Google Says Changing Website Layout Can Affect Rankings Negatively, When Done Incorrectly
Google, the world’s largest search engine, has warned website owners that making changes to their website layout can negatively affect their search engine rankings if not done correctly.
Someone asked John Mueller (Senior Search Analyst At Google) on a Google Office Hours hangout if simply changing website design or layout can affect Google search rankings. Mueller provided an answer immediately and without any ambiguity or gray area. Ultimately, he said “yes, it could affect the rankings.
What some webmasters may have found surprising was that the layout alone changes alone can affect the ranking of a site, even when the content and URL structure remain the same. Ultimately when Top Marketing Agency provides a web re-design for our customers, we take Google’s guidance into consideration to ensure our client’s SEO can hit the ground running, without taking multiple steps back. Google’s senior search analyst Mueller’s provided a direct answer and further explanation into how or why a redesign or layout change could negatively impact a website.
This is the question that was asked:
“I recently changed the layout look and feel of my blog and moved away from WordPress. And now using Hugo static site generator for publishing my posts. Does the change in layout impact my ranking and search results? On a side note, there’s no change in the content and the URL structure. It’s still the same as before.”
Ordinarily, Google’s senior team would provide a generic answer, such as “no, it should not make a difference but there are many design elements to consider when putting together a new layout for a website”.
This is what Mueller said:
“Changing the layout of your pages can affect your search results. This is something that some people work on actively as well with regards to on-page SEO. So things like figuring out how to use titles properly on a page, how to do internal linking properly, how to provide more context for the article itself. All of this can definitely affect SEO.”
The website’s layout is an important aspect of its overall design and can greatly impact its visibility and search engine optimization (SEO). A well-designed layout helps users easily find the information they are looking for and also makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index the content on the website. Oftentimes, the best place to start with a website redesign or updating the layout is with a detailed SEO audit.
However, making changes to a website’s layout can also have a negative impact if not done correctly. Google has stated that making significant changes to the website’s structure, such as completely overhauling the site’s architecture or making changes to the way pages are linked, can disrupt the way search engines crawl and index the website’s content. This can result in a decrease in search engine rankings, making it more difficult for users to find the website in search results.
John Mueller continued his answer:
“So just because the… kind of the primary content like the blog posts that you have and the URLs themselves don’t change doesn’t mean that there’s nothing else around all of that, that search engines won’t be able to pick up on. It can definitely affect SEO. And it can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing. So it’s not that you need to avoid making these changes but rather when you make these changes make sure to double check that you’re kind of doing everything really well.”
Google recommends that website owners take a gradual approach when making changes to their website layout. This means making small changes to the site’s structure over time, rather than making large, sweeping changes all at once. This approach helps ensure that search engines have time to adjust to the changes and that any negative impact on search engine rankings is minimized.
Website owners should also be mindful of the technical aspects of their website’s layout. For example, using the wrong type of redirects, such as 302 redirects instead of 301 redirects, can negatively impact search engine rankings. Similarly, using the wrong type of URL structure can also have a negative impact, as can using non-standard coding practices that are not easily readable by search engines.
Google also recommends that website owners take a user-centric approach to website design and layout. This means ensuring that the website’s layout is easy to navigate and provides a positive user experience. A well-designed layout helps users easily find the information they are looking for, reducing the likelihood of them leaving the site and negatively impacting the site’s search engine rankings.
Website owners should also be mindful of the mobile-friendliness of their website’s layout. With an increasing number of users accessing the internet via mobile devices, it is important to ensure that the website is optimized for mobile viewing. This means using responsive design, which automatically adjusts the website’s layout based on the size of the device being used to access the site.
Another factor to consider when changing a website’s layout is the content on the site. Google has stated that the content on a website is one of the most important factors in determining its search engine rankings. Making changes to the site’s layout should not negatively impact the quality or relevance of the content. In fact, website owners should consider making changes to their website’s layout as an opportunity to improve the content on their site, ensuring that it is up-to-date, relevant and of high quality.
In conclusion, making changes to a website’s layout can have a significant impact on its search engine optimization rankings. Google has warned that making large changes to a site’s structure or making changes that negatively impact the site’s user experience or technical structure can result in a decrease in search engine rankings. To avoid this, website owners should take a gradual approach to making changes, ensure that the site is optimized for mobile viewing, and consider making changes to the site’s layout as an opportunity to improve its content. By following these recommendations, website owners can ensure that their website remains visible and easily accessible to users through search engines, regardless of any changes made to its layout.
The guidance from Google, along with our other numerous essential strategies to optimize your 2023 marketing initiatives should be considered when you’re looking for the best results and ROI for your marketing. Learn more about our website design process and how we combine our design elements with SEO or get a free website design and marketing consultation to see how our approach can ensure a smooth redesign that won’t affect your rankings negatively
Watch John Mueller answer the question here: