Website Overhaul Problems
Ironically, after many years in the game, Stephen’s extreme talent for getting websites found would at times become his nemesis. Through his expert analysis of data gleaned from Google Analytics and Adwords, those website modifications which captured more and more organic search traffic were totally keyword focused and seldom tied to business processes (not his speciality). Higher traffic would then suddenly trigger a barrage of customer complaints about how confusingly poor the utilitarian value of the website experience was. So, in order to avoid being FIRED, Stephen would call me in like the “Wolf” in Pulp Fiction to overhaul the content and web architecture (my specialty) so keyword rich information became intelligently tied to various forms of accountability on the employee/business process side of the equation.
However, whenever we did one of these complete website overhauls, Stephen would ensure all changes were made offline to a copy of the live website on a development server. Once complete, at re-launch a copy of the new sitemap would be submitted to Google via Google Webmaster with redirects for every newly named page from the old sitemap. As this may be confusing, allow me to explain since the point is as grave as it is important.
Google and time are both inextricably related and intertwined. Whenever a brand new website is launched, Google actually keeps it hidden in something mysteriously referred to as “the sandbox” while the spider does its “new site due diligence” thing. Not only does the spider measure compliance, it also assigns penalties for nefarious behavior (i.e. spamming) since for many SEO specialists, part of working with the system is trying to find ways to beat it.
The longer a website exists, the more its page addresses become indexed by the hundreds of spiders that feed the reference links of millions of directories in cyberland on every subject imaginable. Those reference links all belong to actual page addresses, so if part of your website revamp changes the historical page address, the directory link becomes DEAD, unless you’ve submitted something like this to tell Google, “wherever you find this old link address, redirect it to this new link address”. Understand that the spider also tests all links so if a bunch of age old and trusted directory links suddenly go nowhere, you (or your SEO “specialist”) have just shot yourself in the cyber foot bigtime.