Many e-commerce sites redesign and relaunch with a new look in the fall to capture the attention of holiday shoppers. One of the stated goals of most site redesigns is the endless search for … improved search results. In this article, I’d like to provide some cautionary observations on why these efforts sometimes fail.
A clumsy redesign can cause a decline in search results; however, here are four less obvious reasons for inadvertent failure: Putting old wine in a new skin, larding up the optimization, rushing to judgment, and neglecting the infrastructure. Let’s explore each of these in a little more detail.
Old Wine in a New Skin
It is an error to assume that simply changing the look of the site’s templates will yield improved search results. Unless there are changes in the code, a rerouting of the customer journey, and reordering of the presentation, the site has merely undergone a “reskinning” not a redesign.
If the site simply has new imagery slapped on the same old site, the old wine has been poured into a new skin.
It is the same old wine, and no improvements will ensue. It is unwise to expect improved search results when nothing has changed that directly influences what a search engine (or a customer) encounters. For improved search results, changes must be made to the elements of the site that provide search signals. If there are no changes to any of the elements that signal relevancy, Google does not really care that your site templates are a new chic color with pretty graphics.
Relevancy signals might include:
- Improvements to the customer journey that reduce bounce rate.
- Recoding H1s and H2s can highlight the content that is significant for search.
Since search is signals-driven, there is no reason to expect improved results — unless the signals change.
Larding up the Optimization
Just adding content is not, in itself, a winning search strategy.
Yes! Today, content is king. And content provides the most essential signal for search. Adding content that is over-optimized, larded thickly with too many keywords, and offering nothing of value, is a recipe for harming the site’s search results, not improving them.
As I have previously written, sites perform better when the content is regularly refreshed and pruned to improve the search signals. Simply adding a large volume of new content without reviewing, trimming, and pruning the existing content will not yield the improvements in search results that can be seen with the use of a more strategic approach that views each piece of content as a signal flag. A large field of jumbled flags will not provide the same clarity that fewer more prominent flags will.
Rushing to Judgment
In almost 40 years working in technology, I have hardly ever worked on a project that was completed ahead of schedule with every planned element completed. If there are elements of a redesign that will influence search, skipping past them or only partially completing the tasks invites poor results.
In my experience, it is sometimes wise to focus keen attention on those elements of the redesign that will influence search ahead of other less sensitive areas. If tradeoffs must be made, it is important to focus on the search-sensitive elements (recoding, rerouting, and strengthening the search signals) as opposed to those elements that are visual only.
Site speed and a positive mobile experience are important for search results, as well as customer interaction. Therefore, it is important to include improving site speed and the mobile experience as part of a redesign or relaunch. If it is slated for post-relaunch, the search results will not necessarily improve. Fix infrastructure first, then improve the signals, and finish with the visuals and you can expect a successful relaunch.
Don’t put old wine a new bottle, Google is a connoisseur of site content.