Q and A: Can changing my CMS affect Rankings ?

Question

Hi Kalena

We recently moved from a custom CMS system to Expression Engine. Overall I like it, though we have seen a bit of a drop in Google referrals despite keeping the design and layout of our pages (largely) the same. One thing I noticed is that previously all our individual article pages ended in ‘.html’ or ‘.shtml’ whereas with the new CMS they all just end in a slash. So my question: does Google give priority to content that ends with a ‘known’ HTML ending like .html or .shtml, or doesn’t it care?
– Dave

Hi Dave,

The Search Engines won’t give a ranking preference on the basis of the filename or URL. Whether it is a .html, a .php an .asp or even a .pdf doesn’t matter – as long as they are able to crawl, and index your pages, the extension (or lack thereof) is irrelevant.

However, it sounds to me like although you say that the design and layout of you pages is much the same – the names of those pages (i.e. the URL used to access the page) has changed.  This is quite a common issue when switching CMSs, and unless you are careful, you can lose much of the credibility (and hard earned rankings) achieved by your old site.

If any of the pages in your new site have a different URL
– they will NOT show up in Search Results until they have
been re-crawled and indexed by the search engines.

To check to see which pages on your site have been indexed, do a Google search for site:yourdomain.com (substituting your own domain name of course).  This will provide a list of all the pages currently indexed by Google.  It may include a mixture of Old and New pages. Try clicking on the old Page links – if they still come up with the old pages or you get 404 (file not found) errors – read on and I’ll explain how to fix this.  If they do still link to the old pages, then you may want to delete these from your server too.

Page Redirects

It is critical that as part of any site redesign process you ensure that that you put in place page redirects – this will ensure that anyone trying to access one of your old pages, will be redirected to the new page.  This is clearly important from the user perspective – to ensure that they get the current information (and not some old – out of date page).  But it is also important from an SEO perspective – any links to the old page (from external sites) need to go to the New page, and the search engines (who have presumably indexed your old pages) also need to be told that a new page exists.

Notifying Search engines and fixing backlinks for all your pages may sound like a very daunting task, however, there fortunately is a (reasonably) simple solution – our friend the 301 redirect.

301 Redirects are a server based redirect and are reasonably easy to setup (although can be a little technical, so you may need help from your developer).  The actual technique will vary, depending on your server environment, but effectively a 301 redirect will simply redirect visitors trying to access your old pages to the correct new page.  Also know as a permanent redirect, 301 redirects also tell Search Engines that this is a permanent change, and to update their index (and ranking data) accordingly.

you can find more posts about 301 redirects on this site – or for some more technical info I suggest that you take a look at this good overview on 301 redirect techniques by Steven Hargrove.

Andy Henderson
Ireckon Web Marketing

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Q and A: How do I swap the content of two different websites?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I have a question which I am asking all people. I have people here who are trying to manage 2 websites – one is a dot com (.com) and the other a dot info (.info).

For some reason they decided that they like .info site better, so, they want to switch the websites. Simply to say, they want to move whole .info site to .com domain… and .com site move to .info. I am trying to explain them that they can kill all SEO efforts on both websites by doing this.

Am I right?

Sergey

Dear Sergey

As a general rule, dot com (.com) names tend to have a little more trust than dot info (.info) domain names, so the short-answer would be – “Yes, this would have an impact on their SEO efforts and if anything, they should stick with the .com as their main site”.

If you were simply moving to a fresh new domain name, you could use 301 redirects to ensure you pass all the previous PageRank and link value to the new site and all would be good, but as you want to swap sites, this makes things a little trickier.

You can get around some of these issues by using different page naming conventions between the two sites. For example, if the “About Us” page on the .info site is called /about-us.htm then try naming the page /about_us.htm (or about.htm or AboutUs.htm) on the .com site.

This way, if a visitor tries to go to the page named /about_us.htm on the .info site, you’ll know they should really be accessing the .com site and a 301 redirect can be used to achieve this.

However there would still be some issues transferring the rank for each of the homepages.

The ideal situation would be to consolidate the two websites. Use the .com as the main one and then redirect the .info to .com. That way you get all the link value from the .info name PLUS the existing value already held by the .com.

If there needs to be two websites, then stick with the .com as the main one and keep the .info as is.

Hope this helps.

Peter Newsome
SiteMost

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Q and A: How do I migrate my site without risking my SEO and rankings?

QuestionHi Kalena

You optimised my website back in 2004 when we first launched the site – did an amazing job – site still coming up first page of Google 5 years later with some minor keyword tweaking now and again. The site is pretty dated now and am just about to relauch it.

My questions are: MY new CMS has global meta description/keywords as well as page specific ones available. Should I utilise both of these or will it be too much and negatively affect ranking? Also any advice on migrating sites – am a little nervous I will fall off Google under the new site, particularly as one of the most important and high ranking pages will have a different URL. Am planning on reusing existing meta data. Also new site contains flash. Any advice on use of this – alt tags?

Thanks very much for any advice.

Hilary

————————————————————–

Dear Hilary

My word, that’s a lot of questions! Great to hear my SEO efforts from 5 years ago are still paying dividends.

On to your questions. Firstly, you should only ever use one set of META tags per page. Google and most other engines will simply take the first set indexed and ignore others so you are simply contributing to code bloat to include more than one. Each page of your site should have a dedicated title and META tags individually optimized for the unique content on that page.

Secondly, you mention that one of the pages already ranking will have a new URL. Does that mean that all your other pages will retain their existing URLs? That is the ideal outcome but not always possible. For any high-ranking pages that will change URL, make sure you use 301 redirects to point the old URL to the new one so that Google and other engines know it has moved. That will also ensure that anyone clicking on existing links to the old URL (whether in search engines, directories or on other sites) will be automatically taken to the new page. My SiteProNews post about moving a site using 301 redirect should guide you.

Also remember to update your sitemaps in Google Webmaster Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer with your new pages.

Keep in mind that changing the structure of a page, let alone the content, will impact the way the page ranks. So your new CMS design may result in the page jumping or falling in the rankings. If the page content has been optimized for particular keywords, try to retain as much of the existing body text as you can. Use the opportunity of the redesign to optimize your existing pages for new keywords and optimize any new pages added.

Good luck!

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Q and A: How do I remove old pages from search engines?

This week I answered a Reader Rescue enquiry on SiteProNews about getting old, outdated pages removed from search results and I thought some of you who subscribe to this site might be interested in my answer.

Please see: How do I remove old pages from search engines?

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