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Google killing my rankings for IMPROVING my HTML quality?

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by BlackHatSoda, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. BlackHatSoda

    BlackHatSoda Junior Member

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    I've always been a firm believer that having a perfectly XHTML coded site and not using tables for layout has no effect on ranking vs a properly formated HTML site using bulky tables.

    I've been able to see this first hand with a site I recently purchased. This site had horrible coding. The HTML was not only overly bulky and used nested tables but in many places, there were unclosed tags which Dreamweaver would choke at at trying to render.

    Not only was this bad for redesigns and layout maintenance but made the site fairly slow to download and render so I went about cleaning it up.

    I got rid of the tables, rewrote overly verbose HTML with clean, simple markup and proceeded to upload the new site.

    It took all of 3 days before the traffic started to decrease. Within a week, the site had lost over 60% of it's traffic. My use of search result rank checking software confirmed that the site had dropped many, many spots in rank for it's target terms.

    So, I uploaded the old, crappy, bloated HTML and within 6 days, the site's traffic and rankings were back to normal.

    I re-uploaded the new design and saw the traffic dip once again. Since then, I've been making very small changes, one at a time to try and see what exactly is causing the problem.

    Keep in mind, none of the content or linking was changed. Only the HTML tables were replaced with DIV tags and new CSS classes created. Also of note is that this wasn't a few day decrease in traffic. Once I let it sit for 2 weeks and it just got worse until the traffic leveled off at about 30% of it's original.

    I have noticed that some of the recent, small changes of replacing parts of the design with DIV tags has resulted in about a 10% increase in traffic. I'm to the point where it's not practical to try and make any more small changes and will try to upload everything again.

    Anyone else noticed this strange Google treatment of cleaned up sites? I would assume that since the site loads much faster and has proper syntax that this would only help but time and time again, I've seen the opposite.

    I want to do a total site redesign but don't want to waste the time if it's going to kill the site's traffic.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. mollah

    mollah Power Member

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    in for explanation.

    This is why I'm afraid to touch some of my older sites.
     
  3. RandomStuff

    RandomStuff Registered Member

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    That is incredibly, incredibly bizarre!

    I personally have never done that (had a bloated table-laden site indexed and then changed it to clean code), BUT, I'm wondering if perhaps when you cleaned up the code if it altered the internal linking structure of your site? I'd find it really weird how that would affect it so dramatically, so quickly.. but it's the only thing I can think of!??
     
  4. ukescuba

    ukescuba Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    part of any campaign we do for clients with existing sites is clean up the usually poorly coded design, in many instances this in itself is enough to improve ranking...

    are you removing header tags, and any of the header information?

    i will be more than happy to look at both versions of the site to see if i can see anything glaringly obvious

    let me know - i would be interested to see this...

    cheers

    ukescuba

    --------

    update

    was just thinking could it possibly be the positioning of your divs - i know nested tables are terrible but am just thinking if your going through you source code is the main relavent content rendered closer to the top of your source code with the tables then it is with the div tags... hope that makes sense...

    secondly how does each version validate?

    otherwise without seeing it im kinda stumped...
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2010
  5. null101

    null101 Newbie

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    Part of me wants to say it's coincidental.. Google favors XHTML over table layouts.
     
  6. BlackHatSoda

    BlackHatSoda Junior Member

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    Thanks for the replies. None of the headers or title tags were changed. Only the body content. I cleaned it up from a badly written table layout to a clean, div and css only one. I've been able to repeat the results over and over. If I put the old design up, the traffic comes back to normal within 4-5 days. If I put the clean version up, the traffic drops within 2-3 days and continues to drop until it's about 40% of the old version.

    It's very strange and I've been sure to check that the internal linking hasn't changed. The text, headers, title and meta descriptions haven't been touched which makes this very strange.

    I've been slowly going back and forth between the new design and old with incremental changes trying to figure out which change drops my rankings so dramatically but so far I haven't been able to zero in on any one change.

    ukescuba... Send me a PM and I'll show you both sites and the Google analytics data for each.
     
  7. BlackHatSoda

    BlackHatSoda Junior Member

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    ukescuba...

    The table layout is, for the most part, vertical. The text content is linear from top to bottom, same as with the div layout version. The tables in the old version are just there for display purposes, holding various images.

    As far as validation, the old version doesn't pass well. There are unclosed tags and the layout is a highly nested table design. As far as I can tell, the text content and it's order in the pages should be the same to Google.

    I'm going to try and put the new version up one more time and see what happens. It's strange but it may be that Google doesn't like a mass change of page structure. This may be why incremental changes have either had no effect or improved traffic and results rank while a total change has killed both.