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Can you restructure a site without losing rankings?

2:24 am on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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joined:Oct 26, 2011
posts: 107
votes: 4

We've got a site that’s grown over the years to be a decent size (a couple of thousand pages) and we’re trying to make navigation easier and more intuitive for visitors without alienating search engines and losing rankings on pages that rank well now.

The site is established and covers a fairly broad subject – let’s say landscaping. The site was set up initially with some broad categories to cover major topics for the subject area. Each of these categories is in its own directory on the site. So, using the landscaping example, we’d have categories for trees, shrubs, groundcovers, flowers, etc

Over time we’ve accumulated many articles in each category – so many, that the index page for each one has dozens and dozens of article descriptions and links, making it pretty difficult for people to find information we have on the site.

So we were thinking of changing the navigation in some way to make it easier for site visitors. But we don't want to lose the rankings we have in search engines.

One thought was to leave the articles where they are, but create subdirectories for subtopic levels, and just have an index page and list of articles with links in each subdirectory index page. Thus, we'd then have say, landscapingsite.com/trees/oaks/index.html
which would list the articles about oak trees, such a why leaves look prettier this year.htm, toomanyacorns.htm, etc.
The articles, already on the site and with some decent placements in serps would still be in the trees directory, but we'd be moving the internal links to the articles to trees/oaks/index.html

Is that going to cause us to lose the SERP positions we have because we move the internal links? If so, what is a better way to restructure a sprawling, well-ranking site to make it more user friendly and still keep good serp positions.
2:36 am on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:May 26, 2000
votes: 0

It is possible - I have done it - but there are lots of things to keep in mind for success. The most important, in my view, is to appreciate that your visible links structure and navigation does NOT need to be reflected in the URL.

Said another way, you can create categories and subcategories for the human visitor that are not reflected in the apparent "file path" of the URL. This can allow you to keep the same URLs, and it's in changing the URLs where established rankings can get broken.

Start by knowing where your strongest pages are - the best backlink strength and the nest entry pages, whether from the SERPs or direct navigation or whatever. Those are the URLs you try to avoid changing. And if you do need to change them, make sure to use a 301 redirect.
2:51 am on Oct 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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votes: 5

I would suggest modifying a lower profit margin category first and see how google responds to the mod. Then work your way up the money tree using what you learn.
1:16 am on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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joined:Oct 26, 2011
posts: 107
votes: 4

Thanks for the suggestions. We'll take it little by little. :)
1:45 am on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I thought Matt Cutts went out of his way to show that Google treats 301 redirects as the gospel, ie, nothing negative about using them.

I've been thinking about 301 redirecting a couple pages that used to be in the 500 visitor/day range from Google off a Panda-downed site to my Panda-upped site - the page structure is identical. If I can't take Panda out of the domain, maybe the thing to do is to take the domain out of the Panda, piecemeal.
2:34 am on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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votes: 22

Yes, you can restructure anything you want if you use Bing, just stop thinking goog wants this and goog will panalize me for this and this.

Go for Bing traffic and you will never look back.
11:56 am on Oct 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Oct 28, 2011
votes: 0

if you create a clear structure where you want to go to. and make sure everything is within the 3 clicks from the homepage. you will manage i think (but KEEP the 301's in place)

Read up about silo-ing/pyramid structures of a website