Web Site Design Changes That Kill
By Larisa Thomason
Monday, August 2, 2004; 4:00pm EST
Some Web site
changes are great for promotion - in the long term. But those same
changes may also have an immediate negative effect on promotion.
Understand the impact before you update your site and avoid these
changes that kill!
Domain Name Change
Imagine if one day you decided to change your personal name to
something completely different. At the same moment, your phone number,
street, and email addresses all change too. Your friends and family
would have quite a hard time getting in touch with you.
That's what happens when you change your site's domain name. The
inbound links from other site, search engines and directories, and
bookmarks will be broken. Search engines and directories may remove
your site from their indices. Your customers may just assume you
aren't in business anymore and click away to the competition.
Even so, sometimes the change is worth the risk if:
You're still using the free Web address provided by your ISP.
That decreases the perceived credibility and trustworthiness of your
Your domain name has been banned by search engines for spamming.
Always check the WayBack machine before you purchase a name.
There are legal problems associated with the name. Maybe
you've inadvertently infringed on someone else's copyright or your
name has a bad connotation due to unrelated business or political
Control the damage with a server redirect that automatically sends
visitors and spiders to the new site. Then expect to spend some time
educating your audience and reassuring them that nothing has changed
but your name.
Directory Structure Reorganization
Search engine algorithms consider a page's location within a Web site
when ranking that page. In general, pages closer to the top of the
site hierarchy are considered to be more relevant and therefore rank
Remember that when you first begin designing a site. But don't assume
that you should immediately move pages to different folders or to the
top level of your domain because you want to increase the page's
search engine rank.
Consider what could happen:
Broken backlinks: Links to your site from other Web sites (backlinks)
are an important promotional tool. Always check your backlinks
before moving pages.
Increased coding errors: Whenever you move a page within the
directory structure, make sure you aren't creating broken links on
your own site! Always use HTML Toolbox to quickly search for broken
Slow search engine spiders: Unless you're using some sort of
paid inclusion program, it may be weeks or months before your site
gets reindexed. In the meantime, the links already indexed will
appear to be broken when searchers click on them.
Aiming For The Cutting Edge
You don't have to immediately make changes just because there's a new
version of Flash, Java, or other interactive media plug-in. Visitors
are notoriously slow to upgrade and exceedingly reluctant to download
and install new software.
Even if you conscientiously update your browsers and plug-ins as soon
as the new versions are available, be sure to test your designs in
Forgetting Old Browsers
Those same visitors who stubbornly refuse to install the latest Flash
plug-in may have a good reason: they're using old computers and/or old
browsers that don't support the latest technology.
Sure, browsers are free, but computers aren't. Some people hang on to
dinosaurs like Netscape 4.7 because their old machines run it better
than Netscape 7.
Study your server logs to learn what browsers and browser versions
your visitors are using. Then decide what percentage (if any) you're
willing to ignore. Browser Photo can help you determine what effect
changes have on visitors. It shows you actual screen shots of your Web
page in 16 different browser, browser versions, and operating system
Moving To A New Host
If you're using a virtual hosting account, moving to a new Web host
means more than just writing checks to a new company. It means your
site will have a whole new IP address.
Let's briefly review the most important steps involved in requesting a
Web page from your server:
visitor either enters your domain name in the browser address bar or
clicks on a link in a search engine or other Web site.
The browser asks the Domain Name Server (DNS) for the IP address
that matches "BubbasFineWines.com" (or whatever your domain name
The DNS supplies the IP to the browser.
The browser locates the server with the matching IP address and
requests the page and its associated images and other files.
The visitor sees the page displayed on their screen.
the key in this process is the IP address. Once you move your site to
another server, it will have a different IP address. Generally, it
takes take several days for all the domain name servers to update.
During that transition period, some visitors may get "file not found"
error messages and assume your site is no longer functioning. Even
worse, a search engine spider could crawl by the old IP address, get
the same error, and delete your site from the search index! You could
wait weeks or even months for the spider to revisit and reindex your
site at the new IP address.
Always keep your site up and running at the old Web host for a month
or so when you change hosts. The extra money involved in paying double
hosting charges for a month is well worth it. Especially when you
consider that the alternative is disappearing from the search engines
for an extended period!
Changing Image And File Names
You get a promotion boost when your file, image, and directory names
contain your targeted keywords, but the best time to consider those
names is before you post your site, not after. The issues to consider
here are much the same as with a site reorganization:
Broken backlinks: When you change the name of a page, all the
links pointing to that page (both inside and outside your site) will
be broken until someone updates them to link to the new page name.
Broken image links: Many search engines now include an image
search. If you're relying on that search aspect to sell your
professional photographs, then a file name change will cause a
Coding errors on your pages: Always use HTML Toolbox to test
your pages for broken HREFs and image links. It's easy to forget to
update text links tucked inside page content or a small image that's
used throughout the site.
Refer to the Page Primer feature of Search Engine Power Pack for more
hints and help with search engine optimization. Page Primer scans your
page and alerts you to design and coding techniques that could help or
hurt search engine promotion. It analyzes the keywords density of your
pages and advises if you've used your targeted keywords too often or
not often enough. The full suite of Power Pack tools will guide you
through the search engine optimization process from your source code
to page content to the submission process.
You'll avoid the changes that kill. Instead, Power Pack will help you
make change that sell your Web site to search engines and human
Source of Article
The author of this
article is Larisa Thomason, Senior Web Analyst with NetMechanic, Inc.
NetMechanic is an online service specializing in html code checking,
search engine optimization and web site maintenance and promotion. For
more information visit