In my previous post I talked about the Google Sandbox and wanted to go into a bit more detail with this one about how to go about quickly getting back on track.
Many things can change on a site when it undergoes a re-launch. The design, navigation, page urls, internal link structure, domain name and entire Content Management System (CMS) might change. This means that search engines have to re-index the site and understand what has changed and how that should affect the site’s rankings.
What can be done to prevent it?
There are several steps that can be done to ensure a smooth transition for search engines.
1. Re-direct old pages to their new location, also known as 301 re-directs, otherwise search engines might think there are two different websites and view this as duplicate content.
2. Update good back links the site may have – this can be mined with Analytics data from the referring sites report.
3. Submit an xml sitemap, which helps search engines crawl the site and find all new pages.
4. Check for any error pages (aka 404 pages) in Google Webmaster tools and attempt to re-direct the pages that produced those errors.
How long before I can expect my rankings to come back up?
I have run into this a few times and patience is a virtue. If the site has moved to a completely new Content Management System (CMS) and the domain name has changed, then it can take 60 to 90 days and still take up to 6 months for highly competitive phrases, but in most cases it should be much shorter. Sites with a lower perceived authority in search engines will take longer than ones with a higher authority, especially if the domain name remains the same.
What can I do with my content?
1. Make sure there are no pages with a ‘NoIndex‘ tag in the code
2. Check the robots.txt file that tells search engines what pages to crawl and make sure it is not prohibiting content that you want indexed
3. Compare the number of indexed pages with the actual real number of pages on the site – in some cases lower authority pages will be crawled later than top level pages [Tip: Google ‘site:yourdomain.com’ for a list of indexed pages]
4. Do not use CSS to hide any text
5. Avoid duplicating or borrowing content from other sources on your new site. Unique content will have a better chance of showing up in search results.
6. Do not repeat the same key phrase in the title tag, page heading (H1), image alt tag and first sentence of copy or you are diluting the value of the phrase and forcing the search engine to choose a page you may not want to be the target landing page.