing is a nightmare. In retrospect, the site redesign is something I had planned to do anyways and updating some outdated pages is something I had planned as well but restructuring my site menu to reduce my pages to less than 100 links per page is something I never would have done had it not been for Panda (got pandalized on the int'l update on Apr 12 and again near the end of May). So I think I may have seriously shot myself in the foot here.
3:53 pm on July 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Everytime I update a page it always moves up a few spots.
1:09 pm on July 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This makes me very nervous to launch a new site ( in the same domain ) but its effectively a new site structure with new content. From a users perspective i feel the new site and structure is better but , well if google likes stale old pages I dont know what to do.
6:55 pm on July 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

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From my experience, before Panda it was always a little risky when changing/adjusting old pages, often the rankings would drop and gradually come back over time. After Panda, adjusting old pages have kept my rankings the same or they have gone up.

It's tough to say what all exactly is going on, but recently I have changed/updated lots of page that were 2 years old, untouched, ranking well, and I updated/added content, changed titles and headers, linking, etc., and all the rankings went up quickly which is great.

Again, just my experience.
 

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