Is your website up for a re-design?
Given the changes in search algorithms, design trends, and web applications, your website will need to be updated at some point. Besides, an outdated one will have difficulty delivering the online results you’re aiming for.
Before you alert your web development and design team, however, you should be aware that a redesign could cause a drop in traffic.
The purpose of a redesign may be to boost traffic, sales, and conversion, but your website will show some negative effects in the days and weeks following an overhaul, including a plunge in traffic.
What causes a web traffic drop after a redesign?
Lack of redirects
Without proper redirects for every page in your website, your traffic is sure to drop. Analytics will show that the pages are missing. Just look at the Not Found tab under Crawl > Crawl Errors in your Google Search Console.
The only time redirects are unnecessary is when all your URLs are kept exactly the same on the new site. Otherwise, you need to implement 301 redirects so browsers and search engines will know where the new version of each page is located.
Redirects will also point visitors in the right direction, effectively regaining your traffic.
No new sitemap created
How Google understands and indexes your website rely heavily on your site structure. In the event that it changes drastically during a redesign, you must create a new sitemap.
Build and submit a sitemap of all the important pages of your website to Search Console and re-indexing will be done faster which, in turn, will restore your website’s traffic levels.
Since it is best to keep links on your sitemap fewer than 100, Google recommends that you use a sitemap index file where all your sitemaps are listed in a single file. If your domain is accessible on both www and non-www versions, you should also use recommended canonicalization methods.
You should also revisit internal links and check that they do not point to outdated URLs. Otherwise, you will be facing crawl issues. Give emphasis on the link within your pages, especially the navigations.
Site copy not updated
A website redesign may include writing entirely new copies of your content. If a copywriter fails to integrate keywords that your website originally ranked for, your traffic will suffer.
After all, Google’s algorithm relies on keywords to provide users the information they are searching for. So imagine what happens to your ranking if your site copy lacks the original target keywords.
It is best to have the pages optimized for your target keywords with the help of an experienced SEO specialist. They can also provide you with other useful search optimization tips.
To ensure that you get the keywords right, it is recommended that you have a backup of your old site before a redesign.
How do you avoid a drop in traffic during a redesign?
1. Consult with an SEO strategist
Who knows web traffic better than an SEO specialist? They may not have the expertise of a web design and development team, but they have a good perspective of what issues can lead to traffic loss. So making SEO part of the process can help prevent possible drops.
SEOs can also recommend changes that will not only maintain web traffic but also increase it after your site is rebuilt. Suffice to say that their contribution will be invaluable.
2. Run an inventory
Make sure every page currently in your site is taken into account before you make any changes. Doing so will ensure that your new site architecture will have the same valuable information from your old site.
There are plenty of tools that you can use to take an inventory of your old site. Use them so that every page that matters will have a place in the redesigned version of your website. You can even use the same data to create a new site structure.
3. Set analytics tracking code
Make sure that your analytics tracking code is set on your new site before you launch your redesigned website. Failure to do so has been a common oversight that gives an impression that all web traffic is lost.
So spare yourself from the headache and stress by ensuring the code is implemented in the header. This way, you can continue to monitor web traffic during a redesign.
You also need to implement redirections, especially 301s that indicate a page has been “Moved Permanently” and create a new sitemap to keep traffic from dropping.
How long before traffic resumes to normal levels?
Even if you fix the problem immediately, traffic won’t normalize overnight.
You have to remember that it will take weeks before Google will crawl and re-index your new website’s pages. You also have to wait until the redesigned version of your site ranks in search results again before traffic is generated.
It will definitely take a while.
But if you set up the preventive measures mentioned above, you can keep traffic loss at a minimum.