Website redesigns can lead to redirect errors, slower load times, structural changes, and other problems. This can result in traffic loss and a drop in conversions. Learn how to fix and avoid traffic drops during the redesign process — checklist included.

Here, you’ll find:

Your website has had the same design for years. So, you finally decided to give it a fresh look.

The new aesthetic turned out to be great. You loved it! But came a critical problem a few weeks later:

Your website traffic has dropped. And it’s consistently going down.

This isn’t uncommon.

If not done right, website redesign can lead to poor rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs) and declining organic traffic. It can undo months and years of the efforts you’ve put into SEO and conversion rate optimization.

In this article, we’ll discuss website redesign traffic loss — and how you can prevent and fix it.

5 causes of traffic loss after a website redesign

While short-term traffic loss after a site redesign is common, a drop of over 10% signals problems. Primary causes include redirect errors, removal or alteration of SEO-optimized content, site structural changes, longer loading times, and neglecting user behavior data.

Let’s break down these causes.

  1. Redirect errors
  2. Loss of SEO-friendly content
  3. Site structure changes
  4. Increased load times post-redesign
  5. Overlooking user behavior data

1. Redirect errors

URL structures often change when a website is redesigned.

For instance, a product page URL may change from www.example.com/product-123 to www.example.com/shop/product-name.

If the URLs on your old site aren’t correctly redirected to the new ones, users and search engines trying to access the old URL will encounter ‘404 not found’ errors.

404 error

This disruption signals to search engine algorithms that the page shouldn’t be ranked and will to traffic loss and lower search rankings.

2. Loss of SEO-friendly content

SEO-friendly content directly influences how well your site ranks in search results. When you redesign your old website, changes or removals of elements like keywords, meta tags, and headers can diminish its search visibility.

For instance, if a page that ranks well for “organic gardening tips” loses those key phrases in the redesign process, its relevance in search results for that topic could decrease.

3. Site structure changes

A well-structured website ensures easy navigation for users and efficient indexing by search engines. Dramatic changes in site architecture (such as revamping the navigation menu or reshuffling content) can disrupt both.

For instance, if a popular blog section is buried deep in the new layout, users may struggle to find it, reducing page visits.

These changes can also throw off search engines that previously indexed these pages.

4. Increased load times post-redesign

Website loading speed is critical for user satisfaction, which also plays an important role in keyword rankings.

A redesign — while visually appealing — may inadvertently introduce features that slow down your site, such as high-resolution images or complex JavaScript.

Users are more likely to leave a site that takes longer to load. And search engines tend to lower the ranking of slower sites.

5. Overlooking user behavior data

Redesign decisions driven solely by aesthetics, without considering user behavior data, can lead to a disconnect with your audience’s needs.

Metrics like page views, bounce rates, and conversion paths offer insights into user preferences and pain points

Google Analytics engagement metrics

Ignoring this data can result in a design that looks good but fails to engage your audience.

For example, if analytics show that most of your users engage with a specific feature on your homepage, but the redesign buries that feature in a submenu, it could frustrate users and decrease engagement.

“You’ve put a lot of time, energy, and work into building your site’s reputation,” says Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM. “So, pay attention to every detail when redesigning your site to ensure everything valuable transfers correctly, and no equity in traffic, conversions, and reputation is lost.”

This is why you want to work with an experienced agency that has led many successful redesign projects and has a specialist team with an in-depth understanding of data transfers and optimization.

Additional reading: Your Website Redesign Cheat Sheet

How to analyze traffic drops after redesigning your website

Here’s a structured approach to analyze traffic drops:

Monitor traffic with Google Analytics

Google Analytics tracks website traffic. Post-redesign, closely monitor your traffic data, paying special attention to these metrics:

  • Pageviews and users: Check for a noticeable drop in pageviews or unique users.
  • Bounce rate: See if there’s an increased bounce rate, indicating users aren’t finding what they expected.
  • Traffic sources: Look for changes in traffic sources. A decline in organic traffic could signal SEO issues, while changes in referral or direct traffic may indicate broken links or redirects.

