Web design is not a static field. Standards, expectations, and trends change, prompting businesses to rejuvenate their websites to appeal more to the modern customer. Launching a website redesign can improve the user experience, increase traffic, and make a stronger impression on visitors.
But not all changes go according to plan. Redesign launches may occasionally result in significant drops in traffic caused by a multitude of factors. Why does this drop happen, and what can you do to recover from one and restore your previous search engine optimization (SEO) ranking?
We’ve dealt with panicking businesses when their traffic nosedives after a site revamp. The truth is that drops like this aren’t uncommon, and fixing them is a regular part of website maintenance.
The circumstances of a fall in traffic are not always clear. There are thankfully online tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console that can track site metrics both before and after a new design goes live.
1. Track Statistics
You can gain valuable insights by comparing the following metrics:
- Total number of clicks
- Keyword rankings
- Clickthrough rates (CTRs)
- Past URLs
These help determine the scope and timing of the drop. Was the decline steady or sudden? Did you lose organic traffic or non-organic traffic? If the answer is the former, the redesign may be at fault.
2. Page-by-Page Analysis
Many statistic trackers let you see the metrics of individual pages on your site. Check these landing pages and see if they performed worse or better after the redesign. One rule of thumb is that every landing page must have valuable content. Anything devoid of useful information will just encourage visitors to click off.
Check For Common Issues
Once the information is analyzed, you are ready to take action. Let’s go into some common website redesign pitfalls.
3. Compare Content
Content is more than just the text on the page. It includes components such as:
- Page titles
- Headings, which determine how search engines find out what your site is about.
- Meta descriptions, the short blurbs under your site’s entry in a search engine. These impact the clickthrough rates significantly.
Don’t change literally everything during a redesign. Perhaps an old portion of the site performed excellently, and one shouldn’t change what isn’t broken.
4. Double Check Redirects
Page URLs may change during a redesign. However, many users may already have bookmarks of your old site, and backlinks from third-party sites will become out of date. That’s why most businesses use redirects that lead from an old URL to the new one.
5. Ensure No Pages Are Missing
The worst page for a new visitor to see is a 404. There’s a chance a web designer missed a page or two, and the result is a bad impression for both visitors and search engines. It’s worth going through the site map and ensuring everything still exists.
Diagnose Technical Problems
Globalgraphicswebdesign.com recommends performing SEO site audits to catch any small details missed during the redesign process. From crawling issues to indexing problems, there are several ways to ensure a search engine continues to pick up the website properly even after a major change.
6. View the Robots.txt File
Robots.txt is a text file that instructs web robots on how to crawl a website. Search engines use them for indexing purposes. It’s in the best interest of a website to allow these bots through and ensure they have the right permission to do their jobs.
7. Reduce Loading Times
Websites with too many large elements may take too long to load in, resulting in many users clicking off. Since website redesigns tend to be more advanced than their previous versions, businesses need to look into page loading times. Google Analytics contains a section under Behavior > Site Speed for this reason.
Make Google-Specific Considerations
Google is by and large the most popular search engine. How Google treats website rankings greatly impacts many businesses and how websites are shown to the public.
8. Track Changes in the Google Algorithm
Google decides how it ranks websites on a search page through an algorithm, which may change over time. These changes may cause fluctuations in your site’s performance. Because algorithm updates are rarely announced and often have subtle effects, web designers must keep up-to-date on the latest news in SEO strategy.
9. SERP Updates
SERP stands for search engine results page. It’s what a web surfer sees after inputting a search query into Google. While this page used to include only search results, Google has recently added in other elements that could divert the attention of potential visitors.
For instance, Google may show snippets of certain websites more prominently than others. A YouTube video might take up most of the screen. There’s also a chance of sponsored results taking up the top of the page.
10. Manual Action
While fairly rare, Google does sometimes ban sites from their results in a process known as Manual Action. One way to check whether your business site has been hit is to Google search “site:” followed by the URL. If you don’t see any results, Google may have removed your listings.
Alternatively, go to Google Search Console, click the Security & Manual Actions section, and see whether any Manual Actions are on the record.
Look For External Causes
Companies aren’t always in full control over their performances. External factors like real-world events and competitor actions could be part of the reason a redesign hasn’t been performing well.
11. Changes in Search Behaviors
It’s no secret that travel companies, airliners, and ridesharing services have seen a nosedive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and online search volume in recent months has reflected this trend.
12. Competitor Actions
Most competitors can’t steal your traffic overnight, but they do contribute to a reduction over time. While your business might be working through a redesign launch, other companies may have taken over some of your attention in the meantime.
Look at what other companies have been doing. Are their websites filled with better content? Do they have more backlinks? Are their pages faster to load in? Analyze their websites the same way you have done so for your own.
Philip Deeley is the Founder of Globalgraphicswebdesign.com, a Website Design, Ecommerce, and Digital Marketing Agency based in Toronto, Canada. For over 20 years, he and his team have helped clients in Creating new businesses online, branding, website design, eCommerce solutions. When he is not working, he loves to play music and walk his pet across the neighborhood in downtown Toronto.