SEO Should Be Your First Step in Site Design
A local business owner called yesterday afternoon and asked if I could help with his site’s SEO. Unfortunately, I work for his competition so I said no, but I had a look at his site anyway. I’ve seen it before; he’s been in the market for a long time, and I was surprised to see he had no toolbar PageRank and was nowhere to be found in the top 100 of Google for his most relevant terms.
What did you do to piss off Google, I asked? (Well, not exactly like that.) Oh, he said, the site’s been moved to WordPress, and the page names are all new. A 301 redirect was not a term he’d heard before. Not that he should have … I felt for him, but he is a client competitor, so I had to wish him the best and sign off.
He was also not the first person I ran across yesterday who waited until after they need an SEO to ask for help. Most days include contact with at least one person that makes me want to rant about hiring an SEO first.
Over the years, it’s been my task to plan and oversee the redesign of the sites that were referred to me precisely because they were designed without the search engines in mind. Or by a webmaster that thinks he knows SEO, but doesn’t. . Trust me; I can’t keep up with both the latest technology for web design and SEO. I work with designers who will implement a design to my SEO specs.
The greatest success will come when is designed with both the visitors and the search engines in mind. It’s not as though you can’t optimize after the fact, but it sure is a lot easier – and less expensive – if you start with a website designed for SEO.
First Things First: Keyword Research
Any SEO web designer worth their salt will start with helping you to define your target audience and researching the keywords that market will use. They will ask: what terms do you think describe your product or service? They should suggest you take the time to ask your current customers what words they would use to search for a company like yours. And they will look at the competition and see what keywords they are using. Once compiled, that “seed list” will provide the basis for the next step in the keyword research for your site: determining whether web site searchers are using those terms, how often the terms are searched and how much competition there is for those terms from other websites.
What is revealed by the research will guide the content of your site, its navigation, and structure, graphics – including your logo if you don’t have one – and your link building campaign. Don’t let your design team skip this step – designing without it is putting the proverbial cart before your horse.