New websites can drop dramatically

One of the things we’ve seen time and again is when someone has an old website that hasn’t been updated for months or even years.  They get a new website with wonderful SEO, they put it live fully expecting it to hit page 1 and it ends up lower down than it was originally!

Cue frantic changes and irate phone calls!

This is one of the hard parts of SEO – you need to have patience.  While your first impressions will be that your new website has been a colossal waste of money this is actually quite a normal reaction.

I don’t know why this happens – you’d have to ask Google and they probably won’t tell you – but I can imagine Google’s thought process going like this:

– OK, a month has passed, let’s go and check out and see if anything has happened

– Wow, it’s totally changed – there is nothing left over from the old site

– Well, I suppose I should promote it to the top of the listings because it’s been so well optimised

– But what if it hasn’t?  What if it’s been hacked? And why would they change everything on it in one go?

– Hmm, this isn’t totally normal.  It’s a site that never been updated for 6 months and all of a sudden EVERYTHING has changed on it!

– OK, I’m going to push it down the rankings a bit just in case it’s been hacked and keep an eye on it for a month or so.  If people are clicking on it then I’ll assume it’s OK and promote it to its rightful place.

Meanwhile, for a month you’re pulling your hair out wondering what’s gone wrong with the site and your web developer/SEO guy are getting phone calls from you every day asking what’s going on!

It’s frustrating – I know.  I doesn’t happen to every website but I’ve seen it happen.

Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about it.  Just keep calm, don’t make any rash changes to the website (although feel free to update news stories etc) and in a month or two it’ll sort itself out.

I know a month or two sounds like a long time, but if you haven’t updated your site for months then Google has no reason to check your site out too often.  Yet another reason for making sure you update your site as often as you can.

Has this happened to you?  How long did it take to sort itself out and did you do anything to speed it up?