Will updating my website help or hurt its SEO?  

I'm thinking about making some major changes to my website - will those affect my site's traffic?

How do I handle 404 errors when I'm updating outdated content on my site?

Do I need to focus on SEO if my business is small or not reliant on heavy web traffic?

If you're considering a massive overhaul of your site, we can help guide you through the process of understanding and implementing effective strategies for balancing user experience with SEO in the context of website updates.

People First, Then Search Engines

At interGen, we prioritize designing websites for users before optimizing for search engines. These two goals aren't contradictory; in fact, enhancing search engine visibility is a crucial aspect of user experience. This approach ensures both users and search engines benefit from a well-organized and informative website.

Why Prioritize People Over SEO?

The focus on users over search engines stems from the core reason we build websites—to serve people. This perspective helps alleviate potential conflicts in decision-making regarding SEO. For instance, if an organization undergoes significant changes in its structure or offerings, updating the content can improve SEO by showing a commitment to providing current, relevant information. However, such updates might require a reorganization of the website’s menu, affecting the URLs of existing content.

Navigating Changes Without Losing SEO

When changes necessitate updating URLs, such as moving from a "Blog" section to a more comprehensive "News" section that includes blogs, podcasts, and press releases, redirects are essential. These are simple code instructions that guide users from the old URL to the new one automatically, ensuring that links remain valid and search engines recognize the updated content paths.

The Role of Redirects

Redirects maintain link validity for users who bookmark pages or reference URLs in print materials. They also signal to search engines that the site remains a reliable source of information, helping to retain search rankings. Over time, search engines will adjust to index the content at its new location.

Considering SEO in Your Organization's Strategy

When undertaking a website redesign, it's crucial to integrate website redesign SEO into your planning from the start. Effective SEO often involves producing high-quality, regularly updated content, but the level of investment in SEO should match the organization's needs and goals.

Strategies for Managing SEO with New Website Structures

  1. Do Nothing: For some organizations, especially smaller ones, maintaining a simple, user-friendly website may suffice without a focus on top search rankings.  Even with a complete updating of your sitemap, search engines will re-index the new structure in the weeks or months following the changes.

  2. Monitor 404 Errors and Implement Retroactive Redirects: Use tools to detect 404 errors, which indicate missing content, and create redirects to guide users to the new locations. This approach helps reduce user frustration and restore content accessibility quickly.

  3. Proactive Planning and Upfront Redirects: Establish redirects that anticipate changes in the website’s structure, like using wildcard patterns in URLs to automatically direct old paths to new ones. This proactive strategy minimizes the initial drop in SEO rankings and enhances the user experience by ensuring smooth access to content.

Final Thoughts

Deciding whether to redesign your website - especially changing the user experience or sitemap - involves weighing the importance of SEO and user experience against the effort and resources needed for implementing changes. Prioritizing users doesn't mean neglecting SEO; rather, it involves understanding and mitigating the impact of changes to ensure both users and search engines navigate the new site structure effectively.

Looking to update your website for better user experience without negatively impacting your SEO?  Contact us today for expert guidance and start your website's transformation!