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    Does a website lose rankings when redesigned?

    Posted on November 9, 2020

     

    Sometimes, if businesses have had a website for years, they became hesitant to change how it looks and functions. If you’ve worked hard to achieve Google rankings, is there a danger that a redesign could lose them? Will your newly redesigned site have to earn its rankings again from scratch?

    In short, no. If a website redesign is done well and managed well, you will not experience a loss in traffic nor search engine performance. The key is to find whether there is an issue before it snowballs into something bigger.

    It is imperative that identification of potential problems are found as soon as possible. Ideally, these are all ironed out before a go-live, but often issues creep through. Analysis tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics can be key to finding where pages are falling over and traffic loss is occurring.

    For instance, 301 redirects are key for pointing users, as well as search engines, to the correct pages. These are often used where a page previously had one slug and now occupies another. For instance, if example.com/about has been redesigned and now is called example.com/about-us, then a 301 redirect will need to be created to reflect this. This will allow search engines to associate the two pages and thus traffic loss is non-existent.

    With any redesign, it is also important to update files that could have been forgotten about. Sitemaps require an update before a go-live and these should be loaded into search engine webmaster areas to ensure correct and full searchability.

    Settings of SEO plugins and robots.txt files should be double checked to ensure that no pages are being blocked from spiders (or the whole of the site!).

    Proper management of change is crucial to get a website redesign up and running smoothly. For instance, a change in protocol from http to https will need to be redirected properly with htaccess code. To redirect all web traffic to https, you will want the following added to .htaccess:

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [R,L]

    In analytic tools, you will want to keep tabs on sites’ visibility in search results, as well as the traffic over time. Minor fluctuation in the search engine results is to be expected as with typical use of the internet, but should a massive fluctuation occur, it could be something is technically wrong with your site. The traffic flow is also something worth keeping an eye on.

    When a newly designed website is released, you will often see a spike in traffic rather than a downturn as curious visitors will be excited by a new design.

    It is crucial to keep informative content of the site, and one area that can often go misplaced is PDFs. These files may rank high in search results, so it is crucial that these are carried over from one design to another. Retaining permalink structure or using 301 redirects is crucial here to ensure people can find content such as user manuals, often in PDF format.

    Remember that managing loss of content is crucial and any informative content should really stick on the page, regardless the redesign. Often, footers have useful information about how to contact the business or details about other offices. Removing something like this from the footer to make it look prettier will in fact have an adverse effect on rankings. In a search engine’s eyes, less useful data on your website is now present.

    Retaining quality content is key, so any information on existing pages should be kept at all costs. Often, content is structured in a way that works well with search engines and has been designed in a proper and conforming way. Keeping the structure of such pages and their content can be crucial if you want to redesign a website while still ranking for the terms you care about the most.

    In closing, if a website is designed and managed in the right way, there should be no significant impact on rankings of the site and no loss in search engine traffic.

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