A website may have to be restructured or revamped for a variety of reasons: capturing new markets, repositioning, rebranding, etc. And while revamping or rebranding a website may seem harmless, it may have a significant impact on search engine rankings.
It is important to note that a “revamp” could be a simple one (a simple redesign of the website) or a more complicated and complex one (changes in the URL structure and a full SEO update to on-page content and metadata).
Google’s John Mueller recently addressed this issue in an After Hours Webmaster Hangout session. He said:
“There is nothing on our side that is kind of saying that if a website is revamped, then we must change its ranking …
For revamps, there are sometimes a few things that come together, and it’s sometimes tricky to figure out exactly what all is happening. But the main thing that I would watch out for when you’re doing a revamp is to make sure:
- That the URLs stay the same as much as possible so that you don’t change the URL structure.
- That the internal linking stays the same as much as possible.
- That the content and the layout on the pages stay the same as much as possible.
And if those technical elements are essentially aligned, then from our side, the only thing that we see is that maybe the website is a little bit faster now because you’re using a faster infrastructure.”
Old website vs. Brand new website
Restructuring and revamping a website can cause disruption in search rankings if Google thinks that the old website doesn’t exist anymore, and the website you now have is basically a brand new website.
What makes Google think that a website is new? According to John, the following factors:
- “If the URLs change
- If the layout changes
- If the content changes
- If you don’t have redirects from the old URLs to the new ones
Then those are essentially aspects that say we have to treat this as a new website because essentially we crawl from the start and there’s completely different content, or it’s completely different in setup, or it’s a completely different layout or the URLs are completely different.”
Therefore, the next time you are restructuring or revamping your website, see if you can keep the above-mentioned aspects of the old site intact.
If for some reason you cannot, at least you’d know that there could be some significant changes in the search engine rankings because Google would basically be treating your website as a new one.
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