To stay competitive and to navigate the constantly changing SEO landscape, from time to time, you’ll need to revise or redesign a website. While it’s an important task in the right circumstances, careful consideration should be given in making revisions from an SEO point of view. Any changes or redesign efforts can cause the website to lose value with the search engines. Not only can certain changes hurt your SEO progress, but certain errors can also result in severe search engine penalties.
The following are some of the more common web revisions that can negatively impact your SEO efforts. In knowing the potential consequences of these changes, you can make good decisions about the website without hurting your organic search traffic.
Domain Name Changes Without Proper Redirects
If there are changes to the domain name of a given website, for rebranding purposes or in instances where a particular domain extension like .com was recently acquired by the site owner, it needs to be handled with great care. The entire URL structure changes and it has an impact on any backlinks you’ve received from other sites that will no longer work. If the search engines don’t immediately realize there was a domain name change, how does that affect your website being an authority on a given subject? What if the search engine concludes that those who linked to you before no longer elect to do so? The impact on your rank can be drastic.
Domain name changes should be handled carefully and 301 redirects should be utilized to significantly lower the potential impact the change can have on your search engine ranking.
Changing to Secure HTTPS Protocol Without Proper Redirects
As with the possibility of domain name change above, changing to the https protocol will change every URL on a website. Google’s quest for a secure web became more of an urgent matter with Google’s major July 2018 update where Chrome now marks websites not using https protocol as “not secure.” A better ranking is given to sites secured using the protocol. For the last couple of years, the scramble has been on to adopt https quickly in light of Google’s changes.
Once you’ve implemented the change to https, it’s your responsibility to ensure all of the links on your website are correct. If you haven’t used relative links on the website, you’ll need to review your website’s content to find and fix any errors. If you’re using a content management system like Drupal or WordPress, you’ll need to ensure your permalinks are set to https.
Deleting Pages or Changing Their URLs Without Redirection
When sites are redesigned, often the owner or designer will run across obsolete pages or decide to move or rename and change other pages to make them more relevant. Either of these actions can have serious consequences on your site’s SEO ranking as they may have inbound links pointing at them or could be bookmarked. Deleting such pages can result in a dramatic loss of organic search rank. Not only that, when the visitor comes back they’ll get a 404 page and that has a negative impact on their experience. According to Google, user experience is a factor in search engine ranking.
A better course of action would be to redirect pages no longer needed or that have changed to the most relevant existing page currently on your website using a 301 redirect. The redirect lets the search engine know that the page has been permanently moved to a new location and that location is provided.
Changing Image Names on Pages That Rank Well
Whether it’s because of a redesign, the designer is replacing old images with new ones, or the name of the images on pages that rank well are changed for any reason, it can cause a loss of organic search ranking. Regardless of the reasoning, changing the name of an image on any website page, especially if the page is ranking well, removes a vital piece of the contest used by the search engines to determine where a web page should rank.
Changing a Website’s Theme
A change in the theme of a website can be one of a few things. It could be adding new topics to your existing website or greatly expanding on existing content. It could be a more significant change. Whether the change is subtle or dramatic, such changes have to be view through the lens of your SEO marketing efforts. With the changes to the theme of your website, would the links visitors may have bookmarked out there be the same? If not, where would those pages be directed to now?
Changing a website’s theme may also mean changing its appearance as with themes in WordPress. Themes are style templates used to change a website’s look and functionality. How does that impact your SEO? If the theme’s coding is heavy and slows down your website’s loading time in any way, the impact on your SEO rank could be serious. Studies have shown that most users will abandon a website that doesn’t load in 2-3 seconds for a competitor’s site. So while that new theme may be eye-catching, if it slows down your site’s speed, can it do more harm than good?
When considering any changes to your website, think about the potential impact on your SEO efforts. Will the changes you’re considering impact your inbound links? Are the changes significant enough to change how the search engines view the website? Keep in mind that decisions made by search engines are made using advanced algorithms. They aren’t as smart as humans so that’s why you need to make the best decisions you can when it comes to your SEO marketing efforts.