“We’ve all been there – a new site or redesign can make a massive difference to the performance of a site. New content, new design, new look – The possibilities are endless. But when the new site is launched, all the sudden there’s a massive drop in traffic. The new site is confusing, the new content is not working, and everyone is looking for the same content on the new site.”

To be successful, you need a website that’s easy to navigate, load fast, and look beautiful. But to be successful with your website, you need SEO. SEO is all about relevancy, which can be confusing at times. A lot of websites revamp their look and structure, but as a result, their SEO suffers. Often times, this leads to ranking issues, which can be very frustrating for business owners.

During the After Hours Webmaster Hangouts, Google’s John Mueller answered many questions about changes that may or may not affect rankings.

Along the way, Mueller explains the different scenarios that are harmless and the types of changes that can affect how Google sees a site, including how it is seen as a brand new site.

Search performance affected by website redesign

The questioner stated that the last three websites he redesigned experienced very negative changes in Google search results.

He noted that this had never happened with previous updates and was trying to determine if this was a Google initiative and understand what changes might affect search performance in general.

It must be said that John Mueller did not ask for clarification of what the questioner meant by updating the website.

A redesign can range from a simple overhaul to a complete update of content, metadata and in-depth changes to the structure of the site.


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Google’s John Mueller talks about the redesign of thewebsite

John Mueller says it’s not Google…


As a rule, I look at these things site by site.

Nothing on our site says that. When the site is redesigned, we will have to change the ranking.

…If you see this on three pages, it looks like you’re doing something unique with the rewamp processes, not that there’s something on Google’s end that’s blocking rewamp in general.

When upgrading, sometimes several things come together, and sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on.

But the main thing I would look at when you’re remodeling is that you’re doing it:

Keep the same URLs as much as possible to avoid changing the URL structure.

To keep the internal chain as unchanged as possible.

Make sure that the content and layout of the pages remain as unchanged as possible.

And when those technical elements are basically aligned, all we see on our end is that the site is maybe a little bit faster now because you’re using a faster infrastructure.


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Why does Google treat an old website as a new website?

John Mueller listed the types of changes that can cause Google to consider a website new.

However, if these factors do not coincide, for example B. :

  • When URLs change
  • If the location changes
  • When the content changes
  • If you don’t have redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs

These are the aspects that tell us to treat this page as new because we are exploring from the beginning and there is completely different content, or completely different structure, or completely different layout, or completely different URLs.

So, uh… On our side, we’d say: Oh, it’s a new page, we’ll start over and try to understand it again.

So that’s one thing I would be careful about.

When website changes coincide with Google updates

Mueller went on to say that Google is constantly updating and that changes in rankings may not be due to recent changes to the site.

Noted by Müller :

On the other hand, we are also making other changes to the Internet ranking.

And sometimes, when you do an audit, you’re so perfectly timed that it coincides exactly with an important update or with significant changes in rankings.

And then it’s very hard to say: Is this problem due to the technical changes I made, or is it due to the fact that Google would have understood my site differently anyway.

I’m trying to understand… Is this something you did with the update, or is it something Google changed?

I think that’s a good first step, and to do all that, it’s really helpful to check all the technical details and make a map of all the old URLs and then check them in archive.org and see what they used to look like and confirm what they look like now.

Use different testing tools to make sure everything is crawlable and indexable….. all of these things.


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The last sentence about exploring the site is excellent information. Before making any changes, always scan the site to get an idea of what the site looked like before the changes were made.

Once the page is updated, you can view the new page and compare any changes between the two states. Screaming Frog has a visual example that displays the internal link structure as a graph, with well-connected nodes clearly visible. For example, one can compare the two types. B. provide a snapshot of unintended changes.

If the URL structure of a site has changed, crawling the old site can generate a list of internal pages which can then be passed to Screaming Frog to show if any pages are orphaned, not redirected as they should be, etc.

Has the change in the structure of the area had any impact?

The questioner thanks Mueller and then adds that he has restructured the site into several sections.


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He didn’t mention it before, so Mueller is actually answering another question now.

It now answers the question of whether the change in site structure will affect how Google sees the pages of the site.

Mueller replied:

Changing the structure of the website will affect the way the website is perceived by researchers, which can also have a positive effect.

So the changes you made when you switched from a single-page site to a multi-page site may be useful for these sites.

But it may turn out that the same change doesn’t make much sense for the site you’re currently working on.

Does changing the order of paragraphs affect how Google sees the page?

The questioner then wanted to know whether changing the order of paragraphs on a web page could affect the way Google views those pages.

Mueller replied:


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Usually not, but it can affect us as we try to understand the context of the text on the pages, and if you move a paragraph from a very important place to a place where it looks like a subclause.

It can then affect the way we perceive that information.

Example of a change that Google would notice

In response to another follow-up question, John gave an example of a change that can cause Google to view a page differently.

I can imagine what our system would say if you changed something in the page header and moved it to the footer or something: Oh, it doesn’t matter anymore.

Does changing all the images affect the ranking?

The questioner asked another follow-up question, this time whether Google would change the rankings if the site was updated with new images.


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Mueller replied:

For a normal web search, it doesn’t matter.

For image search, if you need those images in image search and you’re getting traffic from image search, then clearly it makes a difference if you change the images.

Negative changes in research need to be addressed

If changes in the search results are not immediately visible, it is first necessary to check that the site has not undergone negative changes that could be visible in the analytical data.

If there’s no obvious reason, it could be a change due to a Google update, which is a different kind of audit that examines search results to see what has changed in the types of websites Google ranks.

Changes to the site should be made with care.

Backups are very important. In the event of a problem, the website can be quickly restored to its original state and the drop in ranking reversed.


Watch John Mueller answer lots of questions about the website’s updates and the drop in their rankings, from the 40th percentile.


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