April 1, 2016 aaron.savage

Website redesign. Why organic traffic falls

New SEO clients often ask us the same question.  Why does organic traffic fall after a website redesign.  It doesn’t happen immediately, but after a few months traffic levels fall quickly.  This is often balanced by an increase in Pay per Click activity.  The idea is to make up the losses on one channel by increasing another.  You have to feel sorry for people that make a subjective choice about new design, only to see effectiveness and performance drop off a cliff.

Website redesign organic traffic falls

So why does it happen?

It is largely because web design and development is carried out in a way that is divorced from the content.  Many designers think in terms of images and layout rather than in the user experience.  A user is often purely focused on the consumption of content.

If there is new content to be added, the website redesign goes ahead before or at the same time that the content is created.  Therefore the two are divorced from each other.  They may have very little in common.

These designs are presented to developers.  They are often under pressure to produce the page structure.  If the actual content isn’t available, then there is no alternative but to use dummy Latin text.  Sometimes not even the quantity or the shape of the content is known.  It is inevitable that problems occur.

Recent Google updates have placed content and its structure at the centre of search engine algorithms.  If the web design process doesn’t include this factor then trouble is likely.  The worst case is that the web designer discounts these points completely.

Organic search traffic will simply fall off very sharply.

We offer both design & build services, and traffic building services.  That isn’t unique.  What is unusual is our services are completely joined up.  This is the reason why we are in a better position than most to spot these things. We are also ideally placed to fix them.

Website redesign content issues

At its simplest level you need to work with both the old and the new architecture.  Look at how content will be arranged and make sure that search engines are directed correctly.  Developers who understand these techniques are worth their weight in gold.  When costs are an issue or where a pitch is trying to find the lowest price possible then it is all too tempting to leave it out.  We have been involved in pitches where our costs have included these things but have lost out to cheaper pricing.  There is little gratification that the projects were a disaster and I would rather win the business than shake my head at someone else’s mess. Clients need to understand the issues.  They also need to value the solution.

The next thing to look at is the structure of the existing content, and try to duplicate that with your new design.  HTML is a very structured format and we see keywords downgraded when clients come to us to sort out why traffic is falling.  What you should really do is try to improve on the previous structure, but unless content is available at this stage then that becomes very difficult.

We have seen several occasions where existing content has been dropped in favour of a more consolidated structure, but if that means the new content is less optimised then it is inevitable that traffic will fall for these terms.

Another problem we have seen is when content is not taken across at all.  The search engines usually spot missing content quite quickly and so any traffic it used to send is going to dry up within a few days.

Neither clients nor many agencies understand these issues.  This is particularly true of agencies that only offer design and build services, but a traditional silo based agency is also unlikely to pick these things up.  That is why agencies like us who have a joined up strategy for online marketing are able to offer the right advice.

We’re often contacted after a website redesign has launched and where everyone loves the design but cannot fathom what has gone wrong.  In these situations it takes a steady hand and a diplomatic approach to explain the issues and get everyone working together to solve the problem.  All too often it is the designer that is blamed, but if the content wasn’t available or they were unaware of this danger then it is unfair to point the finger in this way.

At Be Different we have seen all the scenarios and know what to look for, so if you are wondering what has happened to your organic search traffic following a website redesign then please do get in touch as we can certainly help.


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