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Will changing the code and layout of my pages while moving to new URLs affect their rankings?

Will changing the code and layout of my pages while moving to new URLs affect their rankings? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

Here’s a question from Richard in New York who asks I’m changing the platform of my blog. All old URLs will redirect to new ones. But since the HTML code and layout of the pages are different, do you lose search engine rankings? Well, search engine rankings can change when the page changes itself. If you’re doing the 301’s correctly, so a permanent redirect from the old site to the new site. And if you’re doing at a page level, so from the old page to the new page. You should be in relatively good shape. But it’s not just incoming links. It’s also the content of the page itself. So if you had a really good layout with a really clean design where all the text was easily indexed. And you move to something that was a lot more confusing and maybe the text wasn’t as easy for us to extract, that could change your search rankings for the down side or for the negative. In general, we’re relatively good about changing layouts and being able to still be able to discern what that page is about. But here’s one test that you could do. As long as you haven’t done the transition yourself, if you can try to make a few tests where you can take the layout of a new page or the new site and see if you can apply it in some very simple ways to the old site, then that’s the way to isolate those. Because it’s just like any scientific experiment. If you do two things at once and your rankings go down, you can’t decouple what caused it. Whereas if you can change just the layout, even if it’s only on a few pages, to sort of try out and see whether your rankings change with that, then you’ll know OK, was it more likely to be because of the redirects or because I was changing my HTML layout. So that’s just a little piece of advice if you want to make sure that things go a little more smoothly. It’s always nice if you can test it, sort of put your toe in the water, before you jump in and do a cannon ball first thing.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: