A more accurate question, and corresponding answer, would be:
Q: Can changing my website hurt my search engine rankings?
A: Yes, it can.
Notice the emphasis. To accurately answer the original question (see: Title of this post), we need to clarify what we mean by ‘change.’
Common changes to a web site include:
- Changing website design
- Changing content management systems
- Changing domain names
- Changing web hosts
Changing website design and content management systems are the most common things that affect search engine rankings amongst the list of issues above.
Most companies engage a web design agency or in-house design staff to create a new website. What these agencies often fail to consider is how changing URL syntax (ex: webpage.htm to webpage.php) will confuse search engines. A map of your old to new URLs needs to be implemented along with a system of permanent (301) redirects. Pages that cannot be mapped need to be dealt with using custom 404 error pages which should be user and search engine friendly.
Companies change domain names for many reasons including: improved usability, as the result of an acquisition, or simply because of a company name change. If search engines are indexing your current domain name, your rankings can certainly be affected by how the implementation of a new domain name is handled.
If nothing but your domain name is changing, rankings can be reasonably protected with a proper system of 301 redirects and by identifying top referring sources of traffic and asking them to update their links.
Changing web hosts alone shouldn’t have any major effect on how a search engine ranks your web site as long as the change is smooth. A small static site with few web pages (under 1,000) is pretty straightforward. Moving a huge site with tens of thousands of pages, multiple servers and more complex hosting and redundancy factors can be, of course, a bit more complex.
If you make it easy for search engines to understand the changes being made to your website, then the search engines can do a better job of adjusting, with minimal effect to your search engine rankings.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) programs offered by TopRank® Online Marketing focus on providing and implementing recommendations offering the highest impact as it relates to our client’s objectives. Contact TopRank® Online Marketing to learn more about high impact SEO by calling toll free at 1-877-872-6628 or locally in the Twin Cities at 952-400-0194.