While this wasn’t original plan (because there was no original plan to begin with) here at Webmaster’s Diary I often deal with webmasters who are switching from one web hosting company to another often redesigning their websites in the process.
Obviously, these changes are done to improve their websites’ performance and usability. They all typically
- improve design,
- switch to responsive theme / template,
- improve site speed.
All these are great improvements and it’s only logical that these webmasters expect traffic boost as a reward for their effort. However, it is not always true.
Unfortunately cases when site redesign (even within same web host) will cause serious traffic drop are not unusual, so I thought I will post a few tips that can help avoid this:
1. DO NOT CHANGE INTERNAL LINK STRUCTURE
This is number one reason for traffic drop after major redesigns. It’s quite tempting to make all changes at once, especially if your redesign has to be manual and you spend days and weeks going through pages of a large site. Keep all links intact – this applies to links within the articles, menu links, links in footer and sidebars. Internal links are more powerful than many people think and if your site does well, it’s better to leave your links alone.
2. DO NOT CHANGE YOUR URLs
While it does sound obvious to many, I still see some site owners who don’t seem to understand why changing URLs can be a problem. This is especially true when you are switching from one CMS to another, like converting static HTML website to WordPress.
3. CHOOSE SEO OPTIMIZED THEME
4. KEEP MAIN CONTENT AS CLOSE TO THE TOP AS POSSIBLE
While your layout is likely to change, you still can make sure you don’t have two sidebars before your main content in your HTML source.
5. KEEP AD LAYOUT SAME OR LESS AGGRESSIVE
You should either keep your ad layout same or make it less aggressive. If you decide that you want all your ads to be above the fold and push your main content down, you might get penalized by Google ad layout algorithm. Once you finish your redesign and the dust settles, you can certainly experiment with more effective ad positioning, but don’t do it during redesign process.
6. SKIP LARGE HEADERS
Don’t waste your precious real estate above the fold for useless header image that says nothing but your site’s name. Google appreciates content above the fold more than ever before, why not give it to them?
7. REMOVE NOINDEX TAG
Many a time when you switch from one web host to another or even converting to another CMS within the same host we include noindex tag to new development site in fears of duplicate content. While this may be a good idea in some cases, some webmasters forget to remove this tag when new version of their site goes live (supposedly).
8. CHECK YOUR ANALYTICS
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in site redesign and simply forget to include analytics code to your pages. If that’s your case, your traffic drop is not a drop, you simply need to include tracking code!
UPDATE: Just to make things clear, even changing your WordPress theme can affect your traffic. There is a number of things that could wrong, please check my answer in comments here.