I have a quick case study today about a jewelry store that first built their website in 2008, did a minor programming change in 2010, and then did a major overhaul of the entire website in 2012. You will see how traffic changed and how activity on their website changed. My measurement period spans from December 2011 - February 2012 compared to December 2012 - February 2013.
Both the old and the new website shared these similar pages:
* About Us
* Special Offers
* 4C's of Diamond Education
* Designer pages
* Online Product Catalog
The most notable difference between the old and new site is the addition of a blog.
I didn't specifically analyze the difference in how the new website looks compared to the old website; I'm only interested in what might have caused the inbound traffic to increase or decrease. Of course the usability of the website plays an important factor in how long people stay on the website, and we will see an affect of that in the measured results.
Changes and updates to a website on a regular basis are usually good. Google sees the updates and places your website slightly higher in search results. This particular jeweler has been making consistent website updates to their home page, product catalog, and other pages of their site for the past 4 years. All the content was transferred from the old site to the new, but several of the jewelry items in the product catalog were replaced.
In reality, the information on the web is the same; the only difference is the website's improved HTML structure.
In Google Analytics we saw a 10% increase in the number of visitors to the new website during the measured period. On the surface this is a deceivingly good result, however, we also saw a 15% drop in Pageviews, 20% drop in Pages per Visit, and 15% drop in Visit Duration. The Bounce Rate also increased almost 10%.
It seems like the new website design was actually a step in the wrong direction. The biggest difference between the old and new design is the navigation method. The old site had all the navigation on the side whereas the new site has the navigation as a drop down menu along the top.
In the past two months I've researched and reported many statistics regarding mobile usage during the holiday season. With this in mind I looked at the mobile device visitor rates for this case study. Sure enough, mobile usage of the new website was up more than 50% in 2013 than 2012. Regretfully, the new navigation method of drop down menus is not very easy to use on mobile devices which may account for the drop in all those measured results.
Overall it looks like the search engines didn't like the new site. Google search produced 20% fewer visitors and Bing dropped 10%. The number of visitors from Yahoo actually increased 25%, but those numbers are quite tiny in reality.
In reality, even though the total number of visitors increased by 10% after the new website was launched, it turns out that the biggest driver of visitor traffic was from people typing the domain name directly into their browser, and referrals from paid online ads.
At this point it appears that something about the new website design has backfired with regard to organic search results. On the other hand, I'm not taking actual in-store sales into account. Both the old new website didn't have e-commerce, which means the goal of the website was to drive more foot traffic into the store.
If in-store sales were up, then maybe the website was actually converting more of the visitors even though the visitor count was lower. Of course if the sales were down, then these website results could be a hint as to why.
In conclusion, when the time comes for that major overhaul of your own website, you need to consider exactly how the design will impact your visitor rates, usability, and most importantly, your bottom line. Instead of a massive redesign which might cause unknown results, I suggest slow changes over time so you can test your changes.