5 Ways Your Web Developer Can Tank Your Site’s Rankings – And How to Avoid It
Brandon Schmidt | May 23, 2019
Considering a website redesign for your company? Don’t let your web developer make these mistakes.
Planning for a Website Redesign
If your company’s website is two years or older, it may be time for a refreshed design. Thanks to newer software, updated design aesthetics, and a massive shift to mobile device usage, what worked well for local business websites a few years ago no longer works today. Fortunately, a rebuilt website will be faster, responsive, easier to edit, and more user-friendly.
But while you are making this update, make sure you don’t lose the online authority and organic rankings you’ve invested time and resources to build up. We’ve seen too many mistakes made by other web design agencies that have decimated a company’s digital marketing efforts, resulting in lost revenue and opportunities.
Here are the most common ways a website redesign can negatively affect your SEO, along with tips on how to prevent it.
5 Ways Your Web Developer Can Tank Your Site’s Rankings
1. Hide Your Site From Google
Your web designer will build your new site on a development or staging site. This means that, for a few weeks or months, your old and new sites are both online at the same time.
This could be really confusing for Google, who wouldn’t know which one to show searchers. That’s why web developers hide the test site from Google; a little bit of code on the site tells Google “Don’t index this site.”
When it’s time to publish the new site, it is crucial that the developer sets the new site to now allow indexing by Google. Without making this change, your new site is effectively invisible to Google, which makes it invisible to your potential customers.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many new websites that are still hidden from Google. While it is an easy fix, it can be devastating to your site’s organic traffic.
2. Make Unnecessary Changes to Site Structure
Your website is made up of a series of URLs, each of which Google crawls to understand and potentially show in search results. These internal pages are important ones to rank for relevant searches deeper in the sales cycle.
These pages will vary based on the type of business you are:
- Service Area Businesses – including roofers, home remodelers, and landscaping companies – want individual service pages to rank well.
- Multi-Location Businesses – including retailers, medical providers, and professional services – want their individual locations to show up in search results.
- Manufacturers would want their individual products to show up online.
When a web developer is not thinking about the SEO impact of their work, they can cause unnecessary changes to the site structure and URLs. This could be for a variety of reasons, including an over-reliance on WordPress plugins, an outdated view of SEO to stuff keywords in the URLs, or carelessness.
If there are too many URL changes from your old site to your new site, it can cause significant confusion for Google in understanding your new site. This could lead to months of lower traffic and poor search performance while Google tries to figure your new site out.
A good web development agency will do their due diligence in creating your new site structure. They will map out the existing site’s URLs to see what pages need to remain the same, which ones need to change, and which can be combined. They will propose a new site structure that makes the most sense — with changes that will only improve your site’s organic performance. They will also develop a redirect plan to make sure all obsolete URLs still go to a page instead of a 404 page.
3. Not Updating Redirects
If you do change some of the URLs from your old site to your new one, you need to have redirects set in place. A redirect is like mail forwarding from the Post Office; it tells Google and any users “What you are looking for is no longer here; let me take you where it is now.”
For some web developers, they view their job as ending when the site is published. Sometimes this means they skip over the important task of setting redirects and cleaning up redirects created after the last site launched.
Without updating the redirects on your site, your users may be taken to an error page or get stuck in a redirect loop. Neither is good user experience and will cause your site to have a negative impact on your digital marketing.
4. Remove Pages & Content
When a website is built for design aesthetics alone, a site’s performance will suffer. The recent trend in minimalist design — with a stripped out navigation, fewer pages, and even fewer words per page — looks great, but often results in lost rankings, decreased traffic, and fewer conversions.
We saw this recently with a website rebuilt by another agency. In the process of rebuilding the site, they removed 75% of the internal service pages for this company. When the site launched, their organic traffic went down 50% — and stayed down. It took us 18 months of work to get the organic traffic back to where it was before the new site was launched.
5. Make Site Slower
A new website design is your chance to completely re-imagine your company’s online experience. Some companies and web designers take this to the extreme, adding big splashy images, videos playing in the background, and animated page components moving around as you scroll.
While these can add visual appeal to a site, they can also increase the amount of time it takes to load your site. If not done properly, your site can take too long to load, resulting in lost traffic and frustrated users.
Some web designers are more concerned with the visual appeal than the load time. Yet, Google constantly reminds us that the longer a site takes to load, you will lose traffic. According to Google and other studies:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
As a local business, your goal is not to make the flashiest website possible, but to create a website that generates more traffic, leads, and business. You need a web design partner who knows how to balance great design with a fast loading time to create the best performing website possible.
Invest In Your Website and SEO
Don’t invest in a website rebuild only to then hire an SEO agency to clean up the mistakes the developer made. Instead, hire a company that excels at both web design/development and search engine optimization.
Find out how YDOP can create a website that performs well and generates new business from Day 1.