Why Your Website Traffic Dropped After Your Website Redesign

So you were sold a shiny new website design with a new architecture built on user data and customer journey information – which is awesome since Google loves great experiences. But did you devise a transition plan to minimize the risk of traffic loss and do a website redesign SEO?

Your site went live a couple of days ago. You log into your analytics program to see how well it’s doing and are shocked at the dramatic drop in Google traffic. Your heart starts racing, and you begin to wonder, “Why did my website traffic drop after my website redesign? Wasn’t it supposed to make it better?”

Unfortunately, this is an all-to-common result that stems from the three troubling scenarios:

  1. Website Redesign SEO was not done
  2. SEO was not truly integrated into the complete web design process
  3. An SEO strategist versed in transition planning and execution was not included on the redesign team.

Traffic-Related Questions

One thing every website owner needs to understand is that anytime a website makes major (or minor) changes, traffic will decline because Google has to reevaluate the website with the new design and content in place.

  • How much should my website’s traffic drop during a website redesign? An initial range we typically see with most websites, as Google re-evaluates and updates its score for the site, would be anywhere from 5%-7%. Anymore more than that, you should plan on doing a website analysis to uncover what went wrong.
  • How long should my traffic remain at this decreased level? If your website falls within the safe range noted above, it should recover within a few weeks – if it hasn’t, you should start a website analysis.

Note: Traffic numbers might be the easiest to analyze at first, but I’d also look at conversion data as it might be that you are getting slightly less traffic, but it’s converting at a much higher level, thus offsetting the traffic loss.

Reasons Your Traffic Dropped After Your Website Redesign

Below are the 4 most common reasons that your traffic declined more than a normal amount after your new website went live.

1. Redirects were not done.

Redirects are one of the most important things to consider when redesigning a website. They send users to the new, improved page and tell search engines to rank the new page in place of the old one.

A couple of things to note:

  1. There should always be 301 redirects, as these tell the search engines to pass the rankings from the old page to the new page and send users from the old page to the new page.
  2. They should redirect from the old page to a similar page and not simply redirect every page to the home page.

What Happens When 301 Redirects Are Not Done? When 301 redirects are not planned and implemented, Google will reset the value on the new pages that were created (the old pages will be a 404 and drop out of the rankings), and in many cases, this will result in a loss in rankings and traffic.

2. New Architecture

Site architecture refers to how the pages are organized and linked together to create the website. Google passes value from one page to the next through internal links, and based on where the pages are located in the organization (hierarchy) of the website, pages will receive more or less of this value.

Pages linked closer to important pages (usually the home page and category pages) receive more value than those 3-4 clicks from these important pages.

What happens when you change how the pages on a website are organized? Every page has a target topic that Google values and thus ranks for. That topic requires a certain amount of value (link juice) or a certain score to compete with the other websites in the search results targeting that same topic.

When a website changes how it is organized (linked internally), some pages may have fewer internal links or be linked to pages that have less value to pass. The new organization causes pages to receive less value, which in turn lowers their score, dropping them below the threshold needed to rank within the search results.

3. Copy and Content Change

When we refer to copy changes, we are not talking about minor grammatical changes – but instead changes to the primary and secondary topics of a page, wherein the copy of these priority topics are referenced.

In many instances, when a website is redesigned, its copy also gets a refresh. This helps align content with the new design and focus content more on conversions.

What happens when you change the website copy? Copy changes cause Google to re-evaluate the page’s relevancy for the targeted topic. If priority keywords are removed from the key areas (title tag, header tags, body copy, alt text), the relevancy score will drop; thus, rankings and traffic will follow.

Note: This makes it imperative to understand which keywords and topics have the highest ROI and traffic potential so that you don’t inadvertently remove those from the copy – causing more harm than good.

4. High-Value Pages Were Removed or Deleted

The final reason websites significantly drop in traffic after a redesign is that a content gap is created.

This occurs when optimizing the user journey by removing pages from the user flow. When a website is restructured without understanding the impact of removing pages, gaps in content sets and topics are created. This gap causes previously earned rankings to disappear for the topics those pages were targeting and traffic drops.

Note: Much like copy changes, this just being an extreme version of that makes it imperative to understand which keywords and topics have the highest ROI and traffic potential so that you don’t inadvertently remove (or drastically reorganize) the pages targeting those keywords.

Are there any other reasons you have seen for drastic drops in search engine traffic after a website redesign other than the site blocking itself from Google?


We have been asked many times, “When should SEO be brought into the process of a website design or redesign?” to which we reply, “When planning begins.” Yet to this day, one of the most frustrating things about being an SEO strategist is being brought in at the end of a website design or redesign—after the strategy has been defined, designs have been approved, and content has been written—and asked to “SEO the site.”

With that said, most companies and creative agencies fail to realize that SEO, as a business strategy, must be fully integrated throughout the process. In most cases, a website redesign strategy is built for those users who come to the website from paid channels or access your website by directly typing in the website address. I hope you can see the issue here. Many redesign strategies fail to plan for organic user retention and growth of those users coming from organic search – which, in most cases, is the primary source of traffic for most sites.