Use Google Search Console to assess search performance

Google Search Console provides insights into your website’s search performance. Here are key areas to focus on:

  • Search queries: Identify changes in the keywords driving search traffic to your site
  • Click-through rates: See if there’s a decline in CTRs for your top queries, indicating less compelling meta descriptions or titles post-redesign
  • Index coverage: Check for any increase in crawl errors or pages excluded from indexing

Conduct an SEO audit

An SEO audit post-redesign can uncover underlying issues. Here are four important components to review:

  • On-page SEO: Ensure all important pages have optimized page titles, meta descriptions, and proper use of keywords
  • Content quality: Check if high-quality, keyword-rich content is altered or removed
  • Backlinks: Analyze your backlink profile for any lost valuable links
  • Mobile responsiveness: Confirm the new website is mobile-friendly. Mobile SEO significantly impacts search rankings

checklist

You can use tools like Screaming Frog to analyze your site’s SEO before a redesign.

Gather and analyze direct user feedback

Direct user feedback is a goldmine for understanding the subjective experience of your audience. You can implement tactics like:

  • Surveys and feedback forms: Deploy these on your website or via email campaigns to gather user opinions. Ask specific questions about the new design elements, ease of use, and overall satisfaction.
  • Feedback widgets: Implement digital marketing tools that allow users to leave feedback directly on your site. Users can pinpoint specific elements they like or dislike.
  • Social media and customer support feedback: Monitor social media channels and customer support interactions for unsolicited feedback related to the redesign

These steps will pinpoint the reasons behind traffic drops and so you can rectify the issues.

In the end, regular monitoring and quick responses to the data you gather ensure your redesigned website achieves its intended goals.

Ways to avoid losing traffic after website redesign

Redesigning a website can be complex. But with the right steps, you can minimize (and even eliminate) the risk of losing traffic.

Here are nine tips to maintain your website’s traffic during a redesign:

  1. Conduct a pre-redesign SEO audit
  2. Adopt a progressive approach to redesign
  3. Plan effective redirects
  4. Maintain consistency in content and keywords
  5. Focus on user experience
  6. Manage site structure
  7. Test with beta groups
  8. Ensure analytics tracking codes are properly implemented
  9. Monitor post-launch performance

1. Conduct a pre-redesign SEO audit

Start with a detailed SEO audit of your existing website before any redesign work. This involves checking which web pages are getting the most traffic and why.

Review your site’s content quality and internal links. See if they align well with SEO best practices.

Also, it’s important to look into technical aspects like how fast your site loads, if it displays well on mobile devices, and whether any errors prevent search engines from reading your site correctly.

Make sure to note your current site’s URL structure, along with the meta titles and descriptions for each page; this information is crucial for maintaining your SEO standing during the redesign.

2. Adopt a progressive approach to redesign

To minimize traffic loss and preserve the value of SEO, adopting a progressive approach to redesigning your website is often more effective than a complete overhaul.

Gradual changes allow users to adapt to the new site over time, reducing the potential shock and dissatisfaction stemming from drastic changes.

For search crawlers, sudden and extensive changes can sometimes be mistaken for exploitative tactics or spam, potentially impacting your search rankings negatively.

You can monitor how each update affects user behavior and search engine performance by making changes in smaller batches.

This phased approach allows for controlled testing and adaptation based on user feedback and analytics data, ensuring a smoother transition with minimized risk to your traffic.

3. Plan effective redirects

When you change the design and structure of your site, URLs often change as well. This is where redirects help, preventing users from landing on a ‘404 not found’ page when visiting the old URLs.

Set up 301 redirects to permanently move traffic from old URLs to new pages.

This step ensures people and search engines can find your pages after the redesign.

Before your new site goes live, test these redirects to ensure they take users to the correct pages. After the launch, monitor them and fix issues quickly.

4. Maintain consistency in content and keywords

Keep the main content and keywords that bring people to your site the same, even as you update the design.

When rewriting or updating content (or making drastic content changes), ensure the new version targets the same keywords that previously drew traffic. It should align with your original keyword strategy.

Also, be cautious about making significant changes to the titles and headings of your old pages.

Regular updates keep your content fresh and maintain your site’s visibility on search engines.

5. Focus on user experience

The user experience of your redesigned site plays a big role in keeping and attracting visitors. It’s one of the biggest difference-makers in enterprise SEO for search ranking and visitor retention.

Make the site simple to navigate so people can find what they’re looking for.

Speed is equally important to UX, so make your pages load faster. Do this by reducing the size of your images and using code that doesn’t slow down the site. First check your site’s speed on Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

And let’s not forget mobile-friendliness as more people use their phones to browse the internet. A mobile-friendly web design prevents losing visitors who prefer using their smartphones or tablets.

6. Manage site structure

The structure of your site helps search engines understand and rank your new or updated content.

Keep a logical order to your old pages and categories. Think about how you group content and how one page links to another.

