Maintaining ranking through web site changes

A friend of mine recently told me about his experience with renaming pages on a site, how the traffic fell off from a drop in rankings, and how he recovered the traffic quickly using an XML sitemap.

Scott has been running AdSense ads on his site for some time. He decided to restructure the navigation to make it more intuitive, which required renaming many files. Shortly after the changes went live, his AdSense income dropped significantly. A quick check in Google confirmed that his rankings dropped precipitously when the pages were no longer found, and Google had not yet found the new locations. He had decided not to implement 301 redirects intentionally, it being a personal site not warranting the extra effort.

Scott decided that he liked his old rankings and income level, and so he decided to try using a sitemap to speed up re-indexing. Within several days, his traffic and income rose back to its pre-change levels.

Note that this is just one case of successfully using sitemaps to fix indexing problems, and that is may not represent typical behavior. However, it is pretty clear in this case that it helped, and that at a minimum it can mitigate the risk of losing ranking as changes occur. We now advise all clients to consider adding an XML sitemap to their website.

Bookmark and Share