Why has my new website lost all of its Google rankings?

Posted on September 14, 2018

 

Have you recently had your website redesigned and found that you’ve lost all of your search engine rankings, and your website’s traffic has significantly dropped, or completely vanished? Have your enquiries or sales dried up as a result?

Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence, and is one we come across alarmingly frequently. In fact, it’s something we’ve seen this very week with someone who has just launched a new website.

Here’s the problem

Web design is really easy. Unlike many professions there are no barriers to entry in becoming a website designer. You don’t need any formal qualifications. You don’t need any training. You don’t need any skill, or even any basic competence. Anyone can claim to be a web designer.

You can set up a website using something like Wix without any understanding of how web design works, get some business cards printed and then call yourself a web designer. It’s then up to you to sell your services to clients, which often comes down to how cheap you are.

As my post last week explained, there are thousands of printers, graphic designers and IT companies offering web design as a service without the first clue how to do it. This means that if you choose the wrong person to design your website, you could very easily find yourself with no online presence, no website traffic and no business. The really scary thing is that if you have a successful website at the moment, you can completely destroy it by employing someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Let’s look a very real situation from the last few weeks, where an amateur web designer has completely destroyed a website’s rankings because they didn’t know any better.

One of our clients, who has been with us for a number of years, has just had his website redesigned by someone else. He has thousands of indexed pages in Google and dominates the first page of Google for almost all of his industry terms and key phrases. He has Google Featured Snippets, powerful links built through content and a substantial volume of traffic that leads to enquiries.

I say ‘has’, when I of course mean ‘had’.

His new website looks perfectly fine. It’s a decent looking website. It should be, it’s an ‘off the shelf’ premium WordPress theme. It will have cost in the region of $65 and was purchased from one of the professional WordPress theme developers. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. It’s sometimes worthwhile using premium themes as a starting point, especially when building a WooCommerce website, as they can be customised and amended to make them unique for the client.

This wasn’t one of those however.

The use of the premium theme isn’t the issue. The issue is the same old issue we see time and time again.

Since the new website went live, it has produced a number of warnings in Google Console. The sort of warnings that, to be honest, I predicted when I first heard the plans for a new website. The main two of these warnings are:

1. An increase in 404 errors

Due to all of the content from the old website not being ported across, the new website features substantially fewer pages. The location of these pages has not been handled correctly with redirects, which means the website is throwing up ‘page not found’ errors. Additionally, as the previous website contained hundreds of redirects from older versions of the website going back 10 years, these were also lost – meaning historic links from a decade ago are now throwing up errors.

Whenever you launch a new website, you MUST ensure you handle redirects for any pages that will not be ported across to the new website, and ensure that any existing redirects are also copied across. Without doing this, your website will suddenly start throwing up errors and your Google traffic will significantly drop.

Of course, none of this really matters because of the second issue:

2. The entire site is blocking all search engines

You read that correct, and it’s really common. Due to the new web designer (a loose term) not understanding how to put a website live, they have left in code that actively blocks all search engines from accessing the website.

The code is quite simple, and it is this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

That tells all search engines to go away and not to access the website at all. It’s code that some web designers and developers use while they are building a website and they do not want it indexed in Google until it’s ready to go live. Once the website is put live, the code should be changed to this:

User-agent: *
Disallow:

It’s a very subtle difference, but one that’s the difference from your website being indexed by Google or being completely avoided by all search engines altogether.
It’s also code that only someone who actually knows what they’re doing would understand how to use.

So, if you have just had a new website and you’re wondering why you’re getting no business at all, and your website isn’t indexed by Google, perhaps one of these two issues could be the reason. If it is, they’re both very simple fixes. One of them literally takes two seconds.

Of course it could be another reason entirely. Either way, Engage Web would be happy to take a look for you.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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