After the redesign, create a new sitemap or update your old XML sitemap. This is like a roadmap of your site you submit to search engines, so they can find and index your pages more efficiently.

Use tools like Google Search Console to track how search engines index. You’ll spot issues early, like pages not found by search engines.

7. Test with beta groups

Before the full launch, engage a select group of users to test the new website design. Use beta testing groups, where users can interact with the new design and provide feedback on their experience.

This identifies and resolves potential navigational issues, technical glitches, or content gaps that lead to traffic loss when the site goes live.

Beta testers can offer insights into user experience, so you can fine-tune the site based on actual user interactions and preferences. This provides a smoother transition to the new design for the broader audience.

8. Ensure analytics tracking codes are properly implemented

Ensure your Google Analytics tracking code, or other analytics software you use, is correctly implemented on the new site.

This includes verifying the functionality of the code on every page is correct, so you can track key metrics like page views, user engagement, and conversion rates.

Inaccurate tracking post-redesign could lead to misinterpretations of your website’s performance and impede your ability to make informed decisions.

Properly setting up tracking ensures you have a clear understanding of the redesign’s impact, enabling prompt adjustments in areas causing traffic loss.

9. Monitor post-launch performance

Once your redesigned website is live, keep a close watch on its performance. Use web analytics tools to monitor how visitors interact with the new site.

Look at traffic patterns, such as which pages they visit most and how long they stay.

Then compare these new metrics with your site’s performance data before the redesign. This comparison will assess the impact of your changes.

If you see a significant drop in traffic or changes in user behavior, be ready to respond quickly. Making prompt adjustments based on this data will maintain your site’s effectiveness and visitor satisfaction.

“When redesigning your website, there are two fundamentals you have to keep in mind,” explains Yadegar. “One, what will deliver a good user experience? Two, what’s good for SEO? What you may ‘prefer’ or ‘like’ may not align with the best UX and SEO practices.”

The right way to do the redesigning exercise, he adds, is to look at the most successful brand in your niche and take cues from their website design. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, build on what’s already working for niche leaders.

How long does it take to recover from traffic loss?

The time it takes to recover traffic from a website design depends on the type of changes you make. For instance, if you change the site structure or URLs, then it could cause a minor dip in traffic.

But typically a traffic loss of less than 10% post-redesign is no cause for alarm and should bounce back within a few weeks.

However, if you’ve played a more ambitious game of website Jenga, removing and adding pieces here and there, it may take several months for the dust to settle and for search engines to reindex your new digital digs.

For example, implementing 301 redirects is like sending search engines a change of address card — it takes time to register the move and pass on the authority from your old pages to the new ones.

Then if your new site is as slow (thanks to unoptimized images and graphics), you could see a drop in rankings until you can get those page speeds up. So, monitor analytics, ensure SEO basics are covered, and remember, good things come to those who wait (and diligently optimize post-launch).

Checklist to restore organic traffic after a website redesign

Restoring organic traffic after a website redesign starts with determining whether there’s an actual problem.

It’s common to experience an initial drop in traffic post-redesign. Typically, traffic should start recovering within a few weeks.

However, if you notice more than a 10% drop that continues to decline over several weeks, it’s time to take action.

Follow this checklist to identify the cause of website redesign traffic loss:

Checklist to find the causes of website redesign traffic loss

After identifying potential problems, assemble the right team to address them. This may include web developers, search engine optimization specialists, and content creators.

Collaborate to develop a targeted strategy to tackle each identified issue.

For instance, if the problem is with SEO, focus on re-optimizing content and building relevant backlinks. If it’s related to site navigation or user experience, make design tweaks to improve accessibility and engagement.

The takeaway

If you’ve recently redesigned your website and noticed a decline in traffic, take steps to identify the problems, fix them, and further optimize for faster recovery.

You can follow the DIY steps we’ve discussed throughout this article.

Or, you can have experts help you recover from website redesign traffic loss.

At HawkSEM, we have a team of SEO, CRO, and content specialists who’ve worked with clients in similar situations.

DILO, a world leader in SF6 maintenance equipment, lost search rankings for high-value keywords and saw a traffic decline after the website redesign.

Our team conducted a comprehensive site audit and addressed technical SEO, CRO, and content issues. This resulted in a 46% increase in Google impressions in just three months and a 36% increase in organic clicks in six months.

If you want help with recovering lost traffic or preventing it during an upcoming site redesign, book a free consultation today.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation