Someone asked John Mueller during a Google Office Hours hangout if simply changing the layout of a website could affect rankings. Mueller responded immediately and without any ambiguity. He said yes, it could affect rankings.
What might make this answer surprising to some is that the content and structure of the URL has remained the same. But a web design layout has considerations that can impact on-page ranking factors.
Mueller’s explanation of why changing the web design layout might impact search rankings makes sense and should be considered before making any changes to the look of a website.
This is the question that was asked:
“I recently changed the look of my blog layout and moved away from WordPress. And now I use the Hugo static site builder to publish my posts.
Does the layout change impact my rankings and search results?
On the other hand, there is no change in the content and structure of the URL. It’s still like before. »
Normally the general answer would be no, it makes no difference. But in reality, there are important factors related to a new web layout that should be considered.
Here is what Muller said:
“Changing the layout of your pages can affect your search results.
This is something that some people are also actively working on when it comes to on-page SEO.
So things like understanding how to properly use titles on a page, how to do internal linking properly, how to provide more context for the article itself.
All this can definitely affect SEO.”
Most web layouts, out of the box, will need to be updated to get them the way you want them. Even a web layout labeled as “SEO friendly” will require updates to CSS and how various HTML elements are styled and used.
For example, it is very common for web templates to use header elements to style sidebar navigation elements.
John Mueller continued his response:
“So just because the … main type of content like blog posts you have and the URLs themselves don’t change that there isn’t anything else around it, that search engines won’t be able to pick it up.
It can definitely affect SEO. And that can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing.
So it’s not that you should avoid making these changes, but rather when making these changes, be sure to check that you are doing everything very well.
That’s good advice. Updating a web design can be a scary thing. I did and didn’t lose any rankings. Maybe it’s because I removed what I thought were superfluous bells and whistles, added modeled structured data that auto-populates, etc. so that the model behaves as I wish.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a model that didn’t need to have every navigation icon and image optimized for size and color. Making a web layout more intuitive seems like something every template needs to improve on.
Updating a web design layout can be very similar to starting all over again. In my experience, it’s helpful to be familiar with style sheets and the underlying code so you can formulate a plan of what you want to remove, what you’ll keep, and what needs to be changed.