What Happens When You Forget SEO During a Website Redesign

Website Redesign Lost Keyword Rankings
Website Redesign Lost Keyword Rankings

A recent website maintenance client of mine redesigned their website. The new website looks really good and I wish them the best in terms of improved conversion rates and user interaction.

Unfortunately, a redesign must involve many more considerations than just a new skin & the same website content. When you fail to consider the impact a new site will have on your search engine rankings, you stand to lose a lot… it’s not an urban myth or a misnomer.

In the following examples, I hope to show those considering a site redesign just how important it is to factor SEO into the design and migration process. And not only after the fact, but from the beginning of the redesign process.

In this example, I knew the client was working on a new website, but because we were only providing maintenance, they did not notify us when the new site was going to launch, nor did they ask us to look at it for any SEO considerations.

How Quickly You Can Lose Search Engine Rankings After a Redesign

Less than a week after launch, the website is already seeing some pretty significant negative search engine results – Google specifically.

Website Redesign Lost Keyword Rankings
Website Redesign Lost Keyword Rankings

You can see pretty clearly in the chart above that this website’s rankings started tanking immediately after the new website launched at the beginning of May.

Lost Traffic & Sales

Of course, it’s probably a bit early for the client to realize that they’re losing rankings and the subsequent traffic and sales that would have occurred. They may not see the full impact of these omissions for several months since they are a travel-related business and they book well in advance. I would guess that they’ll start panicking and/or placing many calls to their SEO agency before the end of the month. In 3 months, they will likely be in full panic mode, because this is a niche where they had done very well.

What they did right

Honestly, it’s easy to start here because they covered some really basic search migration strategies that they may have otherwise forgotten if they didn’t have an SEO company.

  • Titles and Meta Tags were migrated to the corresponding new pages.
  • Optimized content (most of it) was migrated to the corresponding new pages.
See, that was pretty easy… they didn’t do a whole lot sadly.

Where Did They Go Wrong?

  • Their entire URL structure of the website changed, yet they failed to properly migrate the pages to these new URLs. On most pages I sampled, the old site pages redirected to a single “booking” page on the new website. This would be fine if they had done the redirects correctly, but they used a “302 temporary” redirect instead of a “301 permanent” redirect. This does not pass any value onto the new pages and because the old pages don’t/can’t load anymore, those pages will devalue over time.
  • The old website was built using WordPress, which inherently had numerous SEO advantages built-in over an independent site by a new developer (current site). They could have┬ámimicked some of the features and benefits of WordPress, but the new site doesn’t do anything remotely close.
  • The new website includes dynamic URLs, whereas the old website was clean and provided SEO-friendly URLs throughout.
  • Duplicate content – The website previously included a little bit of duplicate content, but the new design includes nearly duplicate content for each rental property (40+ pages). This is mostly due to the dynamic URLs that they switched to. (btw… Google HATED duplicate content)
  • The website includes a new focus on higher resolution and wider images in a rotating banner. While the photos are beautiful and portray the rentals in a positive light, the site loads pretty slowly:

Learn Anything?

A website redesign is not something to take lightly or to consider late in the design process. As you can see from the example above and perhaps some additional information I can collect later from the client, a redesign can have drastic effects on your search engine visibility very quickly. Whatever you do, please consider SEO from the very beginning of your redesign discussions and planning. You will save yourself a lot of future headaches and grief over lost traffic and revenue.

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By Cory

Experienced SEO Expert and Website Developer based in Phoenix, AZ.

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