Why Your Site Rankings May Drop With A Redesign
In a world where consumerism, digital, marketing and web design are continually changing, it’s not uncommon for businesses to redesign their websites every couple of years. (Or in our own case, every other month…) Chucking a fresh coat of pixels onto a dated site, enhancing branding and becoming mobile-friendly are a few of the many reasons revamps are so popular and highly recommended. However, a revamp isn’t just about the way the site looks and presents your business – a redesign done wrong can cause a number of issues including permanent drops in traffic due to diminished rankings. Here are some reasons why site rankings may drop with a redesign along tips to avoid that from happening!
1. Improper Redirects
One of the most common characteristics of a website revamp is modifying content through either deleting existing and/or adding new content and pages. While there’s nothing wrong with deleting pages (we’ll talk about adding content later), there is a wrong way to doing that. Without creating a 301 Redirect, content gaps will arise and result in broken internal links, 4XX codes and minimised user experiences and flow.
Once set up, a 301 (Moved Permanently) Redirect sends a visitor from one URL (the deleted one) to another URL permanently – working kind of like a mail forwarder. Setting up a 301 on deleted pages will ensure all web visitors are directed to the right, relevant content on another page. A change in URLs due to deleted pages without proper redirects will likely cause traffic drops particularly if these pages have high engagement. Utilising a platform such as Google Search Console can help quickly identify any coverage and crawl issues including pages not found.
2. Site Content
You’ve probably heard it said before – content is king. And just as that’s true in a marketing sense, it is also true when it comes to Google’s ranking algorithm. A good redesign project will include a review of content that may lead to changes whether minor to boost factors such as keyword density, relevancy and text length, or major and possibly even entirely new content.
Google cares about finding the most relevant and useful search results and so it makes sense they reward businesses who develop that content. Consequently, changes to content can cause your website’s rankings to rocket up or plummet down. Any and all content changes must be made with SEO in mind. Content changed on a whim and with little regard to searchers, Google and SEO will likely end in rankings falling
3. Site Structure
Amongst the 200 plus factors considered by Google when indexing a site, structure plays a big part in ranking. A website’s architecture including menu navigation, slugs, categorical silos all the way down to internal linking help Google better understand your site and whether you answer a user’s search request.
Updated design and content are likely to result in an updated structure too. Often, website architecture is an afterhought or completely disregarded when it should be one of the first things to be addressed. By maintaining or even better, enhancing the site’s structure, your business will help Google crawl the site more effectively and minimise changes in indexing. (One of the biggest mistakes made when it comes to revamping a site is treating great content like treasure and expecting people to dig for it – where possible minimise the number of pages it takes to get to cornerstone content.)
4. Site Performance
Google has said time and time again that site speed plays a big part in organic rankings, especially in our mobile-first indexing times. A website redesign sometimes causes changes in loading speeds across pages. While changing text content is unlikely to make much of a speed difference (even if your page length has gone from a short-story to Lord of the Rings trilogy), adding features and functions such as HQ videos on sliders, accessibility and language translation tools and customer portals, to the site may.
A lot of these features can, to an extent, be minimised performance-wise with optimisation of media, hosting servers and plugins. Our agency implements several strategies during development and the launch to minimise performance impacts off the bat and keep your site fast and in shape.
5. Site Hosting
You may be thinking – website hosting isn’t a ranking factor. Cheap hosting can have an impact on rankings especially if the hosting comes with poor downtimes, loading speeds and security.
Sometimes a revamp website involves changing of hosting and your best bet to safeguarding your rankings is to partner with an established host provider or with a digital agency who have a history of delivering affordable, dynamic and performance-driven hosting solutions to clients.
6. Poor Foundation / Theme
If your site is using an ‘off the shelf’ WordPress theme, this can have an impact on site performance. Over the years, we have come across a number of nasty (and often very cheap) site themes – ones which don’t care about performance any more than it does user experience. If you are planning on revamping your website with a well-known theme (that’s noted for being SEO-friendly) or through a reputable agency, there is less of a risk but it’s something worth keeping in mind.
Help – My Rankings Have Dropped!
Generally, a revamped site will temporarily lose some of its visibility upon launch – that’s usually unavoidably as Google must go through re-evaluating, indexing and ranking your site. On average, this is only a minor drop of up to 7% or so percentage, and lasts only a couple of weeks at max.
A site with a decline exceeding 5-10% is a revamp gone wrong, and the first step to recourse is finding out what has happened. 90% of the time, it’s one of the factors addressed and can be easily and rather rapidly remedied. Using tools such as Google Analytics and Search Console will help with analysing a site’s performance and structure alongside even offering insights into content. (Unfortunately, Google Analytics only reports proactively and not retrospectively so the platform will only help if it contains metrics from before the launch.)
I Want A Website Revamp Without Ranking Issues
We hear from local businesses all the time who want a website redesign that doesn’t impact their rankings. Our SEO and development team work closely on each website to ensure that it doesn’t only look good but is strategically developed in a manner that maintains, if not, eventually boosts rankings! If you are interested in partnering with an agency that maps out site architectures, sets up 301 redirects, reviews and creates content for Google and users, has in-house servers and more, get in contact with Start Digital.