Organic Traffic & SEO: What to Expect When You Launch a New Website in 2017
As technology advances and user needs and behaviors change, it’s critical to keep up with those changes by refreshing, and in many cases, redesigning your website, with new site launches. The first thing that is critical to ensuring the success of your new website is to plan ahead! Before starting your website redesign, make sure you’re fully aware of the implications of this big change and work closely with your SEO experts and developers before, during and after the launch and expect the unexpected.
Your Organic Traffic will typically drop temporarily following a new site launch
Google re-evaluates and updates its trust and score of your website by crawling and analyzing its content, user engagement, page speed, and hundreds of other factors over the weeks following your new site launch. The following are some of the things you may see while Google and other search engines are getting used to your new site:
Your average position for some high value queries may drop. We’ve seen, on average, anywhere from 5-10% decrease in Organic Traffic immediately following new site launches. After a few weeks, Organic Traffic typically recovers to normal levels. However, if you change your root domain you may see a larger drop in organic traffic that takes a bit longer to recover. The reason is that your new root domain has no history with search engines yet, and thus, a much lower domain authority which is a very important ranking factor. Rest assured though, as long as your website is optimized with your end user in mind, your traffic will come back!
Help, my Organic Traffic hasn’t recovered yet!
There are many different factors that could be affecting your website’s performance in the organic search engine results. Here are some potential issues that can arise from a development perspective.
- Could there be a web analytics tracking problem?
If we see that there is a generalized loss in traffic across all the channels of your website (paid, organic, referral, email, etc.) then we look for potential issues with your Google Analytics setup. If the code isn’t implemented correctly, it could mean that your web analytics platform just isn’t tracking data and you aren’t experiencing a loss in traffic.
- Were 301 Redirects implemented properly?
Redirects are one of the most important things to implement when redesigning a website. Not only do they send your users to the new and improved pages on your new website, but they also tell search engines to rank your new pages instead of the old ones and they let them know that the link equity should be passed from the old page to the new as well.
- Did the Site Architecture Change Significantly?
When we say site architecture, we mean how the pages are organized and linked together to create the website. Google and other search engines pass value from one page to the next through the web of internal links on your website, and based on where your key pages are in the hierarchy, those pages will either receive more or less value. For example, if it takes a user more than three clicks to get to key pages, those pages will be deemed lass valuable by the search engines even though they are very important to your website goal. It may be as simple as making sure that internal links didn’t get lost in the content migration or when new content got added.
- Did you “refresh” your copy?
Making major changes to website copy and content causes search engines to re-evaluate the relevancy of the page for your targeted keyword or topic. If you’ve removed primary keywords from meta data like title tags, alternative text, header tags, or body copy for example, that could affect the relevancy score of your pages.
- Did you remove a lot of pages?
If pages were removed instead of refreshed, there may be a content gap. This means that previously earned rankings from that content, and the organic traffic received from those rankings, may be gone.
- What other factors can affect my organic visibility?
- Page load speed is too slow across devices
- Site is not mobile friendly
- You’ve been hit with a manual penalty
- There have been SERP layout changes, like Google removing the right hand rail of paid ads and incorporating 4 ads above-the-fold (February 2016)
- Negative press about your company or product/service
- Duplicate content due to multiple versions of your site across www, non-www, http and https
- Noindex, nofollow directives on your website
- Inaccurate robots.txt file or XML sitemap
- Web security problems or malware on your site
As you can see there are a lot of factors to consider before, during and after your website redesign; that’s why it’s important to have an SEO expert involved in every step of the process. Some of the decisions we can help you make to mitigate issues before your new website it out of the development phase include:
- Deciding if your domain should change or remain the same
- Benchmarking current metrics of your website using an Analytics platform like Google Analytics
- Reviewing wireframes and signing off on final sitemap
- Ensuring Google Tag Manager and/or Google Analytics are involved in the Developer’s plans and incorporated into the site structure
- Making sure an XML Sitemap will be in place and submitted to Google and Bing, and other directories
- Confirming the robots.txt file will be optimized and error-free
- Writing user and search-engine-friendly URLs, and sharing those URLs with your other channels (like Digital Advertising [New Site Launch Expectations – DA Blog Link]. and Social Media)
- Creating and implementing a thorough 301 redirect mapping plan, ensuring all URLs from your old site are being redirected to the new URLs on your new website
- Implementing search-friendly header tags in page templates
- Creating optimized and unique title tags and meta descriptions
- Making sure an SSL is in place and all internal links and canonical tags are pointing to the secure URLs