Rebuilding A Website Can Negatively Affect SEO: Here's How!
Online sales now account for more than half of consumer spending, and in the year 2020 alone, online spending has increased a staggering 32.4%. As a result of the increasing interest in online shopping, many brands and retailers are looking to redesign or rebuild their websites. These efforts can help enhance brand awareness and make the website more user-friendly, but it begs the ever important question — what happens to SEO?
The fact is that a website rebuild can negatively impact SEO for a wide range of reasons, but before understanding the reasons why, it's crucial to establish the fact that there are two types of website rebuilds:
1. Cosmetic touch-ups are the least harmful updates because they're superficial. These focus solely on the aesthetics of the website and don't affect the coding or the SEO in any way. As no pages are moved or deleted, SEO will still work as originally programmed and intended. Usually, these smaller rebuilds include switching out low-resolution graphics and photos for high-definition ones.
2. Complete website rebuilds are what can leave a lasting effect on SEO. This means completely overhauling the website and changing the pages, the navigation, and the way the layout is structured. This can include the need for a new site map or even an entirely new hosting platform. It is best to hire a website emigration expert to help your website keep it's rankings intact.
For the most part, general cosmetic changes bear little or no negative consequences on SEO. Fixing typos, changing logos or other small updates shouldn't have any lasting effects whatsoever. More extensive changes and overhauls, however, will impact SEO. This means that rebuilding a website from scratch will almost entirely eliminate all of the SEO benefits that the existing site has experienced.
There are many reasons that SEO is negatively impacted by rebuilding a website. A good example is that changing a certain page's location will also change how Google's existing algorithm views it. Before the update, Google may have indexed it as an important page and referred people to it regularly. However, after the update, Google may deem it unimportant or ineffective. Organic traffic through established URLs is another way to negatively impact SEO. Changing the URLs on an existing website will make it lose its place in search engine placement.
What's the solution if an organisation still wants to approach a website rebuild? It all comes down to considering the effects of the rebuild on SEO and not leaving it as an afterthought. Preserving SEO should remain a top goal for any company looking to rebuild or redesign their existing website.
Before any major changes are permanently implemented on the site, it's important to round up historical SEO data. Having these analytics saved enables the simple comparison between the website as it was and as it is after the rebuild. Rebuilding a website with fresh SEO research ensures that it still has a leg to stand on with competitors in the industry.
The new site needs to remain user-friendly in its structure with easy-to-use navigation. This same principle also applies to URLs and page names. Another mistake that many will make when rebuilding a website is to recycle old keywords that were once useful in their SEO. It's easy to make this mistake, but it's better to start with newly researched SEO keywords for the industry. Many keywords may get recycled during the process, but research also helps find new ones that may otherwise have gotten left behind.
After taking into consideration the potential negative effects that a rebuild may have on SEO tactics, is it still worth it? What objectives do company owners actively hope to achieve with a new website design?
As it turns out, a newly rebuilt site can yield numerous advantages such as:
- A significant boost in conversion rates as well as the number of sales.
- A reduction in bounce rates if the website previously experienced a higher-than-average number.
- An enhanced consumer perception of the established brand.
- Better SEO campaigns if the website previously didn't have a solid online presence.
- A fresh and modernised website design that may have become dated or cluttered over the years the organisation has been in business.
- Faster page loading speeds and times while also an easier to use navigation system.
- Beating competitors and gaining more recognition from a wider range of existing audience members.
Apart from hiring a professional consultation service or firm during the website rebuild, it's also crucial to avoid certain strategies that may harm long-term SEO outcomes. For example, if a company regularly publishes highly-ranked outstanding content, that content shouldn't get scrapped or revised during the rebuilding process. It's crucial to preserve as much of it as possible to help the new website build the same amount of trust in Google's algorithm.
It's also easy to make the mistake of simply adding too many bells and whistles to a website during the initial redesign phase. This can have detrimental effects on SEO because it results in a less user-friendly interface and inadvertently slows down the page loading times. Unoptimized coding and uncompressed images are often the culprits that hinder progress. For this reason, SEO should never become an afterthought!
High-value backlinks are also often lost during the process of rebuilding a website. Without having the ability to properly redirect to the intended pages, most will end up loading 404 error pages that cause search engines to have significant problems indexing the site. Redirecting certain pages to the homepage of the new site is a good idea, but it shouldn't become the ultimate cure-all for the SEO problem. Google wants to provide users with a quality experience that helps them find what they're looking for, and a website filled with redirects is not the way to go about it.
Lastly, it's wise to consider the mobile-friendliness of a website before implementing any changes permanently. Google considers how mobile-friendly a website is when ranking it in search results, which is why the rebuilt website needs to perform well on all mobile devices equally. With so many Internet users relying on mobile devices, this is non-negotiable and requires careful planning and consideration.
There are certain aspects of SEO that are worth salvaging even during the rebuilding process. However, starting from scratch also yields benefits in certain instances because it allows website owners to optimise the site and tackle existing weaknesses that may otherwise hinder SEO. When launching the newly rebuilt website, owners should focus on performing what's referred to as an SEO audit. This in its basic form entails identifying problem areas that may negatively impact search rankings. Areas that may need help with optimisation include:
- Duplicate content and broken links
- Excessively long page titles that are hard to remember
- Pages lacking backlinks
- Missing meta descriptions and titles
The best way to go about handling these issues is to simply work them out during the process of rebuilding the site. There's no reason to fully focus on building a website that looks aesthetically pleasing when SEO has taken a backseat to everything else! After the initial re-launch of the website, it's also crucial to pay attention to site statistics and make note of conversion rates and potential drops in traffic. This can help troubleshoot problems and allow for a timely fix.
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