Can a Redesign Affect Your Search Engine Rankings?

Matt Cutts Talks About Switching to a New CMS

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Google’s Matt Cutts has an interesting video up (one of many) on the Google Webmaster Central YouTube channel that deals with switching to a new content management system and how that can affect search engine rankings. Someone asks:

We are changing a farily large HTML site to CMS. What are the essentials to keep in mind so that we do not lose our search rankings?

Essentially the answer to the question is that you should test the waters before going all out with the entire site. When you’re changing a lot of elements on your site, it can affect rankings, but more than likely, you will be fine.

The biggest piece of advice that Cutts offers is, "Try not to launch all of this at once."

"For example, if your CMS means that your layout has to change, you can mock that up," he continues. "You can try to make it so you change your HTML so that it looks like it would look like from your content management system. And then make sure that your rankings don’t change. They shouldn’t change very much at all, but you know, if you change a whole bunch of stuff on your page, that can affect how Google scores it."

Cutts suggests changing one directory at first to sort of "dip your foot into the water." It’s a good idea to do a mock-up first and then:

- Do some A/B Testing
– Gauge users’ reactions
– See how it affects search engine rankings

You can try changing one directory at first almost like "dipping your foot in the water." Basically, you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time redesigning your site and changing it over to a new CMS, only to find that it kills your rankings. Test the waters, then if looks good, go for it.

Can a Redesign Affect Your Search Engine Rankings?
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  • http://www.wordsmithwritingservices.co.in Wordsmith

    Well changing website design and using CMS all at once, I think Matt

    • http://www.controldatainc.com Agency collection

      It makes sence to test the waters first but how long should you wait between changes to see what really is taking effect

      • http://www.johnnapoletano.com John Napoletano

        To determine how long you should wait it might help but to notice how often Google crawls your site. Not just the home page, but those pages that have been changed. Use a log analyzer to see when Google has updated the modified pages. Alternatively check Google’s cache date for those pages.

  • http://www.lewiscom.ca Vancouver Web Design

    It is likely that a CMS may require some slightly different urls. Don’t forget to use some 301 magic to tie old pages to the new ones as you roll them out. This will help ensure you don’t end up with a bunch of lost travellers.

    Another thing people always seem to forget is to rebuild your sitemap after your conversion. Make life simple in the Googleverse.

  • http://www.thisworks.co.uk/ Thisworks Advertising & Marketing

    In our experience, providing your new site is an improvement over the old one (believe it or not, often this isnt the case) and you take care to place 301 redirects, you can actually gain in the organic listings.
    Take the opportunity to improve inner page file extensions, and increase content quality and navigation.
    Be sure to create an updated XML Site Map for googles crawlers, and also make one available to visitors in HTML.
    We have had a good deal of success by adopting this strategy, and often get excellent results within a month of the new site going live.
    One word of caution.
    Make sure you stay ‘on theme’ and dont stray wildly from the websites original and main topic.
    Chris Stephens
    Thisworks Advertising & Marketing Services.

  • http://www.TopYields.nl Mike

    I must say, this ‘lovely lovely’ is one very funny comment :-)

    I agree with the others, don’t change too much at the same time. do it gradually so the users won’t notice anything. Start with a few pages and see what happens.

    Good luck!

  • http://wsipromarketing.com Internet Marketing MA

    We recently redesigned an php site and installed seo friendly urls as part of the scope. 301 redirects weren’t used as there were only a couple of new pages. However, home page traffic (same domain and url) droped by 100% for google organic traffic. We used same SEO data on new home page as old home page.

  • http://wsisoutheast.com Internet Marketing VA

    We recently redesigned the homepage, SEO, and page structure for http://AlphabetPix.com. While the new home page look is far and away better than the former one, the redesign had some unintended consequences. First, I forgot to put the Google Analytics code on the new home page. Two weeks of data flushed down the tubes. Secondly, the SEO-friendly URLs of course needed to be reindexed in order to be effective. Internally, I needed to fix all the inlinks. The point being, a redesign is great from a look and feel prespective but it can have unintended consequences if you’re not careful.

  • http://www.blindmonkeymedia.com Fred St. John

    Good article which re-emphasises what all SEO experts thought they knew even though it was never stated by Google.

    In our experience, the toughest job was copying the content from the old HTML site into a CMS or a different Site Management Software like Joomla or Dupral which changed the url name. Meaning that it would eventually be repicked up by Google but unfortunately would lose all of its backlinks.

  • http://ariazink.blogspot.com Aria’z Ink

    In late February, I had an Alexa ranking of 350,612 and a Google PR of 0. I did a redesign a couple of days later and have steadily dropped in the Alexa’s ever since… by a lot, I’m ranking between 520K and 560K now, but my Google PR is a 3.

  • http://www.mauconline.net mauco

    I’ve been asked to redesign a very large website of a client that has a good PR. I’m hoping that the redesign will not lead to them loosing their PR. This post has come and the right time for me. Thanks

  • http://www.online-rich.com Tatyana

    It is true, you need to make changes slowly, testing the influence of the changes on the page rank of your site. Though the design change of the site must not influence the PR much.

  • P. Nut Butter

    I like Peanut Butter Captain Crunch cereal

    I bet Matt Cutts does too

  • http://www.searchengineoptimisationworks.com Mark

    I think the thrust here is the qualitiy and benefit of the new cms, after all that is what you have to look at first. If its not seo friendly and an improvement on the old site, then dont use it….

  • http://www.discoveryvallarta.com michaelj72

    I’m very glad that you posted that and cutts talks about it because i’ve been considering a major change for my site and talked about it with the webmaster a few times, though decided not to do it yet for economic reasons primarily but also out of worry about the rankings. now I have a better idea how to approach this when the time comes
    thanks again Chris

  • http://www.nrev.com NREV

    Interesting, I have thought about mocking up to adjusting the layout to look like what would appear in the new CMS, but doesn’t a CMS just render and HTML page in the end? How would making your page look like what the CMS generate help to prevent your SERPs from changing if in the end you are replicating what the CMS is generating? Or is this just referring to the linking structure of the CMS?

  • http://www.siteexecutive.com David Schreiber

    When you implement a CMS, you

  • http://womaninleadership.com Stacie Walker

    I appreciate your topic on this subject. I am currently reconstructing my site. I have been working on it a little bit at a time. I have made it a priority to announce the modifications to my current visitors. It is always good to hear another experts opinions about this topic.

    To Your Success,

    Stacie Walker

  • http://texxsmith.com Texx Smith

    Wow, it’s like Matt has no idea how web sites even work at all. This is absolutely horrible advice. Matts advice on how to do this would stretch a project like this from a few weeks to years for a small site. What the heck is he thinking?

    Here Matt let me do your job for you and speak in plain specific English so everyone (ate least English speakers) can understand how to to doo this without making a mess of a thier web site as you suggest:

    Use a 301 redirect for content that you had before that now has a new url and use standard good SEO (like a sitemap.xml submitted to Google and other large SE’s) to introduce new content.

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