It’s the typical story, several years have passed since you first published your website, and now you want to redesign it from the ground up with a complete overhaul, sounds simple enough right, better think again! More often than not, people will redesign their sites only to realize they’ve lost their rank in search engines completely, as if their site no longer existed, and to a point the “nonexistent” part is actually true. As it turns out, many have failed to realize how search engines work, including SEO’s and web designers, and sometimes recommendations from the professionals themselves can cause more damage than good in the end. If they knew how search engines worked, then why is your website no longer scoring for keywords in organic search results, and why do people hate your new design?
The Implications of a website Redesign:
We’ve all heard the sales pitch, “let us redesign your site making it mobile friendly and using up to date standards!” While the idea sounds nice, there are a few things you need to understand before you pull the trigger and move along with your changes. The first thing you need to realize is how redesigning your website can cause your ranking to plummet to nothing! Search engines generally work by indexing textual content, and if you change the textual information within your site, you’re likely to no longer score for the keywords you once did. Search engines match textual information from your sites content to search queries in their organic search results. So, if you redesign your site and all of its textual content, because the keywords you scored for no longer exist, then you can no longer score for them.
Besides losing traction in organic search, there are other serious implications that one must be aware of. What will your sites visitors have to say or think about your newly designed site? What if they don’t like it? What if they hate it? Naturally, people get accustomed to doing the same things over and over again, and for this reason, sometimes too much change too fast can result in seriously negative side effects. In the case of implementing a complete overhaul of your website, you could effectively cause your users to lose interest on a large scale. Some people are fairly temperamental, and if they decide they don’t like your newly designed site, they may leave it and never come back. Whether or not the redesign appears and functions better than it used to in your own eyes doesn’t matter in terms of winning approval from others, just keep that in mind.
When Google redesigned their G+ platform recently, they were bombarded with heavy backlash from users complaining about the lack of functionality the old system had boasted, and that they didn’t care for the new interface at all. While many actually praised Google’s newly redesigned social network, many others not only didn’t care for it all, they hated it! While half the users praised their redesign, the other half clearly did not. In this case, the matter of opinion of half of a sites users who happen to like the changes doesn’t make up for the opinions of the other half. By the way, Google is yet to regain its strength in network activity since its redesign, and while it’s likely they will, it won’t be for some time.
So the question is, should you redesign your website? The answer, yes you should! But, make sure to keep in mind how the changes will affect your users, as well as taking a closer look at what your site currently ranks for in search results, and why it ranks. Redesigning an old site can be analogous to restoring an old classic car, many times gaining it new luster and life. But again, sites score in search results based on textual information found within the site, and if you change that textual information you could effectively lose your rank altogether. Don’t do what Google did, simply reinventing the wheel without taking into consideration how others will feel about your heavy handed changes. That being said, it might not be a bad idea to run a poll or provide a link for feedback so your users can tell you what they want and expect in a redesign. It’s worth the extra effort.
One option for redesigning your site could be too include all your old textual information within your content that you had before. Then you would be less likely to lose your rank. Also, getting that additional feedback from users will help you to avoid mistakes that could otherwise anger your sites visitors, as has happened with Digg and Google in the past. Upgrading to a newer design that is mobile friendly is also a real benefit to users, but it won’t necessarily make or break you either. In fact, my highest ranking website, which I built for a client several years ago, is not mobile friendly at all, follows older web design standards, has never been updated, and it scores for dozens of keywords on the front page of Google, including spot number for more than a dozen of them! The site consists on only 4 pages, it looks like crap, was the first site I ever published to the web, yet it’s the heart and soul of my clients business, as it continues to score for the keywords he needs it to.
The point is, figure out what you rank for, why you rank for it, and what you need to do in order to continue to retain that rank. Be considerate of your sites users, they are real people, not puppets! The question is, are you redesigning your website for yourself, or for your users? I would like to think you are making the changes for them, but some people tend to lose sight of others and think in terms of their own interests only. Don’t do it!