Changing Everything Changes Everything

by Ruud Hein April 18th, 2008 

The Algorithm is Human is a series of post explaining search engine behaviour from a plain and simple human point of view.

Moving your site to a new server. Moving your site to a new domain name. Changing all content on your site. Changing the whole design of your site.

How will Google react? If it reacts, will it be good or bad? If it's bad, how bad will it be and for how long will it last?

If you're a site owner and you face these questions you want answers. Not just any answers; definitive answers.

And you know what your SEO tells you? "It depends...."

It depends?! I'm paying all this money and the best you can come up with is "it depends"?! It's not just a site we're talking about, it's my life. My income. My family... My future... "It depends" isn't good enough!

Circle of Trust

Truth is, this is about how you and I react to changes in real life. And there, in our real life relations, "it depends".

Not long ago a new hire came into the firm. Well groomed. Dressed sharply. Chic. Trustworthy, clearly. Solid as a rock, evidently.


Until this Monday when you arrived at the office only to find him dressed in shorts and sneakers. No complaint about his shirt though as he wasn't wearing one. Hey, even if he had been wearing one, the red dyed hair sort of draws your attention even though you have to admit that the ear rings through the nose vie for it.

So... How do you react? Good? Bad? How long will it take you before you trust everything is OK with this guy?

Probably you'll ask around; is Bob OK? did he have a nervous breakdown? does anyone know if he uses drugs? needs mental healthcare?

Truth is, Bob will have to earn your full trust again. Bob isn't fired but Bob sure isn't in your circle of trust anymore.

Emo Bank Offers Dope Mortgage - Word!

Or remember the other day when you navigated to your online bank account to make some sage money moves?

Instead of the usual "if you're using a public or shared computer" the screen warns "marinating in public? watch out your p-word ain't get ganked!"


Out of your speakers a voice blasts: "Drive boy dog boy dirty numb angel boy..."

When you click the login button a hoarse, sexy voice says "aggggainnnn..." while Daffy Duck looks around the corner of the screen.

Does the fact that this site is housed on the same domain, at the same URL as your sober and serious bank instill enough confidence in you to go ahead and enter your secret account information?

I don't think so.... You'll be hitting Google News to figure out if the site has been hacked or not. You're going to be looking for some pretty serious quality and trust signals or you're outta here. Right? Right.

Human Nature

Search engines are programmed by humans. So if you understand how humans think, what we fear, what drives us, you're a long way towards understanding how search engines "think".


When confronted with extreme and sudden changes, search engines are programmed to become nervous and distrusting.

The first thing they want to do when a site or its fingerprints (think links and link patterns!) change is look for signals that, OK, don't worry, everything is A-OK.

Do links to the site disappear because people don't want to support that site anymore? Do the words used to link to the site change, indicating that the topic of the site might have changed? What's going on?

Will something change when you change? It depends.

Will people's reaction to you change when you change? It depends.

Are there things you can do up front to keep that trust? ... Mmm... It depends...

If you do those things, will you keep that trust? .... It depends...

Images courtesy of: Universal Pictures, Dugal, Ben McLeod and quinn.anya.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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11 Responses to “Changing Everything Changes Everything”

  1. Nick James says:

    Ruud, this is probably one of the best and most comprehensive explanations as to why a site's rankings may dip after a refresh, I've come across.
    Definitely one to point out to a client that may be panicking over a sudden loss in rankings after a re-design, recode, and a hell of a lot of redirects.

  2. Utah SEO says:

    I so often face clients wanting a definitive answer based on previous experience with other clients in similar situations. No matter how hard I try it's hard to get into their head that their experience has different variables and the outcome could be very different.

  3. […] Changing Everything Changes Everything :: Search Engine People – Ruud Hein has some thoughts on what plays out in the background when you move your site – whether to a new server or even a new domain. […]

  4. Excellent article! One should try to do everything so perfect from the start that no changes is ever needed :) yeah right

  5. The Doug says:

    Great post, Ruud! That's such a great way to put it, and it makes perfect sense for anyone reading it. Thanks!

  6. sahrudin says:

    great post article…you're clever , smart , and cool's. Every body needed this topic

  7. spostareduro says:

    This article was simple and direct. Thanks.

  8. […] Read more Changing Everything Changes Everything […]

  9. Ruud Hein says:

    @Nick, I think we might do the same. I plan to add a few more of these.

    @Jordan, it's really hard for people outside the industry to understand what goes on. Some of the things we say just *have* to sound like selling snake oil. It's important to explain things well, to build trust.

    @Kim, appreciate it you always find or make the time to comment: thanks!

  10. […] good friend and colleague Ruud, understands that changing everything changes everything. He often describes it like this….. You're walking down the street and you bump into an […]

  11. […] good friend and colleague Ruud, understands that changing everything changes everything. He often describes it like this….. You're walking down the street and you bump into an […]