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Rank drop after redesign from HTML to WordPress

     
1:40 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I worked on a redesign for a site that was .asp. We moved to a Wordpress CMS for ease of updates which obviously changed all file extensions. The page structure changed a bit too, but we setup 301 redirects to try to keep all our link juice flowing.

Unfortunately, we're seeing about a 10-12 rank drop on some keywords we were ranked #2 or 3 on. I thought it would take a little while for google to catch up to the host/platform change, the site architecture changes, etc but we're over a month now.

what can be done to evaluate the cause of the drop? our titles, descriptions and page names are actually better written than they were and content is primarily the same. Not sure why we're still seeing a drop. Any advice?
2:36 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Some ideas:
- Duplicate content from author, archives, url parameters, etc. Search google for some unique sentence within a page that used to rank and see if there are multiple matching pages. If so, noindex the duplicates.
- meta description: did you transfer over the meta descriptions? If not, perhaps the click-through rate from the SERPS isn't what it used to be...I believe this to be a ranking factor.
- page titles: did these change?
- missed redirects: "Google webmaster tools -> Crawl errors" is probably the easiest way to find these, or check your logs for 404s of urls that should return content.
- canonical issues: Maybe a problem with www vs non-www was introduced with the platform change?
- overuse / duplicates / missing <h1>,<h2>, etc tags: Depending on how you transferred the content, but it's easy to end up with, for example, more than 1 <h1> tag, or no <h1> tag, on pages when moving from static to wordpress.
- internal linking changes? Did the internal linking, navigation, etc, change significantly? Is the anchor text different?
4:00 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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To answer a few of your questions:

Meta descriptions and titles have changed -- though for the better in a long term sense -- more focused topics, attention to the keywords we use.

I did a crawl...there were a few obsure pages from the old site that didn't have redirects. I fixed those. There are also 2 dozen that are created from WP plugins on the new site. Below are some examples.

/specials/battery-backup-sump-pump-coupon/feed/
/?taxonomy=category_specials&term=plumbing/page/3/

I guess the first one, I could just redirect back to the main coupon post (not sure why the feed link is being created by WP). I'm not sure what to do with taxonomy -- that was setup just to change the order of headings in a portfolio.

The site navigation is along the same lines. One service previously offered was discountinued and so we lost a few pages from main navigation there. there were a couple long-tail phrase pages that didn't hit well and were excluded. We added a few blog articles on topics that weren't on the old site. so, it is not the same, but along the same main lines as far as the pages that were doing well.
4:16 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to WebmasterWorld flamingoezz

Actually you have changed quite a lot and I know from experience that changing any site's architecture is challenging for Google these days and especially so when re-writing titlebars and anything else on-page.

How long ago was this done?
4:35 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ flamingoezz:

I have moved my site from html to a (responsive) webpress design and it did nothing but help rankings.

However, the first thing I would do is do a site:search for your domain.

Go to google and type in:

site:yoiurdomain.com

(without any www prefix).

Look at all the results and make sure that they are pages that you actually WANT indexed.

Wordpress is pretty notorious for having the same content indexed under several URLs - so you might see the same post indexed under a URL with the date in it, and then the same post indexed under a different URL with the Category in it, and then the same post indexed under another URL with a "tag" in it.

