For the longest time, it’s been believed that a website redesign can be undertaken without losing out on your hard-earned rankings and traffic. This rings especially true if you are careful not to change any of your content or your URLs. But in a recent Google Office Hours hangout with John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, we learned that your web design layout could directly affect your rankings in Search.
The viewer who asked the question reiterated that his content and URL structure were unchanged, although his layout was updated and he moved to a different content management system (CMS). It’s often forgotten that whatever web design layout you choose will inevitably include design elements that directly impact your on-page SEO and, therefore, your ranking. So, in most instances, the answer to whether web design layout affects search results, rankings and traffic, is no.
Here’s what Mueller said in response:
“Changing the layout of your pages can affect your search results. This is something that some people work on actively as well with regards to on-page SEO. So things like figuring out how to use titles properly on a page, how to do internal linking properly, how to provide more context for the article itself … all of this can definitely affect SEO.”
This question, the answer provided and the conversation around this topic bring to light many fallacies in the SEO community. For instance, SEO is not a one-dimensional exercise – there are many different types of SEO practices and advanced SEO tactics that all work towards boosting a site’s rankings. Also, on-page SEO doesn’t only comprise of content and correctly named URLs. Even when using web design templates considered primed for SEO, you will still need to make on-page and technical SEO adjustments. SEO success is only achieved when it’s an ongoing effort and you have consistent checks in place.
Mueller continued providing insights into why you should expect changes when updating your website, saying:
“So just because the … kind of the primary content – like the blog posts that you have and the URLs themselves – don’t change, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing else around all of that that search engines won’t be able to pick up on. It can definitely affect SEO. And it can be a good thing; it can be a bad thing.
“So it’s not that you need to avoid making these changes, but rather when you make these changes, make sure to double-check that you’re kind of doing everything really well.”
Updating your web design and site layout is a big undertaking. In recent times, it’s proven necessary to have a good grip on managing an update or overhaul of your site. For instance, WordPress recently went through a major update and, in doing so, 50,000 sites were dramatically impacted and needed immediate attention. Also, sometimes sites need to be updated to suit various regulations or by-laws. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) calls explicitly for all websites to comply with accessible design standards. To do so may require a site design update or layout change, and in the course of making these changes, you need to check your optimization every step of the way.
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