It’s essential to start every Web site development project by understanding the role of SEO in the project. 

The team of people working on the project has limited time, and most likely, they have a schedule. Therefore, focusing on the wrong things will produce less than optimal results. Let’s focus on the role of SEO in the project plan in the context of developing a new site. But these principles can be applied to any new SEO project with superficial modifications.

Start the SEO effort before you write the first line of code. Search Engine Watch readers are probably aware of the following four points:

  1. You can easily pick a technology to build your site that will cause search engines not to crawl your location or index your site in a less than optimal manner. An SEO expert must review the Web development choices before making any decisions on Web development technology.
  2. