I am doing a major rebuild of a large (over 175 pages) website with a new theme and better mobile responsiveness. The basic structure will remain the same. Instead of HTML, I am considering using PHP as my default extension and index.php as my filename on all pages. Apparently, this would not significantly slow performance and my site would be better prepared for addons or other items for future functionalities. Of course, I would be removing the current website from the server before uploading the rebuilt version.
The current website has excellent search engine rankings and lots of backlinks. I’m concerned these might be negatively impacted by the changes from HTML to PHP (by Google for example). Any thoughts would be sincerely appreciated.
I collected some resources here:
Almost anything you do can impact a sites SERP ranking, in fact doing nothing can change how search engines evaluate a site compared to competitors for the same search phrases.
The more you do to a site the more likely you’ll have a greater impact on your sites ranking, both good and bad.
Assuming you don’t do anything really bad, you can probably expect to get a moderate drop in ranking for hopefully a short time while the search engines reevaluate the content of your site. If you do things right you should bounce right back and even enjoy a bump up in SERP ranking.
When you say “basic structure” are you going to have “page for page” the same old site to new? If the only difference between the two is html vs PHP then you can minimize the impact of search results with a simple 301 redirect.
If you’re removing pages a 301 redirect would be helpful for users as well.
As Jannis (@instacks) points out you should really use the “tidy links” (aka cruftless links) if you aren’t already doing so.
The first PDF on the link above has a follow up blog post that talks about the 301’s:
Thanks for the feedback, Jannis. My existing site uses tidy links and my new one will also. The general consensus I have received indicates that it’s best to make php the default extension in Settings > Advanced and use index.php for the filename on all pages. That’s probably the way I’m going to go with the site rebuild. Of course, I will need to remove the existing site from the server before uploading the rebuilt version to avoid duplicate page issues.
Thanks for all of your helpful feedback, Doug. The 301 redirect is an interesting option. The general consensus I have received indicates that it’s best to make php the default extension in Settings > Advanced and use index.php for the filename on all pages. That’s probably the way I’m going to go with the site rebuild. Of course, I will need to remove the existing site from the server before uploading the rebuilt version to avoid duplicate page issues. My existing site uses tidy links and my new one will as well.
You might have a look at this article from google on Consolidate duplicate URLs:
It might give you insight on using a conical URL as well as a the article it there’s a section:
Which is my canonical URL, according to Google?
It explains using URL Inspection Tool to check what Google is indexing.
You mentioned that you have “lots of backlinks”, are they links to the “full URL’s” or the “tidy URL’s”? This could be important as well, if someone has a link to a page that has the explicit address with
index.html in the address and you delete that page they’ll get a 404 when clicked. If the back links have the “tidy link” then they would end up at the new
index.php page. Of course the 301 redirects will solve that problem as well.
In case you aren’t aware you can check the links google knows about from the New Search Console under links report . That shows only what google knows about and won’t include any “nofollow” links or private bookmarks users might have.
If all of your pages are named “index” them changing them from HTML to PHP won’t have any affect as long as your site is setup to use “Tidy Links”
Thanks for the helpful info, Doug. It appears that the vast majority of the backlinks are to tidy URLs.
Thanks for your helpful comment, Joe. The current site and the rebuilt version both use Tidy Links. BTW, I just watched your “Back to Rapidweaver Basics” video on YouTube. Excellent! Keep up the good work.
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