In the After Hours webmaster hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered several questions about which types of changes will affect rankings, and which types of changes will not.
Along the way, Mueller explained different harmless scenarios and various changes that could affect the way Google views the site, including treating it as a brand new site.
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Search Performance Impacted by a Site Rebuild
The person who asked the question said that the last three sites they “remodeled” experienced extremely negative ranking changes in Google searches.
He pointed out that this has never happened in the previous “update”, and tried to find out whether this is a Google thing, and understand what types of changes may affect search performance.
It must be pointed out that John Mueller did not ask for clarification on what the person who asked the question meant by “updated” the website.
The scope of the transformation can range from a simple redesign to a complete SEO update of content and metadata, as well as profound changes to the structure of the website.
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John Muller Replied
John Mueller lists the types of changes that might cause Google to treat the site as a brand new site.
- If the URLs change
- If the layout changes
- If the content changes
- If you don’t have redirects from the old URLs to the new ones
The last thing about website crawling is excellent information.
Before making any changes, always crawl the site to record the conditions of the site before the change.
After the site is updated, you can crawl the new site and compare any changes between the two states. Screaming Frog has a visual overview, showing the internal link structure as a graph with highly visible, well-connected nodes.
For example, comparing two views can give you an immediate understanding of any unexpected changes.
If the URL structure of the site changes, the old site crawl can generate a list of internal pages, and then these pages can be entered as a list crawl into Screaming Frog.
The list crawl will show whether any pages are isolated or not redirected as they should.