SEO Do’s & Don’ts of Modifying a Website

By Jason Hawkins on May 22, 2014

Like any website owner, every so often you might feel the need to modify your website. Sometimes it’s because the content is out dated, other times you may just want to change up the navigation to make it easier for the visitors to find what they are looking for. As a member of an SEO & PPC management company I thought it would be helpful to write a blog post covering the “do’s and don’t’s” when it comes to making common changes to a website. Keep in mind that Google or other major search engines don’t directly tell you how their algorithms work so what you are about to read is merely our opinion based off our experience in working with SEO campaigns for the last 8 years. Many industry professionals share the same opinions and we encourage you to do your research in other reputable places as well not just here. The changes that I thought would be worth covering are:

  • Changing content
  • Removing pages
  • Changing meta data
  • Modifying URL structure

Believe it or not making these changes can have a negative impact on your websites organic rankings and that’s the last thing anyone wants to happen. I am going to go over each topic while explaining what to do and what not to do so that you can feel safe knowing you won’t hurt your SEO efforts while making these types of changes.

How We Handle Bulk Content Optimization Services

Changing Content is something that website owners do often to keep their website up to date and it’s something we often do to our own website and to many of our clients website’s too. Recently we optimized all of our content to provide a better user experience by consolidating some of the body text on certain pages. In short, it’s important to keep a good balance between using keywords and keeping your content natural. To keep things simple a good rule to follow is using one keyword per paragraph and use keywords naturally in paragraph headings. Any good content writing company can help you with this but sometimes it can be pretty cost prohibitive to handle optimizing over 1000 pages of content so feel free to give us a ring if you need help with this sort of work! If not then here are a few guide lines to follow:

When modifying content there are three things you can do; add,  modify and remove. So let’s cover each scenario:

Adding content

To not be so ambiguous let’s break this down into 2 segments. One for adding content to a existing page and another for adding a brand new page on your website with content to go along with it.

Adding Content To Pre-Existing Pages

When adding content to an existing page, you will want to ensure you don’t have a bunch of SEO babble that is spammed with keywords, your content needs to provide your USERS with a good experience. If it does have a bunch of spammy content then adding content is sometimes a good way to dilute the over-optimized content. If you were working with an SEO company that created a TON of pages on your site that look “keyword stuffed” then you have some work cut out for you. The best way to go about doing this is identifying which keywords were used when the content was created and then preserving the mention of those keywords while expanding/cleaning up the content. The reason why is because whose pages might be ranking for keywords on Google and getting a few visitors here and there from them. Of course if you’re not ranking at all for these keywords then really it makes no difference, you can scrap the page or just re-write the entire page and it won’t have an impact.

Adding Content To Brand New Pages

When adding content to a new page you pretty much have a blank canvas with a ton of opportunities to take advantage of in terms of SEM/SEO. The head of Google’s search team Matt Cutt’s shares a great video that explains that you shouldn’t just focus on your head section that includes the typical title and meta description because equally as important is your pages body content. The body content needs to match up with the title and description as closely as possible, if you don’t maintain relevance between the body content, title and description of your page your’e not following the most basic principles of SEO best practices. The body content should include keywords but only when appropriate. As an example you may notice the paragraph heading for this set of paragraphs contains a keyword in a very natural way.

Modifying Content-

 If you are thinking about re-writing the content then be careful because if you completely remove all mentions of the keywords you are ranking for you could drop your page from the first page in doing so. Instead, you should try and re-write the content in a way that includes the keywords you rank for while appearing natural (not keyword stuffed) so that your keyword density is lowered to a rate that looks acceptable to the search engine bots.

Identify the keywords that are used in the already existing content first, so that you can understand why the content was placed there to begin with. Let’s say you have a bunch of city specific pages that are in question that were used as landing pages and you want to rewrite the content. Typically these types of pages are created so that they can show up on search engines when you search for the keywords they were optimized (in this case over optimized) for such as “steel building companies in Miami”. Once you find the keywords, check to see if you are ranking for them on Google, if you’re not on the first page then you don’t have much to worry about. On the other hand if you are working with a well ranked website getting a lot of traffic from the search engines you may want to check Google Analytics to see if that page is being used as an entry page for search engine users. To do so, check your landing page reports in Google Analytics. I wrote a great blog post on how to do just that which you can read by clicking here.

