Switching websites is a great way to change how your brand presents itself. It makes a site your own – bringing it into the new age and making it more modern, accessible, and designed around the customer experience. When a company chooses to switch an old website with a new one, they are doing so with the hopes that the new and more attractive website will draw in and convert customers better than the one before it.
But switching out a website is not without its risks, and some business owners find that a new website can actually cause them to drop in search engines. As digital marketers, it is up to us to figure out why this drop occurred and what can be done to help address it.
New Websites Dropping in Search is Normal
One thing to note, however, is that a website that drop is, unfortunately, normal. Google’s algorithm has changed considerably, and the way it ranks new websites and new pages is a slower process than it was in the past. When you put a new website online, the algorithm immediately notices that it’s not bringing up the same pages and keywords it brought up in the past (even if the content is the same) and it’s not uncommon to experience a drop.
If you look at the photo above, you can spot the exact date the new website was loaded on the site, followed by its rise again, and ultimately, its ability to receive far more clicks than it did before (noted by the blue line). The site’s recovery generated a lot of business, but there was first a drop in total hits.
It’s not entirely clear why this occurs, but our theory is that it is because Google reads content through its code, and it reads code in parts – taking a piece each time it crawls and, over time, creating a clear picture of what the site is about.
Think of it like Wheel of Fortune.
Every time Google visits the site, it is like unlocking a letter or two. It loads a little bit more code here. A little bit more code there. The code it does load is stored into its site so that it doesn’t need to re-discover it, but code that is new and fresh needs to start from scratch. Only when it has enough letters revealed does it understand what your site is about and, since Google does not crawl sites as often as it used to, that can take a few weeks or even a few months.
Google spends only a few milliseconds on your site each time it visits. In the past, a Google “crawl” would crawl through your entire site at once, but now, it spends only an instant on the site and then stores what it finds in its database before adding to it in the future.
Your old site is already a solved puzzle. All the letters are showing and the database has all the info it needs to know what is on your site. It’s not a mystery. But when you switch to a new site and a new template, Google’s crawlers are tasked with re-discovering what the site is about without ever taking the time to load the entire site. It only views it in snippets until the puzzle is re-solved.
That is why it is fairly normal for websites to experience a temporary drop before they rise back up again. The more links you have and the longer you are online, the more likely the site will recover faster, but it still may take some time.
How to Tell if a Website Dropping in Search is a Problem
That said, there are situations where your new website is actually causing problems with Google Search. This may occur when:
- The new template is code-heavy. Imagine you are trying to solve a puzzle in Wheel of Fortune that is 10,000 words long. Showing only a few letters at a time is not going to cut it. That can happen when you choose a template with too much extraneous code.
- The new website is slow. Sometimes, making a new site prettier also comes with the downside of being much slower. That can hurt your ranking, since page speed is a critical indicator of website ranking.
- The content has changed. If you changed your content at all, including deleting pages, renaming pages, deleting or changing homepage content, etc., then there is no guarantee that the new pages will be crawled and ranked accordingly.
Sometimes, the websites drop for reasons that are not entirely clear. For example, Google does value some designs over others (this is a very controversial policy and Google is tweaking this often), so it is possible that the new site, no matter how beautiful, isn’t getting the benefits it deserves.
What Happens Next?
If a website drops in search engines, your developer should treat it as though it is an urgent issue even if is likely temporary. This involves logging into Google Search Console, making sure all the pages are successfully being indexed, and addressing any changes as soon as possible. At Great Leap Studios, we do this for all of our ongoing clients as part of the new website development process.
Typically, the site is back to normal win search within two weeks, if it drops at all. In cases where it takes more than one month, we can usually see if this is caused by something temporary, or if there is anther issue at play based on how quickly the site impressions appear to be reaching their old highs. We can also speed this along by updating the site fairly consistently and making sure the links in the site are working properly.
It’s a process, but one that still has incredible benefits. If you’d like to learn more about new website development, contact Great Leap Studios, today.