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A client had a Wordpress website with a very plain landing page which would redirect to the "home" page once clicked. The "home" page lived under the address example.com/home, the landing page was accessed as soon as you visited example.com.

The client asked for the landing page to be removed and for example.com to go directly to the "home" page. Given the level of access to the site (no FTP, WP only), I initially placed a 302 Redirect on the landing page going to "home". I realized I should have used a 301 Redirect instead and quickly changed it.

Since the changes the client has noticed a significant drop in their search ranking, with example.com not coming up anymore - even when you search the company name directly. This problem has not resolved itself over time. Even competitors with inferior PageRank values (checked with MozBar) and keyword stuffing are showing up in search rankings above them.

I am starting to think I did something incredibly wrong! Did I? Can this be fixed and how?

  • Does the site have a sitemap? Is the landing page still there? Is the 301 still active? How long was the 302 up for? It may be as simple as creating a tiny link to re-introduce the landing page for a short period of time or put it into your sitemap if you have one. Can you do a site: search with keywords that would return the landing page to see if it is indexed? That may tell you if Google has the landing page indexed- sorta- maybe. – closetnoc Dec 9 '14 at 17:09
  • So the top level of the site is not WordPress and /home/ is where WordPress lives? – JCL1178 Dec 9 '14 at 20:39
  • @closetnoc 301 is still active, the 302 was up for a day at most. There is no sitemap. Landing page is not indexed according to a site: search. – Chris Dec 10 '14 at 0:45
  • @JCL1178 top level is WP too. – Chris Dec 10 '14 at 0:46
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    I am beginning to think that little is really wrong and that you actually fixed something that should never have been. Is it safe to say that removing the landing page will not make things worse? I suspect it won't. I also suspect that good ol' fashioned SEO is in order. As well, Google is just going through a correction. This can take a couple of months. It might be a good time to revisit your SEO strategy and put it into place as Google tries to figure your site out again. The landing page seemed to have, in effect, supplanted your home page which is important. Does this make sense to you? – closetnoc Dec 10 '14 at 1:12
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I am starting to think I did something incredibly wrong! Did I?

Probably not.

Can this be fixed and how?

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but it should fix itself over time. Whenever you change the URL structure or content of your site in a significant way (and changing what Google perceives as your landing page counts as significant) you trigger a recalculation and re-evaluation of the site as a whole. During this process, which can take weeks or even months for larger sites, you will see the site drop in the SERPS and assuming there are no other structural or content issues, you should recover most of what was lost. Sometimes you improve from where you were, sometimes you drop a bit; it all depends on how well-structured the new landing page is for SEO.

Another common issue you might see from this scenario is a big rise in your bounce rate. Whereas users used to have to make the extra click from root to home and then leave, you know allow them to hit root and leave, raising the bounce rate and hurting the overall ranking. This shouldn't be fatal, but can delay your recovery time.

So what you need to do now is what closetnoc suggested in the comment and make sure your house is in order. Check to be sure the current sitemap is up to date and submitted to GWT. Check to make sure nothing is keeping the Googlebot out (robots.txt and WordPress' settings). Search Google with -site to be sure you are still in the index. Tune the new landing page and attempt to bring the bounce rate down if indeed it rose. If you do all of that, then just be patient and wait for the recovery.

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An easy fix is to put the actual home page on the home page and stop redirecting.

  • At the moment this isn't possible due to the way the original developer set the site up, as well as limited access to the site through Wordpress (no FTP). – Chris Dec 9 '14 at 9:01
  • While one sentence may point in the right direction, it doesn't fully answer the question. We expect full answers on this site. Good answers explain their reasoning, are backed by facts and experience, and link to references and documentation. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 9 '14 at 19:09
  • Google shouldn't particularly care about the redirection. It cares that there appears to be a massive change in the structure and content from what it previously saw as the landing page. So moving the home page up a level and removing the redirection would still have triggered a recalc. Would it have been this severe? Who knows? – JCL1178 Dec 9 '14 at 20:42

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