Google Says Changing Web Layout Can Affect Rankings

October 5, 2020

Google Says Changing Web Layout Can Affect Rankings

Someone asked John Mueller on a Google Office Hours hangout if just changing a website layout design can affect rankings. Mueller addressed immediately and without any ambiguity. He said yes, it could affect rankings.

What might make that answer surprising to some is that the content and URL structure remained the same. But, a website layout design comes with considerations that can affect on-page ranking factors.

Mueller’s explanation of why changing the website design layout could affect search rankings makes sense and is something to consider before making any changes to how a site looks.

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.”

Commonly the overall answer would be that no, it doesn’t make a difference. But actually there are important factors related to a new web layout that must be thought of.

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.”

Most web formats, out of the case, will need to be updated to make it be how you want it to be. Even a web design that is marked as “SEO friendly” is going to need updates to the CSS and how different HTML components are styled and used.

For example it is regular for web layouts to use heading elements for styling side-bar navigational elements.

John Mueller continued with 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.”

That is solid advice. Updating a website design can be a frightening thing. I’ve done it and not lost rankings. That might be because I stripped away what I thought was superfluous bells and whistles, added template structured data that auto-fills etc. in order to make the template behave like I want it to behave.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a layout that didn’t need to have every icon and navigational picture optimized for size and color. Making a web format more intuitive seems like something that each layout needs improvement on.

Updating a website layout design can be very much like starting from the very beginning once more. As far as I can tell it is valuable to get familiar with the stylesheets and the basic code so that you can formulate a plan of what you need to remove, what you will keep and what should be changed.

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