Change Your Home Page & Die! By Mark Tull
Hi, my name is Mark Tull and I run Clicks and Clicks Pty Ltd, and Website Essentials. This is a strange title for a post, but its done for a reason. Your home page on your website is the window to your soul. Not only to your products, but to your visitors accessing them and Google ranking them. Now here is the basis of this story and how a site lost 110 ranking positions on google in just a few days and lost over 20% of their organic traffic in the same time.
A client was redesigning their long term retail site. They wanted to make it more clean, more pictures, and lots less text, (in fact almost no text at all), you know one of those funky arty pictorial sites. I sat down with them and expressed my concerns, with my knowledge of google over many years. They proceeded anyway, but I did get them to set up reliable reporting on their top 100 keywords organically and away they went and rebuilt in effect the “theme” for the site. The content was almost univerally exactly the same as the old site with the exception of the front page.
2 weeks after the new look site went live. The numbers fell and fell. There was only one upside, and that was the revised layout had a lower bounce rate (which was good) and more pages per visitor (good) but the time on the site has stayed just the same. However, 20% less traffic…. Why?
Well this is an isolated case, but it was so clean in its method that I jumped on it to write this story. I have seen many others affected by the same malaise in my time, but this one really boiled down to a home page redesign disaster so far as Google was concerned. There were no seasonal effect, no marketing effects, no broken link effects, just the great spread of major search terms that the old site held for its index page, starting dying.
Why? Lets postulate. If the only real change to the site was the home page, and the only real difference on the home page was 2 things. Text and links to latest news and products.
Design improvements that make the client happy with its look is one thing, but, then improving what visitors determine as useful and popular on the home page is another, and it would appear that Google likes your home page a certain way as well.
I have long espoused that if you dont think what you write each day is important enough to be shown on your front page, and for even just as long as you write you next article or add a new product, and if you dont have sufficient text to engage a first time visitor to know that they are on the right page for them, product, resource, location, language wise etc, then Google is important.
Next time you decide to redesign your site, dont listen to your self, your boss, your graphic designer, or your web designer. Listen to your analytics account, your webmaster tools account and your SEO provider. Once you have done this, then you can design it any way you want (almost) and not suffer the same situation to recover from as this client.
…..More articles by Mark Tull