Google Says Changing Web Layout May Affect Rankings

Someone asked John Mueller during a Google Office Hours Hangout if just changing the layout of the web design could affect rankings. Mueller responded immediately and without any ambiguity. He said yes, it could affect the rankings.

What might make this answer surprising to some is that the content and structure of the URL has remained the same. But with a web design layout comes some considerations that can impact the ranking factors on the page.

Mueller’s explanation of why changing the layout of the web design might impact search rankings makes sense and should be considered before changing the look of a website.

This is the question that was asked:

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“I recently changed the look of my blog’s layout and moved away from WordPress. And now I am using the Hugo static site generator to publish my articles.

Does the layout change impact my ranking and search results?

By the way, there is no change in the content and structure of the URL. It’s still the same as before.

Normally the general answer would be no, it doesn’t make any difference. But in reality, there are some important factors related to a new web layout that need to be taken into account.

Here’s what Mueller says:

“Changing the layout of your pages can affect your search results.

This is something that some people are actively working on when it comes to on-page SEO.

So things like knowing how to properly use titles on a page, how to do internal linking correctly, how to provide more context for the article itself.

All of this can definitely affect SEO.. “

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Most of the out-of-the-box web layouts will need to be updated to be the way you want them to be. Even a web layout labeled as “SEO friendly” will require updates to the CSS and how the various HTML elements are styled and used.

For example, it’s very common for web templates to use heading elements to style sidebar navigation elements.

John Mueller continued his response:

“So, just because the… main type of content like the blog posts that you have and the URLs themselves don’t change that there’s nothing else around it, that search engines will not be able to retrieve at.

It can definitely affect SEO. And it 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 verify that you are doing everything very well.

This is good advice. Updating a web design can be a scary thing. I did and didn’t lose a ranking. Maybe it’s because I removed what I thought were unnecessary bells and whistles, added modeled structured data that automatically fills in, etc. so that the model behaves as I want it to.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a model that didn’t need to have every icon and navigation 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 a bit like starting all over again. In my experience, it’s helpful to become familiar with stylesheets and the underlying code so that you can formulate a plan of what you want to remove, what you will keep, and what needs to be changed.

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Watch John Mueller answer the question here:

James S. Joseph