Removing Content

If you need to remove pages or eliminate content, the same rules apply in that you need to make sure the page that you are removing or reducing is not ranking well and driving traffic to the site. Again, you can simply try and identify the keywords that are being used to drive traffic to that page and then do your best to preserve the keywords while cleaning up the surrounding text.

Changing Your Meta Data 

When it comes to your meta data, you always want to make sure that you are giving the most relevant description and title of your page. If your titles and meta descriptions are spammed, you will want to fix them up to provide users with a good experience. Think like a search engine here, don’t use title tags and descriptions that are ambiguous, try and use very precise titles and descriptions that will allow your visitors to know exactly what they are going to find when they click on your organic listing. This will help you keep your bounce rate low and your time on site high.

Generally speaking, meta data does not carry that much weight in terms of how heavily it is evaluated by Google’s algorithm but it doesn’t mean that you should use a keyword or two here. The golden rule of thumb is to keep your keywords natural! Don’t over optimize and only use keywords when appropriate.

For more information on how to really optimize your meta data, I recommend reading the PDF that Google shares explaining what they want you to use as best practice for titles and descriptions by clicking here. When you click on the link, scroll down to page 4 to skip through the intro verbiage to get right to the title and meta section. The proceeding pages will also cover URL structure best practices which is what we are going to touch on next!

Modifying URL structure

When ever you change the URL of a page Google looks at this as an address change, much like when you move into a new home. One thing that you will always want to do is implement a 301 redirect to an appropriate page if you are taking down a page or modifying the URL structure to ensure Google doesn’t find a page that is broken or missing. Having a broken page or page that goes missing after Google has it in their results is bad business and it makes your site look bad in your crawl reports. Let’s say you want to change the URL of a page for example, this essentially means you are taking down one URL and creating a new one. The problem is that if Google doesn’t know where to redirect it’s visitors to you will run into having 404 pages showing up on Google. When a search engine user clicks on a result from the search engine which leads them to a 404 error page that is bad business because you are making Google look bad. Think about it, if you started to see nothing but 404 error pages when you clicked on results from Google it wouldn’t be long before you started using another search engine right?

In our opinion, it’s best to have an intelligent URL structure that includes keywords in a natural way. When you use intelligent directory path names and structure, Google has an easier time crawling your pages and your visitors can often find what they are looking for by understanding your easy to follow directory paths. For example, if you click on our internet marketing tab at the top of the page, you will have the option to click on any of our internet marketing services pages. Each of those page contain “/internet-marketing/” in the URL of the page. Go ahead and click on one and notice that the URL contains the /internet-marketing/ directory path name in the URL. This is because we want to rank those pages on Google for terms like “internet marketing company in Miami” and that is just one of the tactics we use to accomplish that.

You DON’t want to over-optimize your URL’s by having the same keyword twice or many keywords in your URL. Google always looks at over optimization as manipulation and you could end up having a penalty to deal with in the future if you do things this way. If your domain contains a keyword, then a good rule to follow is to not re-use that keyword in your URL extensions. Instead use keyword extensions in the directory paths that create keywords in your entire URL string from left to right. If you look at our content marketing page from the “internet marketing” tab at the top of the page you will notice the URL is which if you look closely contains several keywords. Although the keywords are not exact, meaning they have words in between or arranged backwards they still show up bold in the search as shown in the screen shot below:


Now that you know a thing or two about modifying your website without harming your SEO presence you might realize that you have a hefty workload to deal with. If you need a team of SEO gurus to handle this type of task for you, feel free to contact us!


About The Author

Jason Hawkins
Jason Hawkins /

Jason Hawkins is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Miami SEO Company. He has over ten years of experience in search engine optimization, conversion rate optimization and lead generation. His core responsibilities include identifying ways to increase value of services rendered, training staff on advanced SEO topics, and A/B testing internal processes to consistently improve client return on investment.