Also, it is normal for the FULL CONTENT of a post to appear on an archive page, so judicious use of excerpts on your archive pages can be extremely helpful.

~~~~~~~~~

"our titles, descriptions and page names are actually better written than they were and content is primarily the same."

I would guess that google would expect a certain amount of rewriting of content to go along with a structural makeover. [pure speculation] I wonder if google is seen your attempts at improving the titles and page names as attempts to overoptimize the site?
5:53 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@rebdar
this was done about 5 weeks ago.

@planet
should I want coupon pages indexed? there really isn't content as they are really just auto-created when I make them within this portfolio plugin. I did add titles and descriptions, but the page really has no content other than an image.

Would you recommend noindexing the archive page so that content that it is also on individual blogs isn't duplicated in googles eyes?
7:02 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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should I want coupon pages indexed? there really isn't content as they are really just auto-created when I make them within this portfolio plugin.

probably not, but that is up to you.

Would you recommend noindexing the archive page so that content that it is also on individual blogs isn't duplicated in googles eyes?


I would actually recommend using a custom excerpt that displays on the archive instead of the the default wordpress excerpt (or the full text of the post).

Have you checked whether you have correctly set up canonical links for your posts?
7:25 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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this was done about 5 weeks ago.


I've been struggling to get traction on several sites for some months now.

Sites with existing content however with added or improved content seem to be ok, but new sites and changed sites are a pain. Whether it's Google and a new type of sandbox no one seems to know however several members here have noticed a much longer than normal ranking and climb through the SERPs.

I have updated one site and it kept all the same urls and content and that went smoothly and ranks even better now but since last May's Panda 4.0 iteration, realistically nothing new for me has taken off, indexed yes, ranking where I would have expected, very, very poor.

Since you have changed things quite substantially and used WP with its vagaries, I'm guessing, yes guessing since no one really knows, that until the next major update you may see very little improvement.

And everyone's mileage will vary on this one:-)
7:53 pm on Jan 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm not sure what to do with taxonomy -- that was setup just to change the order of headings in a portfolio.

If your new URLs use parameters*, spend some time in the "parameters" section of WMT. Make sure each one is appropriately classified. Options range from "ignore any URL that contains this parameter" to "ignore the value of this parameter" to "this parameter is an essential part of the URL".


* Or even if they don't. I stopped by this area of WMT once just to see what it looks like, and was staggered to find several parameters listed. They were apparently appended by assorted referring sites.
3:09 pm on Jan 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I did a move from static to Wordpress. For many pages, it took 8-12 months for the new page to rank and get traffic back up. We changed title tags, meta descriptions, and sometimes, improved the content.

"Over a month" is just too soon, from our experience. Wait a while more, but in the meantime, build more links to the page whether by posting it in social media or internal links
7:07 pm on Feb 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Still seeing limited improvement at 3 months. We're building more internal links through their blog and working more with social platforms and review sites to get backlinks.

Any other suggestions in the meantime?
8:00 pm on Feb 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Have you done as suggested (use the site: search as in site:example.com)to be sure you have no-indexed your duplicate pages? WordPress generates several pages for each one you create and they are all the same except their URL. The simple way to control this is to only index pages and posts and noindex the others such as /category/, /archive/ and /tags/ and there are plugins to help automate that like YoastSEO plugin.
8:02 pm on Feb 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How fast is the site?

Unoptimised Wordpress can be s-l-o-w... (not that ASP is always fast).

I'm not referring to the algo here. If your site is slow then all sorts of other metrics will be impacted, and even if you don't believe in speed as a rankings factor it definitely affects your conversion and engagements rates, for which there have been some interesting studies as regards ranking.

Were your redirects over one 'hop' or more? You need to send any bot straight to the new url - no way-stages. 301s bleed PR just like links (confirmed by Matt Cutts) so preserve as much juice as you can.
1:50 pm on Feb 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have tags, format and categories set to noindex, follow in Yoast. I left portfolio active as we use that to display coupons and there are some keywords in the titles of those. If it is hurting the site, I'll noindex them as well.

The site is rather slow. We had it on the subdirectory of one host and it seemed to be loading pretty quickly. Their IT person moved the site to another host (also subdirectory) shortly before it launched. I have noticed it running slower at that time -- not sure if the redirect to root of server has anything to do with it, or if the host just sucks(?)...but I installed Total Cache and removed any unused plugins. The site has sped up a bit, but I would still consider it pretty slow to load. Is there a way to narrow down if the server is the issue there? Anything else I can do to optimize?
3:50 pm on Feb 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I can't help you with optimising WordPress for speed. My programmer does everything bespoke, and clients with busier sites pay a bit extra for boutique hosting, so we've never had to optimise anything for speed (although it's on my 'to learn' list).

One test I do know you can use to see if it's the server (as opposed to the CMS or the db) is to save a rendered page as an HTML file under a different name, and then see how that responds. If it's as slow as your dynamic pages, then that would point to the server being an issue.

Hopefully someone else can point you in the right direction for tests to run on WordPress.

Can you give a specific information on how you implemented your redirects?
And can you provide more details about the hosting setup if its out of the ordinary?

ADDENDUM
I feel I should qualify my statements in my previous post (it was rather late in the day for me). Speed is a small part of the algorithm directly, and that much is confirmed by Google. However it's likely a very small factor. The impact of speed as an indirect ranking factor (affecting engagement on a website and the impact of that in turn on rankings) is far from certain. I've read some interesting studies on measurable engagement vs ranking, but each one has had as many detractors as supporters.
2:25 am on Feb 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Like @FranticFish said, going to WordPress and not optimizing it can be problematic.

I'm assuming your old .asp site was written to do just the minimum necessary to render a page, which would make it reasonably fast. WordPress, on the other hand, does a bunch of operations behind the scene per page load.

Test your page speed here:
[webpagetest.org...]

You can use this plugin to profile your pages and get an idea of what's happening behind the scenes:
[wordpress.org...]

If you can, install a caching plugin. I prefer Quick Cache:
[wordpress.org...]

They have a renamed version called ZenCache, but I don't really know what the difference between them are:
[wordpress.org...]

I have experience using the prior, so I can only vouch for that.

Whenever I make any changes, I crawl a few key pages and download the rendered HTML output. You can use any crawler, but I prefer this free one:

HTTrack Website Copier
[httrack.com...]

This gives me a before and after snapshot of the source code, then I use a text comparison application to compare them. This is helpful to point out any accidental omissions or screw ups that might have been committed (e.g., messed up title tags, wrong canonical tags).

Finally, consider installing an SEO plugin, such as:
[wordpress.org...]

I'd put this last plugin at the top of the list of must-haves on WordPress.
2:38 am on Feb 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google has historical data for each page of the site that it uses in its ranking system.

If you just change the urls and do a proper 301, google will pick up on that and can take only few weeks to return to the original rankings.

If you totally change the entire structure of the site and the pages in terms of content and organization, it will throw off google.

It just doesn't know how to handle it, and basically does a reset.

There is little you can do to change this. Just continue to make the site better for the user.