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If I'm making changes to site code, content, adding/removing pages, changing links, changing database structure, etc.. How do I safely test all these changes, while still maintaining ability to revert back to the original and retain original search engine ranking and position (in case something screwy happens)?

I want to make changes, see what happens, if it happens to be bad for SEO - do the common sense thing and go back to original. Thanks for the help!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

First off create a backup of your current site so you have something to go back to in case something goes wrong.

But one way to do it is have 2 domains, a live (www.mydomain.com) and a development (dev.mydomain.com). Try to keep them on the same server to eliminate any server environment issues. Do all your changes in the development site to make sure everything works properly.

Then move a little over to the production site and see if it affects your status. If it does not than move a few more changes over. If it does refer to the backup you created.

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Thanks. So, i'm guessing that you do it little by little so that you can figure out what is affecting rankings. Is that right? When you revert to backup, will the rankings just go back to normal? How long should one wait once after each incremental change to see if it effects rankings? –  gijoemike Nov 9 '10 at 18:45
    
Usually when I make a change I will give it a day or two before making another change. As for the your ranking being restored after reverting to the backup, I am not sure on that one. I believe it should, but I guess that all depends on how bad the issue was. –  Jeremy Nov 9 '10 at 19:01
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To further expand on the above answer, I run a website and I handle that situation a couple of ways:

1) I have a production server where the live site is running and a development server where I handle development and testing. Only after the changes have been tested do I roll out to the production server

2) Some form of version control, I use Git with GitHub (github.com). I can maintain branches of code, track revisions, roll back to earlier versions, etc.. Look into it.

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Since you use 2 separate servers for live vs development, How do you prevent server environment issues like Jeremy described below? –  gijoemike Nov 9 '10 at 18:43
    
Well, i can do it one of two ways: I created both servers at virtually the same time so the set up for production was still fresh in my head but just in case I made mistakes, I took detailed notes of my actions. Secondly, you can take an image of your set up server and load that image on another server. Either way, the only problem I've ever had was two slightly different firewall configs caused me a problem for an hour or two some time ago because I could login to the development server but not the production server from a remote location. That's about it. –  user3109 Feb 13 '11 at 22:32
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