Do you already run money making websites? Then chances are good that you tweak them from time to time to raise your earnings even further. Themes and Templates can be changed in different variations – from small edits like color or font size changes to a complete redesign. But most of the time, these efforts don’t pay off and may even hurt your site’s performance and ranking. Why?
I run a pretty nice german business blog (my main blog) with already thousands of visitors per day and high revenue. Some days ago, I gave it a complete redesign using adservers with geotargeting, advanced ad positioning strategies and so on. Although the basic layout remained, it was a 100% new theme. I hoped it would increase my earnings by at least 20% – based on experiences with other websites I run.
Instantly after publishing the new layout, visitor and performance numbers broke in. This was mainly due to slow loading times of ads coming from the adserver (which runs on the same server, which is no good idea). Although I positioned the ads at the bottom of the code, it broke the whole layout and many visitors jumped off before the anaylitics tracking code could be executed. Furthermore, page impressions per visitor decreased heavily. After I disbeliefingly watched statistics for some days, I went back to my old Theme, as faster page loading could not be achieved without investing a lot of money in high performance servers.
What I learned was that changing a successful blog isn’t easy at all and can damage a lot. I spent about two weeks of work with the new design and optimized it for pretty much everything – except loading time of the adserver (I do use caching of course). And that’s a factor no one should underestimate: slow loading performance leads to less visitors and worse rankings in search engines – as crawling speed is a big quality factor.
There are many more things to know about layout changes of sucessful blogs: Your regular visitors (your fans) may jump off as they may find the new theme confusing – many of them like your design more than one would think. Changes in the positions of div tags and ads may lead to worse click performance or site revenue, as well as a downgrade in your rankings (which actually should be the main thing to consider – most of our visitors come from the search engines!). Changing your meta tags (especially the title tag of front page and posts) may damage your ranking for months!
Conclusion: Of course it can make sence to edit your existing Theme, testing different headings, font sizes or positions. But this should happen soon after your website went live. If you run an affiliate site, it is essential to test, test, test and use the best performing styles and words. But once your layout works, LEAVE IT AS IT IS! Don’t expect 10% clicking rate or 20% conversion rate – if the general performance is OK, concentrate on raising visitor numbers and page impressions per visitor rather than tweaking styles, which leads to nothing.
In a word: NEVER CHANGE A WINNING THEME.