Does Changing Web Design Affect SEO?
AuthorJustyna Weronika Łabądź
If you're wondering whether changing your website design impacts SEO, the answer is yes. Web design is a crucial ranking factor, even when sometimes underrated. Therefore, the search performance work rests not only with SEO specialists but depends much on designers and web developers, who, accordingly to their actions, can improve website search rankings or, instead, bring it to the end of the SERP.
- Design elements that impact search engine optimization: navigation, images, font, content, mobile-friendly optimization, and consistency across the layout.
- Redesign SEO benefits: take advantage of improving SEO ranking, better UX, and conversion rates.
- Avoid common SEO errors: no reasonable goals of redesign, outdated sitemap, no content audit, lack of redirect URLs, and testing process.
Check out the most effective web design practices and learn how to make this stressful website design process more fluent and under control without losing conversions and SEO.
Table of contents:
What Is a Website Redesign?
Sooner or later, every company and brand faces the need to redesign its website. The world is moving forward. Companies need to develop their offerings, business strategies, and approaches. They also should follow and react to changing trends and, more importantly, evolving needs of the customers and users.
The way people search for things on the internet is constantly changing. What may have worked well in the past may be less effective today. The same is valid for web design: what works now may not work in the future. That's why nowadays, no one creates a website with the thought of it lasting until the end of the world in the same form. Over time, due to the development of the above aspects, it will require a redesign.
So, what exactly is this redesign?
A website redesign is a process of changing or updating the design, layout, functionality, and content of an existing website to match current business goals. The purpose of this exercise is to improve upon the contemporary design or make it more functional.
A redesign can be done for a variety of reasons, including:
- Aesthetic updates. The old design is outdated and needs to be updated. You may want to change your site's color scheme or typography to reflect your brand better. An aesthetic update can include images, graphics, videos, fonts, and other visual elements.
- Functionality changes. You want to add new features/functions to your site. A redesign may include adding new features or making changes to existing parts. For example, suppose you offer a product or service that requires an application process. In that case, you can make it easier for users to apply by updating your application form and adding an image uploader tool. This purpose is also used while optimizing your website for mobile view.
- Navigation changes. If parts of your site need more traffic or engagement, consider improving how they are organized in search results (and, by extension, improve their organic traffic).
- Better user experience. With all the reasons above, you can combine this one, overriding them. You want to improve user experience and increase engagement and conversion by redesigning your site.
The website redesign takes place on two basic levels depending on the amount and ways of introducing changes:
1. Cosmetic fixes
The first is minor cosmetic changes to the appearance of our website, which for the most part, have no impact on how our website will be considered in SERP rankings. Changing the logotype of our company, replacing the illustration, or even the brand hero will not affect our SEO.
2. Complete rebuild
In this case, the entire design of our website or its majority is changed. It is also often associated with navigation, structure, and content changes.
Benefits of a Website Redesign
If done well with a holistic approach including appearance, functionality, UX, and SEO best practices, a website redesign can have several benefits:
- make the website more visually attractive
- simplified and improved the user experience
- improved SEO and the site's performance
- revised and thought out the content strategy
- faster page speed
- offer faster load speeds
- updating the security system
- improved conversion rates and boost sales
- reduced high-bounce rates
- making a competitive advantage
5 Web Design Elements That Affect SEO
So, how does SEO relate to content marketing and website design and how to optimize your design for SEO? By considering all elements listed below when designing a website, businesses can ensure their SEO efforts yield the best results possible. Treat it as an SEO checklist and design best practices that you should consider while you are in the process of a site redesign.
1. Navigation and structure of the website
When it comes to web design elements that affect SEO, navigation is key. Bad navigation leads to more than 60% of users leaving a website. That’s why your site structure affects SEO. Your website must have a clear and logical navigation structure so your visitors always know where they are actually and where they can find what they're looking for. It can also encourage search engines to crawl new content easily, explore your website more often and determine how the material on your website should be positioned in SERP.
Take your time to create optimal and logical information architecture and hierarchical website structure.
- Each header should be descriptive and point to the proper place in the navigation.
- There is no place for creative jargon and metaphorical terms. Let the copy in the navigation be concise, explicit, and relevant.
- Organizing your content into categories and subcategories will help your users find what they need while showing search engines you are the best resource to match their search queries.
- Keep the main menu simple and accessible on every device, not only on desktops but also on mobiles and tablets. Make it sticky on top, so the user can quickly navigate the website without scrolling whole pages.
- Possibly provide breadcrumbs and a search bar that will help users find information and pages quickly and easily.
For the best information architecture and navigation plan, you can use web analytics to revise your bounce rate, drop-off rates, where users spend the most time, and which parts of your website are unseen or left quickly. They can answer how expeditiously and effortlessly users can find the information or features they need. In addition to improving search engine rankings, these factors also increase revenue and profits.
2. Image, video, and content
Image, video, and content optimization are also essential to ensure your site has the proper visibility in search engine results pages. Adding as many visual embellishments as possible can be tempting when thinking about visual attractiveness and creating a beautiful website. However, the principle of "less is more" works here. A simple, clear web view with well-designed, localized, and optimized images can boost the ranking of your page in search results by increasing page load speed and improving user experience.
Google started to value user experience in 2011 when they officially added to their search engine Panda update. It focused on offering users and favoring better high-quality, unique, and compelling content. From this time, user experience was included and enriched in several other updates, such as mobile-friendliness (2015) or measuring and improving on-page experiences by incorporating new Core Web Vitals metrics into the algorithm.
How to optimize the content for SEO?
- Images should be relevant, optimized for search engines, and placed in logical locations on the page so visitors can easily understand what each image represents.
- It's important to understand that optimizing image format for the best suitable and sustainable can increase page speed. Compress and optimize image size and format and preferably use lazy load.
- Prepare as well the visual content to search engines. Improve its readability by adding relevant keywords to the images' titles and attaching keyword-rich, descriptive alt text. They are needed both in terms of accessibility and work not only for people with visual disabilities but also will appear when the image fails to load.
- Rethink video usage - if needed on your web pages, make sure you don't show it in auto-play mode, which can slow down your website and annoy some visitors.
All the content on your website, both visual and written, should be relevant and organized in a way that makes sense for visitors. Usually, they come to your website looking specifically for information about products or services they want to buy from you. With good navigation, you offer them a guide around your website and reduce the risk of higher bounce rates.
Readability of the content should also be considered when designing a website; ensuring users can read your content easily will help them stay on-site longer and explore more of your content. At the end of the day, the user comes to your website with the urge for information. So provide them with the best experience with the content quality and its visual and cognitive readability.
The text on your site should be easy to read, which means:
- It should be in an easily readable font: its size, color, and style should be readable on every device.
- Have enough white space between lines and paragraphs.
- Group text into smaller chunks like paragraphs and bullet points divided with headers and subheaders, and also differentiate it with the visual content of images, illustrations, and other graphics.
- Avoid using too many colors or images that can distract readers.
- Make it grammatically correct, and use plain language without jargon, complex sentences, and difficult phrases. Make your writing bold and clear by using tools, like, for instance, the Hemingway app.
To be found online and increase website traffic, you must ensure your website is readable and accessible. Valuable content can improve user engagement on your website, which also invites crawlers to check it, and the Google algorithm indexes it higher in the SERP rank.
4. Mobile-friendliness and responsive design
Mobile-friendliness and responsive design are essential factors to consider as more people now use their smartphones or tablets to access websites. Accordingly to statistics, in the world's 8 billion population, there are 6.65 billion smartphone users. It is more important to note that nearly 60 percent of all internet access is done via mobile devices.
In 2015 Google officially announced an algorithm that focused primarily on mobile devices. Since then, they implemented it into their preference and favored the mobile-first approach. That means also that if search engines won't be able to crawl the mobile version of the website because of its poor performance, they will not visit its desktop version and will rank it lower in search results.
Authors of the book "The Art of SEO" noticed that:
From an SEO perspective this means that Google is going to crawl the mobile version of your site and analyze the structure and content of your mobile site to determine the types of queries for which your site is relevant. This means that the great majority of your SEO focus needs to be on the mobile version of your site (...). Among other things, it means that website design should start with mobile functionality, design, and layout.
Stephan Spencer, Eric Enge , Jessie Stricchiola, "The Art of SEO, 4th Edition" 2022
While you implement changes to your website, think not only about the desktop experience but also, or even primarily, about mobile users. Make sure your redesigned website works well on mobile devices so visitors can easily navigate it on their phones and search your content freely. Creating a responsive website can positively affect search engines, increasing your visibility and ranking position.
To be sure that your website is treated as mobile-friendly by Google, you can use several webmaster tools, for instance: Mobile-Friendly Test.
5. Layout consistency
Lastly, layout consistency should be maintained throughout the website to ensure users can find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently. The layout of your site should be consistent from page to page so that visitors don't have to do too much work figuring out where things are located each time they go from page to page. If it is possible, ensure your layout is standardized. It will make it easier for search engines to crawl your content. For example, if you have a blog post section, adjust its content to the repeatable layout (at Dodonut, we extracted and repeated, for instance: TL;DR, table of contents, post, and references).
If you're considering updating your site's design, keep SEO in mind. That means it's important to keep the same structure and content while also making sure that the new site matches the style of your current one unless you planned total rebranding and want to change your company image. This helps ensure that website visitors don't get confused when navigating around the site, which could cause them to leave before they even start reading anything or interacting with any other part of it!
What Common SEO Errors Avoid During Website Redesign?
When redesigning a website, it is crucial to avoid common SEO errors. These common SEO pitfalls should be avoided at all costs to ensure maximum SEO performance during a redesigning process.
No proper goals for the redesign
Having no reasonable goals for the redesign project can lead to an ineffective website that doesn't get the desired results. The first mistake people make when redesigning their website is that they don't have a clear idea of what they want to achieve. They either don't know what they need in the new design or why they are doing it in the first place. This is why you should start by defining your goals and objectives so that you can set out on a path toward achieving them.
No audit on existing content
Another common mistake that people make is not auditing their existing content before starting with the redesign process. You should check if all of your pages are up-to-date if there are any broken links or outdated information on them, etc. You should also check if there are any duplicate pages on your site and fix them before doing anything else. Do it automatically using webmaster tools like Google Search Console or Screaming Frog and manually check if your actual website isn't filled with outdated, low-quality, redundant content that needs refreshing or removal.
Outdated XML sitemap
Outdated XML sitemaps can confuse search engine crawlers and make it difficult to index your content correctly. Therefore, an important thing to do is update your XML sitemap file with all of the new pages on your website. That can help search engines find them quickly and rank them higher than other sites with similar content but without updated XML sitemaps.
Significant content below the fold
Moreover, having significant content below the fold or too much content, in general, will distract search engines from crawling and indexing all your important pages. Be wary of any content that appears below the fold on mobile devices or tablets—it may seem like it's important enough to be visible immediately, but if it isn't getting clicks or conversions from those users, then it's probably not worth keeping around.
Annoying and distracting content
Avoid distracting or annoying content on your site at all costs. This includes pop-ups, auto-playing videos with sound, animated GIFs that take up too much space on the page… anything that could distract a user from their task should be taken off-site or removed entirely from your new design!
Lack of redirect URLs
Finally, be cautious about URL structure. A lack of redirect URLs when removing or changing pages on a website can lead to broken links and the unliked '404' error, which will harm its ranking on SERPs. If you've moved things around on your site and have updated URLs but haven't redirected them, this can cause problems with search engines like Google and Bing when they try to index your pages correctly. This can lead to low rankings and traffic, which defeats the purpose of redesigning in the first place!
If you're redesigning your website but keeping the same URL, you will need to set up 301 redirects from the old URL to its new counterparts on the new domain name. This ensures that all incoming links from other websites go directly where they're supposed to go — not just into thin air!
Prepare your website and new design for 404 web error pages that indicate that some links are broken or do not exist anymore because it is impossible to avoid them. It is always a good idea to prevent a generic layout and create a creative version that informs the user what they can do at this dead point so that you can keep them on the website.
Redesign done on live URL
While you design your site, don't do it on a live URL, as this may cause serious issues for users trying to access your site during this time. Instead, we recommend creating a separate test environment where all changes can be made and tested before being transferred to the production environment for public use.
Lack of tests on the new website
Remember to test out your new website before going live. You never know what might happen when Google crawls your new site for the first time! Another common mistake during a website redesign is not testing the new site before going live. You might think there aren't any issues with your new site because everything looks great on your computer screen. However, things may look different on other devices or browsers (especially mobile devices). This can lead to unexpected results once users visit your site after launch day arrives, which could mean lost sales due to errors or bugs on their end (such as broken links).
You must test out each page individually before launching a new version of your website so that no one sees anything wrong when browsing for products/information.
SEO is more than just the case of backlinks and proper keywords used in the content. Web design has an impact, too, as it is a significant part of user experience. User-friendly websites will be more often visited by users, increase website organic search traffic, and encourage Google's algorithm to treat them as worthy of being ranked higher.
There are several SEO mistakes you can make when redesigning your website. While redesigning a website can be exciting, it's important to remember that you'll want to make sure your new site can compete in the search results. A redesign is an ideal time to evaluate your site, decide on your goals, and create a strategy to help you achieve them.
Changing the design of your website can affect your visibility in search engines in various ways. It is worth understanding the impact of changing design and considering SEO in this process. The way how the website will be created has an effect on your bottom line. It is possible to provide your users with great web design and, at the exact moment, take into account the most crucial SEO consideration we mentioned in this article.
Website design and SEO go hand in hand, so be sure you accompany them on the way to reaching the target audience through search engines.
- Spencer Stephan, Enge Eric, Stricchiola Jessie, “The Art of SEO”, O’Reilly Media 2022
Roy Jason, How web design affects SEO (and what to do about it), SEO Site Checkup, Feb 12, 2022
Sahu Pawan, A guide to redesigning a website without affecting SEO, Search Engine Watch, July 6, 2018
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