Business website redesigns are one of the biggest projects a marketing department can take on, and here at (un)Common Logic we have seen an uptick in clients making big changes to their websites. There are several reasons for this. From ecommerce to B2B, markets are shifting as we enter post-pandemic life, and your website needs to reflect these changes. On top of that, the Great Resignation has created turnover in marketing departments; with new employees come new ideas and priorities for how to handle website challenges. You may be considering whether you need a new website yourself. But before you start such a major project it is important to understand the implications of revamping a website and why you should consult with a Search Engine Optimization expert before, during, and after a website redesign.

What is a “migration” and when does a website redesign become a migration?

The term “migration” is used as a catch-all for any medium to large change you make to your website, and migrations have serious impacts on your organic search performance. That’s because when you change something on your website, Google has to re-crawl, re-analyze, and re-rank that content. This requires Google to spend resources and, in general, the best way to stay on the algorithm’s good side is to cost Google less, not more. Migrations range from changing your content management system to rearranging your top navigation to total website redesigns. If you’re talking about more than light copy edits on a page, you are probably talking about doing a migration.

A website redesign project has major SEO implications

We tell our clients that they should expect a 35% drop in organic traffic and keyword visibility after a migration. And that’s if the migration is done the right way, with SEO considered at every step. Seemingly minor changes can be a big deal for SEO. For example, changing a label in your top navigation from “products” to “solutions” might seem like a small change. But you have likely just completely changed your URL structure for your most critical pages. Search engines don’t know what these new URLs are, and it takes effort for the crawler and algorithm to figure it all out. As a result, you’ll likely see a dip in organic traffic to those pages and possibly your entire site. You can see how site-wide redesigns quickly become a big deal for your organic performance. Google’s John Mueller, perhaps the most authoritative voice on the Google algorithm, has said that “It takes Google a significant amount of time to pick up a website migration if it involved significant URL changes and redesign.” Note the phrase “significant amount of time” here – the drop in organic traffic after a migration doesn’t typically last a few days, weeks, or even a few months. It can be 6 months to over a year for traffic to return to pre-migration levels.

Good SEO professionals understand the way Google processes migrations and you should have an SEO agency with you every step of the way if you redesign your website. Here at (un)Common Logic, we are experts in SEO for site relaunches. If you are considering changing up your site, contact us to see how we can help.

You want ownership over your site, but do you need a new website?

Something we hear frequently from clients going through migrations is that the site “isn’t meeting our needs.” Often, we hear this from clients who have had turnover with their marketing staff and are thus taking marketing efforts in a new direction. It is very natural to want a sense of ownership over your company’s website since it is so central to marketing efforts across the board. It is also natural for new marketing staff to feel like their ideas don’t fit in with what a past team put together. If you or your team are feeling this way, it is important to remember that the past team was hired for a reason and, ostensibly, performed well enough to be hired away by someone else. So, at some point, your site was put together by people just as talented and passionate as you and your team. When asking whether you need a new website, think about whether a shift in perspective would solve the problems you are facing instead.

We also hear the desire to redesign the website from clients who are launching a new product or are rebranding for other reasons, such as an acquisition. And sometimes it can feel like there are so many problems with your current site that, by the time you fix everything, you could have just built a new website altogether. Or, when the most important landing pages on your website aren’t working the way you want them to, it can feel like the whole site isn’t working. If this sounds like your situation, stop and consider whether revamping your website will actually solve your problems. There is a good chance that a little bit of TLC on your current website can work wonders. For example, if your primary product page isn’t driving conversions, instead of completely redoing your site, consult with a Conversion Rate Optimization specialist to find ways to drive users to convert on that page. Why spend all that time and money on a new site if fixing a single page will get you the desired result of more conversions?

Migrations are often unnecessary

The problems you have with your site may not be as widespread as you think. Just because your homepage or your top product page don’t feel like they are working for you does not mean that your other product pages are also issues. In fact, you probably have some pages that are generating website visitors and driving conversions. Migrations hurt every page on your site, so redesigning your entire site to fix a single page can ultimately hurt you. Looking at high-performing pages and applying the best parts to that pesky product page you can’t stand is a great way to drive results without jeopardizing what you already have going for you.

Building a new website requires an immense amount of resources. From developer and web designer help to internal team time to time spent by your SEO/CRO agency, meetings alone can take up 2+ hours per week for everyone involved. Plus, all that time spent on the new site comes at the cost of time spent on other marketing efforts. We often see high-impact marketing projects put on hold until the new website launches. That’s months where you could be driving more and more traffic to your existing website that you’re now spending on a new website.

SEO and CRO engagements are great options to help you diagnose and understand what stands between you and your goals for your website. SEO experts can help identify roadblocks to increasing organic traffic. CRO experts can help you figure out smaller changes you can make to your site to drive more sales, leads, or revenue. If your homepage isn’t driving conversions or has a high bounce rate, it is more likely that your call to action is unclear, your H tags are not optimized, and your competitors’ pages load faster than it is that your entire website needs an overhaul. Start by testing small changes recommended by SEO or CRO experts. If you still aren’t seeing results after extensive testing and optimizations, then you may need a new website.

When can a website redesign be a good thing?

Sometimes, migrations can be beneficial in the long term. If your site doesn’t drive much revenue, you have a lot less to lose from the volatility that comes with a migration. And if your page template loads slowly, your top navigation is confusing, and your URL structures aren’t uniform or optimized, fixing those kinds of issues are necessary improvements if you want to increase your website’s presence.

If you have website issues that truly require a migration, be sure to make the changes during a slow or off season for your business. If you are already going to experience a seasonal dip in traffic, it is better to steer into that instead of losing out on traffic that brings in revenue during busy periods. And always be sure to work with a knowledgeable SEO agency any time you are going through a migration. This ensures that your new site actually delivers on the desired result. For example, one of the most important pieces of a successful migration is continuous technical audits to make sure that the existing site has a solid technical foundation, and the new site carries over that foundation. Even on a serious time crunch, we were able to leverage our technical expertise to increase organic conversions for a client by 183% after their migration. It takes a vast amount of technical SEO knowledge to leverage a migration into organic success, so taking that on by yourself is likely to get you nowhere, fast. Contact us for a free consultation on how to successfully migrate your website, no matter how big or small the project.

When are migrations a bad thing?

If you are frustrated with your website or find you want to make changes, take time to look at the scope of the issues. Take some time to reflect as a team about why you feel like you need a new website. Think about the resources you will have to invest on a new site; could those resources be better spent on targeted, strategic edits rather than sweeping changes? When these questions are not considered or answered, migrations can wreak havoc on your business.

Considering a website redesign?

Feeling like a new website will solve your marketing problems is very common. But we’re not, and neither are our results. In fact, we more than doubled organic sessions for a client going through a migration. Contact (un)Common Logic today to see how we can help you navigate your website challenges, no matter how big or small.