SEO Basics: Why has my Google rank dropped after a redesign?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times over the years. If your search engine rankings have dropped significantly after a new website revamp or redesign, read on for some possible causes and the solutions.

1. Changes in URL structure

In my opinion, changing the URL structure is the number one cause for a website losing its rank after a redesign (Your URL is the web address for the page in question).

This can happen if you rename an HTML file, or when upgrading an older, ‘static’ website to a CMS powered website for example (CMS stands for Content Management System; WordPress, Magento, etc.).

for example:

old static page url:
new CMS page url:

Switching from one CMS to another could also result in a different URL structure.

If the URL’s of your pages change, it can confuse search engines. And this will cause a problem for your SEO, from lower rankings to being dropped altogether.

But what is the solution?

301 Redirects.

If you can’t easily change your URL back to what it was, you will need to set up 301 redirects for each page (See Google’s Guide on 301’s).

These ‘redirects’ tell search engines and web browsers that the requested page has moved permanently. With a 301 successfully configured, a web user visiting the old URL will be forwarded to the new address, and this happens automatically, with no noticeable delay.

An example of an .htaccess file with a simple redirect for one page.

A 301 redirect command goes in your .htaccess file on the web server (in your public_html folder for example). Similar redirects can also be done in PHP or on the web server, but ideally I would recommend doing this in an .htaccess file.

If you are running a WordPress powered site, there are some very good free plug-ins available that make the process very easy. Some can also detect any 404 errors (page not found errors) which will help you locate and resolve any other problems with invalid links or URL changes.

Once set up, a successful redirect will forward the authority of a link to the new page, thus preserving your valuable SEO efforts.

So set the 301 redirects up and, hopefully, this will restore your rank on Google. Be patient though, as it may take a little time.

2. Loss of Content or Keywords

If content was removed or altered significantly during the redesign, you might have lost valuable keywords that were helping your SEO.

Make sure your content still contains relevant keywords and is optimised for search engines. Don’t over do it though, as you can be hit with an over-optimisation penalty, and that’s a headache that you don’t want. Write natural, high quality content and you should not go far wrong.

3. Page Load Speed

A redesigned website might have introduced elements that slow down your site’s loading speed. Google takes into account page speed as a ranking factor, so optimising your website for speed can help improve your rankings.

Images should be compressed, and resolution and file sizes need to be as small as they can be while retaining the quality that is acceptable to you. Large, high resolution photos can take up several megabytes of space which is overkill for web use and can really slow the page down.

This can all potentially harm your Google rankings.

4. Mobile Friendliness

Is your new website mobile friendly? Back in the old days, all websites were built for desktop computers – mobile phones weren’t even thought about when a site was built.

But gradually, as more modern phones were released, people started using them to access web pages. Text and navigation elements designed for computers were tiny on a phone, and very difficult to use. It wasn’t much of a problem at first because mobile phone web browsing usage was so low.

In early 2014 though, mobile web usage overtook desktop for the first time in history. Because of this, websites had to adapt, or be left behind.

Responsive web design was the solution. Websites were built using methods that allowed them to scale and fit the screens of all devices. No more tiny text or navigation elements on a phone!

So how does that affect your position on Google?

Some time in 2016, Google started prioritising ‘mobile friendly’ websites in their search results. If you and a competitor had similar content and rank but your competitor’s site was mobile friendly, the competitor would have a better chance of appearing above you.

Ensure that your redesigned site is fully responsive and optimised for mobile devices.

5. Meta Tags and Headings

Check if the meta tags (title tags, meta descriptions) and headings on your pages are still optimised for relevant keywords.

A missing ‘meta Title’ alone is enough for a page to go from an excellent rank to dropping many pages down the list.

6. Indexing Issues

Ensure that your redesigned website is being properly crawled and indexed by Google. You can use Google Search Console to check for any crawl errors or indexing issues.

You can type ‘” into Google to see what pages are being indexed by them.

Typing on Google to see what pages are indexed.

7. Backlinks

If the redesign affected the structure of your site, it might have impacted your backlinks. Monitor your backlink profile and reach out to webmasters if any important backlinks were lost during the redesign.

A 301 redirect can be used if you are not having any luck in getting the link changed.

8. Content Quality

Make sure the content on your redesigned website is high-quality, relevant, and engaging. Google prioritises websites that provide valuable content to users, so if you have rewritten or removed any content then you need to compare this to the previous page to see where you might have gone wrong. Quality is better than quantity.

9. Competitor Changes

Sometimes drops in rankings can be due to changes made by competitors. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. There are many tools available to monitor both your website and your competitions’ websites.

If you have seen a significant reduction in your rank though, it is almost certain that your website is the problem.

10. Patience

Sometimes it takes time for Google to re-evaluate and re-rank your website after a redesign. Keep monitoring your website’s performance and make adjustments as needed.

Ultimately though, if you have used all of the same content and url structure on your new website, and any 301 redirects have been set up, then you shouldn’t really see a drop in your rankings unless you have missed something – and this could be as simple as a missing Heading One or Title Meta Tag.

Get expert help from an Essex SEO Expert

Losing your rank after a website redesign is a nightmare situation for your business, but if you act quickly, you should be able to recover your search engine positions if too much time hasn’t passed.

If you need assistance with your SEO, my Essex SEO Agency can conduct a thorough audit of your website and provide personalised recommendations to help resolve your website migration nightmares. Get in touch!

Useful links

Google’s information on 301 redirects:

changing URL for SEO

Phase Two