Google Explains How Changing A Web Layout Affects Rankings
Google’s John Mueller warned SEO experts and website owners that changing their websites’ layouts can affect their rankings. Moreover, this can still happen even if SEO consultants and webmasters do not change a thing in their content or URLs.
In a recent Google Office Hours hangout, Mueller explained how and why a web design layout could affect a website’s rankings. Therefore, he advises SEOs and website owners to consider this before they go and make changes to their website’s appearance.
Although Mueller’s response was straightforward and unambiguous, some people found it surprising that their rankings could change even without touching their URL structure and content.
The person who originally asked the question said that they recently updated the layout and feel of their blog site. They also switched from WordPress to Hugo static site generator to publish content. Nothing was changed in terms of the website’s content and URL structure, but they wondered if it made a huge difference in the website’s rankings.
Many people in the SEO community expected Mueller to say “no”, but to their surprise, he said there are actually other crucial factors relevant to a web layout that a webmaster or SEO expert should consider.
He said that the layout of a web page could hugely affect their rankings because SEOs work so much on it for their on-page SEO. For instance, they need to do internal linking properly, provide more context for their articles, write appropriate titles on their web pages, and more. All of these tasks can significantly affect SEO.
Moreover, there are a lot of website layouts that need to be updated just to get the desired appearance, regardless if they are considered “SEO-friendly”. SEO professionals and website owners will need to change the CSS, as well as how HTML elements are styled and used. For instance, web templates commonly use heading elements to style side-bar navigational elements.
Mueller continued with his explanation, saying that even though SEOs do not change the main content, such as URLs and blog posts, search engines will still be able to notice the other changes around them.
However, he said that updating the website’s layout is not necessarily bad. Although it can negatively affect a website’s ranking, it can also boost rankings if done correctly.
So, instead of avoiding the layout updates of a website, Mueller recommends ensuring that every single thing in the layout update is done really well.
In can be intimidating for a website owner or SEO consultant to drastically update their website’s design, but if they want to change their layout for the better, experts in this field suggest to remove any unnecessary features on the website.
Site owners and SEOs could also make good use of templated structured data that automatically fills, allowing the templates to function exactly as desired.
Updating a web design layout can make some people feel like they are creating a new website from scratch. In this case, familiarising oneself with stylesheets and the underlying code allows proper planning on which elements in the web layout need to be kept, changed, or removed entirely.
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