We all know the reasons for wanting a website upgrade.
A website upgrade is often more visually appealing – in line with what today’s users expect. They’re also more responsive and mobile-friendly. And they’re generally free of those annoying stock photos that seem to turn everyone off.
However, upgrading your site isn’t without its risks, whether you’re a blogger, digital nomad, professional, or business. If you don’t get it right, you could potentially land yourself in a lot of trouble.
Don’t underestimate the importance of an effective redesign. Perfectly successful companies have seen their enterprises destroyed by a poorly planned website upgrade in the space of a few months, thanks to declining traffic.
By reading this post, you will know if you need a website upgrade, the effects of a website upgrade, and what to do if you experience a traffic drop after a website upgrade.
Let’s explore how you know if you need a website upgrade and the consequences.
Do You Need A Website Upgrade?
Before you go off and spend thousands of dollars on a new website, you’ll want to consider whether you actually need a website upgrade.
A redesign is essentially the equivalent of knocking down your house and starting again. Sometimes it’s necessary, but only rarely.
Most of the time, you can patch things up and bring it to standard via other means.
There are generally three options when it comes to rehashing a website and making sure it’s up to date.
The first is called a “reskin”. Here you’re just changing the way the website looks, but you’re keeping the backend the same. For instance, you might change the font or play around with the background and images that you include.
Importantly, you’re not making any changes to the functionality of the site. Developers aren’t adding new elements, such as scheduling forms or one-click purchases. Everything remains essentially the same.
The second approach is sometimes called a “redevelopment.” This goes a little deeper. Not only does it change the look of your site – a reskin – but it also includes alterations to the underlying code.
Sometimes, brands are happy with the way their sites look but they are not pleased with their performance. In these cases, a redevelopment is often the best option. It allows them to maintain consistency but improve the user experience.
The last type of redevelopment is a “restructuring.” This involves changing the hierarchy of content on the site, the navigation, and removing entire pages.
In many ways, this is the most drastic form of redesign because it involves actually getting rid of pages with SEO value. And that’s where the problems often enter. Businesses remove pages from their domain that search engines use for results purposes, hurting their sites’ organic performance.
Before engaging in any of these activities, ask yourself whether you really need any of them. Are you missing out by failing to upgrade your site, or is it okay how it is right now?
If you’re not sure about the answer, bring in a consultant who isn’t trying to sell you anything. They’ll provide you with a report telling you where your site is falling down and the likely rewards of a successful upgrade if any.
Of course, any figures they provide will be estimates, but they should be in the right ballpark. Having these will allow you to make a decision as to whether the risk of updating your site is worth the reward.
What To Do If Your Traffic Drops After A Website Upgrade
You might experience three detrimental effects to your SEO when you redesign your website:
- Your organic traffic could disappear.
- Your keywords could drop in the Search Engine Results Pages.
- You need to outsource to an SEO service to fix the damage.
Unfortunately, most brands dive right in and get on with the redesign immediately. They believe that it is a problem to solve quickly and decisively, instead of approaching it gently and carefully.
In the worst-case scenario, organic traffic to your site could disappear entirely. This often happens when businesses migrate to new domains or delete URLs that Google uses to identify and rank their pages.
Sometimes, the issue is on the user side. A site might look so different to consumers that they no longer recognize it. It could be bang up to date with all the latest features, but if it doesn’t smack of your brand, then there will be a trust barrier.
Robot web crawlers that determine the rank of pages can also become confused. They may be looking for a page on your site, only to get a 404 error telling them that it’s no longer there. When this happens, they report it as a broken link, harming your SEO.
Page content can also have a profound effect on your ranking. If you make substantial changes to keywords, then ranking algorithms will struggle to determine what your page is about. If it appears that it is no longer what they thought it was, then you may rank less for relevant keywords and more for ones that don’t actually help your enterprise.
When things go wrong like this, it can be hard to know what to do. Often, you don’t know the source of the problem, and all of the solutions seem so technical.
A lot of brands use an SEO migration service to prevent disasters from occurring in the first place. These services help to carry over all of your SEO capital from your previous pages to your new ones so that they continue to attract visitors. They also ensure that you avoid making changes that fundamentally disrupt the stream of traffic to your site.
As a company, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the in-house skills to fix every issue that a website upgrade creates. While third-party agencies can go in and solve problems for you, it is better to consult with them ahead of time so that you can avoid traffic problems in the future.
Remember, many companies have failed because of badly planned website redesigns. They tried to turn things around, but couldn’t. Fundamentally, they were working with the wrong people.
What To Do Instead
Even if you get expert help, turning around a failed website redesign can take a long time. Firms must often wait months for new SEO to kick in and bring their traffic back to former levels.
To avoid this, you’ll want to adopt specific strategies to prevent it from happening in the future. But what does this mean in practice?
How to Prevent Traffic Drops with a Website Upgrade
The first is to be honest with yourself about the reasons you want a website upgrade. For some, the motivations are purely personal and aesthetic. For instance, you might not like the way that your site looks right now and you wish to improve it. It’s a reasonable motivation, but is it really sensible?
It’s the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The second is to be specific about precisely what you need to redesign. You might not need to change the content, URLs, or backend at all. In most cases, some elements of your website work well, while there are minor areas that you need to improve to maximize your potential.
Good redesigns are different. They tackle specific problems with websites and then try to figure out the implications of doing so ahead of time.
Generally, this involves some fact-finding. You’ll want to learn:
- Which pages people like to visit the most on your site
- Why they enjoy visiting them
- Which content they find the most helpful
- Which pages, content and keywords Google is using to rank your pages
- The various sources of your traffic (it needn’t always be organic search results. People may be arriving on your sites via links from third-party pages or social media)
Once you have this information, you’re in a much better position to make changes to your site.
Suppose, for instance, that 90 percent of your visitors are actually coming from links from high DA sites elsewhere on the web. In that case, you’ll want to do everything you can to preserve the pages that they link to.
Deleting them would be a disaster. Furthermore, if only a tiny fraction of your users are coming via search engines, then changes that impact SEO will not be as severe. It’s almost like you can start afresh, as though you were building your website for the first time.
Furthermore, when you know the type of content that people want, you can ensure that it remains on your redesign. If it’s working, there’s no point in getting rid of it, just because it’s old. If it is serving you, leave it precisely where it is.
How To Approach A Website Upgrade Effectively
Even if you pull off the perfect strategy, you can expect a little drop in traffic following a website upgrade. Something is going to look different to both users and Google, and that will often harm rankings.
Knowing this, you’ll want to go into the process armed with full knowledge of the likely outcome.
Don’t spend all your budget on the website upgrade itself. Rather, hold some back to fund your SEO rebound efforts in the weeks and months that follow.
Generally speaking, the number of visitors should be significantly higher in a year’s time than before. This way, the cost and the temporarily lower-traffic are worthwhile.
Website Upgrade: FAQ
Why should you upgrade your website?
If your main source of traffic is NOT SEO, making drastic changes to your site should not affect it a great deal. You might consider a website upgrade in that case if your site performance is poor. However, since some websites experience a long-term loss of search traffic, a website upgrade should be your last resort.
Conclusion: What You Need to Know About a Website Upgrade
Whenever you consider a redesign, make sure that you understand the implications. It’s not just a matter of changing how your website looks, but also how it ranks.
In most cases, redesigns negatively impact your SEO before helping it in the long term. Always take this into consideration.
Readers, please share so webmasters discover how to know if they need a website upgrade what the consequences of a website upgrade could be.
I look forward to your views in the comments section. Have you considered or tried a website upgrade? What were the results?
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