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I have recently made a big structural change on my site and the very next day the number of Google impressions went from 75.000 to 3.000, with a proportional drop of traffic from searches.

No URLs were changed, neither were the page titles or descriptions. Everything is exactly the same, but different looking, except that it does barely appear on Google anymore.

Anybody has a clue to why?

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When did the drop happen? Don't forget Google are always releasing new updates which can have a huge impact like you mentioned. –  Vince Pettit Jun 8 '12 at 13:11
    
I have three domains: www.olgatorresfoundation.org, www.fundacionolgatorres.org and www.olgatorresfoundation.org. I made the same changes in the English and Spanish sites with one week difference. In both cases Google ratings dropped to dead bottom the next day while the remaining portal remains unaffected and is actually growing a bit. –  Name Jun 8 '12 at 13:15
    
An example of the structural differences between the same page in English and Catalan: 1. olgatorresfoundation.org/digestive_system/introduction 2. fundacioolgatorres.org/aparell_digestiu/introduccio –  Name Jun 8 '12 at 13:23
    
might be an idea to look in webmaster tools to see if all of your pages are still indexed –  sam Jun 8 '12 at 14:19
    
No change in that, but the amount of pages that receives an impression has decreased as demonstrated above. It's like I have lost all the page rank I ever had and have to start over from scratch. I have never had anything similar happen to anyone I know, even after huge redesigns... –  Name Jun 8 '12 at 14:40

3 Answers 3

I can't say what's going on with your particular website, but in case another anecdotal datapoint will help:

In early April I refactored the HTML and applied some new CSS styling to a site that has been getting moderately high and consistent traffic from Google for the last several years. No content changes, no URL changes.

Rankings dropped instantaneously and I lost about 2/3 traffic the next day. Fortunately I didn't panic and revert my changes, because on the second day traffic was back to normal.

Over the next month, Google traffic again dropped precipitously two more times, each time regaining to normal levels a few days later.

Things seem to have stabilized, and Google traffic has remained high since May.

So, presuming that your redesign is equally easily indexed by Google, I'd guess that you might see your traffic jump up again once their algorithms are sufficiently convinced that your site hasn't been hacked by spammers. For how long now has your traffic been low?

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The English portal three weeks and the Spanish portal two. And the current development, sadly, looks a bit like the e^-x function, i.e. slowly going down towards zero. –  Name Jun 9 '12 at 14:02
    
Yeah, that sounds bad... It may be worth checking out the "Fetch as Google" feature of Webmaster Tools, and comparing the results to the old design, just to see if there's anything hidden behind the scenes. Good luck! –  sunspeck Jun 9 '12 at 19:00
    
I will keep you posted when/if I find what is missing. –  Name Jun 9 '12 at 22:35

If it's true that you did not change urls and titles, according to the restructing example you provided:

http://www.olgatorresfoundation.org/digestive_system/introduction/

vs

http://www.fundacioolgatorres.org/aparell_digestiu/introduccio/

the only thing it might have affected badly the visits is that you added/removed the right side bar with the dozens of links.

It's not clear to me which one of the two example you provided generated the drop in visits:

  • If it's the one w/o the side bar, it migh be that pages pointed by those links went lost and Google is not indexing them anymore resulting in a drop of visits.

  • If it's the one with the side bar if might be that all the links you added redistributed the PR in your site, in a way that has a bad impact on visist. Maybe the pages with no side bar were ranking good and getting many visits, once you added the sidebar the PR of those pages flowed to other pages making all of your pages not ranking well anymore.

Anyway it's strange that it took only one day.

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Nono, they sure look the same, but if you look at the source, the Catalan page is still a complete mess of supernested tables and whatnot while the English page is a complete clean rewrite of the content that uses paragraphs and divs and somehow in relation to that lost traffic. This is the entire point. They look alike, the content is the same, no URLs have changed etc., so I have no idea what the site is being punished for. –  Name Jun 8 '12 at 17:40
    
... but you might have a very good point on the pagerank spread out over the entire site. This really got me thinking. Can this be reversed with a simple nofollow on the links? Would that quickly return the PR for the most famous pages or is it "lost" and has to be regained the hard way? –  Name Jun 8 '12 at 17:41
    
@Name: I posted the wrong page links. Now I edited and fixed them. You can clearly see that the two pages are different, the English one shows a menu on the right side, whilst the Spanish one does not. –  Marco Demaio Jun 9 '12 at 14:12
    
That's the only visible difference, yes. The links on the side - all other changes are in the html. I thought that internal links didn't matter for PR. –  Name Jun 9 '12 at 16:09

Since HTML/semantic markup is a ranking factor and you've changed yours I'd say it could be a cause of your problems. You also may have inadvertently done something to your website to make the content inaccessible in some fashion to Google and/or made the content seem lower quality. I'd do a review of every change you made and what processes were used to implement this update and make sure everything seems to be on the up-and-up.

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Checks out perfectly fine in w3c validator in the new version while encumbered by numerous flaws in the old one. No idea. –  Name Jun 9 '12 at 19:43
    
I'm not saying it is invalid HTML. I'm just saying it doesn't offer the same semantic information your old HTML did. –  John Conde Jun 9 '12 at 22:22
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Hmm.. The "semanticity" of the old code was a disaster. Unclosed tables, double-closed tr tags, division of sentences in separate compartments etc. It's like a Picasso job - sure it's nice to have it hanging on the wall as a sign of intricate understanding of the Universe (and a big wallet), but who in their right mind would use this for indexation? If the old design has so much semantic information (and the catalan site just hit a traffic record this week) then I simply don't want to work with html anymore. –  Name Jun 9 '12 at 22:33

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