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SEO considerations during site redesign

I'm redesigning my site, and need some advice on how not to screw up my SEO

2:04 am on Dec 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I have a site for my business, which has been around for 3-4 years - over time I've implemented various SEO strategies, and developed plenty of decent directory links and such. I consistently rank on the first page, usually 3-6 for my chosen search terms, and I'm pretty happy with that.

However, the site looks a bit stale, and some of the text is rather longwinded, so I've been working on a redesign, which aside from graphical changes does involve quite a significant change to the text on the site.

I'm concerned that if I roll out my new, better looking site, the removal of a fair chunk of the text will dominate over the other SEO factors and my rankings will plummet.

One thing I would ideally like to try is testing the two complete site designs for conversions etc. But again, I'm not sure how to best go about this without presumably being penalised for duplicate content.

Can anyone offer any helpful advice? Any ideas how the rankings actually respond, particularly if the site is still going be just as relevant for those search terms? Or just ideas on how to test the two designs without incurring a duplicate content penalty...


7:51 am on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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A Warm Welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com]

A horrible question! The one thing I dread hearing from someone who has good rankings is the words "site redesign" - made even worse when significant textual content reductions are also mentioned.

Of course, text is not the only item that leads to good rankings, the quantity and quality of links plus many other things that relate to the perceived quality and "authority" of the site also come into play - but, bottom line is that search engines still rely an awful lot on text. That is, afterall, what people search for!

While completely undertanding that your site can start to look "stale" after a while, I would really look at trying to incorporate as much of your existing text into the overall page design as possible.

I assume, also, that you are keeping the same page structure? If you are not, that can open up a whole different can of worms!

But if you are, see what you can do to keep your existing textual structure as much as you can. Only you can judge if the possible downturn in rankings can be outweighed by the greater "stickyness" of the site.

But, as I said, a really tough question/decision for you to make.

As for the A/B testing of sites? That, in my opinion, should be tried by putting the new structure on a sub-domain with a no index instruction (to prevent duplicate content issues) and testing how it works via a small AdWords campaign perhaps.

I certainly wouldn't start switching pages every other day on the main site for natural search purposes.

Not great answers, I'm afraid, and maybe someone else can give you the benefit of their experience.

9:58 am on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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There are some consideration for re-design or web
1. Do not change the URL structure
2. Do not re-name the web page.
3. If doing re-name of web pages, then 301 permanent redirection is necessary.
4. Try to avoid text changes available on page, if necessary please put a good amount of text.
5. Do-not change the Title and Meta Tags, it takes time to get value for new metas.
6. Do slowly linking of site for your support.

When you go with re-design or content related changes, it takes few time to take previous position so don't worry. But sometime you may get good position also.

11:51 am on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If it is really necessary to change the site design as well as content, i would advice do it in steps. First change the design and put all redirects wherever required without changing the content. Give the Search engines some time to index and digest the design changes and then go in for content change slowly (not on all pages at the same time.)

Regarding the A/B testing, if your site is getting served from 2 or more servers (IP's), then simply upload one type design on server A and other design on Server B and with good tracking tool, just check for the conversions/response. For a small site, use the adwords program (no index one of the versions) as makemetop suggested.

11:14 pm on Dec 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the responses - some good considerations there. Unfortunately I really do need to change the text, and soon, as it isn't particularly good.

I wasn't planning on significant changes to the sitemap, at least initially I'll be keeping the same filenames, and I imagine title, meta and descriptions will all stay the same.

I think a gradual change may indeed be a good option as Ankit said.

For A/B testing, I think I will adopt the subdirectory, noindex idea - I'd forgotten about robots.txt! That just seems to make sense.

4:38 pm on Dec 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've just had a major site redesign project wrapped up with minimal impact on our search engine rankings. The gradual approach is definitely the way to go - change a few pages at a time, wait for them to be indexed AND cached, and then do the next batch.

A tool we've used extensively throughout this process is the Duplicate Content tool (duplicatecontent.net) where we always aimed to have old and new pages match at least 90%, preferably 95%.

Once the new design is in place and fully indexed & cached, then you can change the content. Again, gradual changes are key - one big text overhaul at a time. That way you will experience minimal ranking drops.