At PIXSYM, we redesign websites on a regular basis. In that process, we put alot of thought into how search engines will respond to a major website overhaul. Not to toot our horn (too much) but, I believe we are a rare breed web design firm that thinks about these things as we plan out a project with our clients. We see cases on a pretty regular basis where a website has completely lost rankings due to a new design or migration from one CMS to another. In every single case, the issue could have been avoided with planning during the redesign process.
The truth is, there are a lots of things to think about when redesigning a website. When redesigning a website that is already ranking for important keywords and phrases, the process of planning is mission critical. Knowing a few of the top reasons for rankings to tank can help you avoid the headache (and heartache) involved with a major ranking nightmare.
Here are the top five issues that cause search engine rankings to tank after a redesign:
- URL changes – By far, this is the most frequent cause for rankings to nose dive. Changing even the smallest detail of the site’s URL’s can cause a huge mess, as search engine’s will need to re-index the entire website from scratch. In addition, the website’s incoming links to internal pages will also be negated.
- Duplicated content – This happens most often when a website goes from static pages to a dynamic content management system. Often times CMS’s create multiple ways to visit one page and many times will generate different variables of a URL – all pointing to the same page. This can happen even when the above mentioned issues are avoided.
- Changed content – Switching the content on the page as part of a redesign, even when keeping the URL’s the exact same can cause problems. This can mean changing sidebars, headers, footers, titles and other elements which you wouldn’t exactly think of as “the content” for a particular page. Each page had a certain relevance to the keywords it ranked for before the redesign. Changing this by a large percent can cause pages to become somewhat irrelevant to their prior search rankings.
- robots.txt – This text file tells search engines where to look for things and what to ignore. If overlooked in the redesign process, search engines could be ignoring pages on your new site or blocked from crawling areas all together.
Redesigning a website doesn’t have to be scary if you know what to look out for before going into the process. In fact, it is completely possible to keep the rankings you’ve worked hard to obtain, even through a complete overhaul; it just takes careful planning in advance.
Have you come across a different issue that caused rankings to drop after a website redesign? Comment below and let us know!