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is clearly important from the user perspective – to ensure that they get the current information (and not some old – out of date page).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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