It is fairly common for a website overhaul or redesign to include a significant change in the technologies used on the site. With the rate at which most companies redesign their site the web technologies in scripting languages, content management tools, and coding standards can make leaps and bounds often times leaving their site and it’s backend architecture feeling antiquated at best.
Developers of course hate to use old standby measures and prefer to drop aging technologies in favor of today’s better and more efficient tools. This can cause a major hiccup, if not a small disaster, in web performance if the developer has no knowledge of search engine optimization or is not working with someone who does (maybe an external SEO resource).
So what happens is you spend a pretty penny or two on a brand new website with all the latest whizz-bang tools and widgets, a robust content management system, a dynamic lead capture engine, et-cetera… et-cetera… et-cetera. Then before long you notice your web performance has tanked right through the floor. You have very little visitors and even fewer conversions. “WHAT HAPPENED??” you scream as you vow to never do another website redesign (well at least for another 3-5 years). The blame will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the developer. They did it, it is their fault for this “pretty” failure. So, what exactly did happen?
Although the developer gets left holding the bag it may actually be the fault of that new content management system or new scripting language. If your URL structure is dictated by that new CMS or scripting language, all the years of stability and backlinks your old pages attracted are essentially wiped clean.
Old URL – http://www.widgetstore.com/catalog/products/bluewidget
New URL – http://www.widgetstore.com/main/en/catalog/products/groupid/9/productid/21/index.php
(BTW – This is pretty close to the change we encountered with a new client. We found the old URL structure by visiting the Wayback Machine)
So what do you do now? Well, as I see it, you have two options:
- Suffer through the bad times and start building your webcred (aka PageRank) all over again.
- Work with your developer, server administrator, IT department and/or an SEO professional to set up 301 redirects to forward requests for the old pages to the new pages and then hope and pray at least a portion of your PR will get transferred to the new pages within a few months. Oh, and all the while, you should be building even more backlinks and generating new content.
A site redesign/redevelopment can be a knockout to your SEO strategy, but having a SEO-savvy developer or someone who knows search engines overlook the project you can avoid this costly oversight.