This is really a post about Joomla and SEO I would rather not have written…. but it is a great case studie, so here we go…
About 3 weeks back I did some work on my major dutch website, replacing a SEF component, replacing the template and also updating the site to Joomla 1.0.13 which I should have done some time ago.. (no not to Joomla 1.0.14 yet, but you will see in the end why not).
The SEF Components
I wanted to replace the OpenSEF component with sh404SEF, mainly because of the way the later works by sending real 404 headers.
This site had more pages in Google than there were actual pages… I must admit I did some heavy testing with different SEF components in the early days , thus creating more URLs pointing to the same content.
But they al said to the search engines:
He I am OK look Ma, code 200! So all pages stayed in the index.
So cleaning that up was one of the aspect to choose for sh404SEF, the other reason was that OpenSEF is no longer under real development.
Oke, back to the site in question. All things with previous site conversions went without any problems, but with this site I also wanted do a little change in the URLs.
I covered that by redirecting the old URLs to the new ones with 301 redirect in the .htaccess file, so that was covered.
The new template and site upgrade
This was not a great undertaking, as Joomla works great with templates and this one is really clean and fast, even more then the old one.
Upgrading a Joomla website within the 1.0.x range isn't hard to do as well.
Both items were ready in about 30 minutes with some tweaking here and there.
The Google results
After a few day however I found that my visitors number were dropping dramaticly…
Is this new SEF component the cause of this problem? That was the mayor change on the site?
But I did redirect all those pages, so this could not have caused such a dramatic drop!
Now one thing I always do if I have to look at a site in trouble is run the command site:www.example.com in Google.
And there it was! The problem I was having with the site was the basic one with any not optimized Joomla website!
Standard Joomla gives out the HTML Titles composed of [sitename] – [pagetitle] and this site ad a long title.
So there were a lot of hits showing… my site title and not my carefully crafted pages titles.
Then it hit me, I had upgrade the site to 1.0.13, but had forgotten to install the Joomla SEF Patch by Joomlatwork.com after that.
The Solution to the problem
For those of you that don't now the SEF Patch yet (shame on you), one of the things that is done by the patch is that it changes the way the title of the pages are shown.
Basically it just shows the page title as the HTML title tag, you know, the number one SEO Ranking factor?
Installing the free Patch is just uploading the Page via FTP, or if you have the paid version, which is installed as a component, but thus giving you even more controle over the HTML title (costs 8,33 Euro, which is really a bargain)
I Installed the SEF Patch, and run a new sitemap.xml creation to see if all page titles were back the way they should.
Then off to the Google webmaster tool, removing the old sitemap and telling Google there was a new one.
The results of this action you can see in th graphics above, the site is doing oke again and is now back to where it was before and slightly growing further.
Conclusion: if you upgrade a Joomla site, even if it is your own, you should always make sure you have the SEF Patch in place!
P.s. Why no upgrade to 1.0.14? There is no patch for this version yet :-) (to my knowledge that is, maybe Richard can shed some light on this)
Update: The Joomla SEF Patch for 1.0.14 is now ready for download at http://www.joomlatwork.com/downloads/