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Implications about SEO and how to update a website

Posted on 2012-03-19
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Last Modified: 2013-11-18
HI

We have a very old website that we need to update and this site has a very good ranking in google, we are concerned what will happen after update it, we thought that may be keeping the same text and pages but different design would be a good idea but that will avoid some important changes to the structure.

any ideas?
Regards.
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Question by:dimensionav
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freshcontent earned 2000 total points
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My comments about your proposed update are:

If you don't HAVE to update your website in a major way, don't do it.

Most people end up having issues with drops in their Google/Bing rankings and number of referrals after updating their website because they mistakenly change something that "worked" and make it so that search engines can't crawl their website correctly or another big mistake.

That being said, Google is now rewarding fresher content for websites, especially where there is a fair amount of competition.  Read about Google's freshness update here in an article I've written -

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Web_Development/Internet_Marketing/A_8651-Google's-Latest-Algorithm-Updates-Not-Just-Panda.html

Or here at SearchEngineLand -

http://searchengineland.com/google-search-algorithm-change-for-freshness-to-impact-35-of-searches-99856 

If you feel like you need to do an update to your website, remember the following items -

1. DON'T change your URL structure.
If you have  
www.domainnamehere.com/Microsoft/goodcontent.html 
 that ranks highly with search engines, don't change the URL structure to:
www.domainnamehere.com/Microsoft/Windows7/FAQ/goodcontent.html or
www.domainnamehere.com/Microsoft/FAQ_458932873.html

One reason not to change your URL structure is that over time, you have likely built up links from other websites to your site and pages within your site, and if you change those URLs you will lose the referrals from those websites and the uptick in "link juice" from the search engines.
Search engines like Google/Bing will tell you that you can do a 301 redirect pointing your old URL to your new URL, but you will lose some of the "link juice" and likely some traffic, at least for some period of months.

2. Be cautious about changing the user flow.
If your website is popular with users coming from search engines, there is likely a reason why they are navigating the website the way that they currently are.  Make sure that you test some of your ideas with users (on a beta version of the newly designed website would be preferrable) to make sure that they navigate in the same ways.  Google is now looking at time on site and bounce rate (how quickly or IF a user "bounces" back to the Google results page from your website) as a proxy for user satisfaction and liking a search result/website.

3. Make sure not to hide your website links/features behind a good looking Flash site.  Many people have redesign websites and create complex graphics/pictures/movies using Flash or another non-HTML technology.  Try to stick to HTML for most of your website, especially navigation, and if you do have videos, make sure to have good HTML descriptions and content before and after that describe your video content.

Let me know of more specific questions.
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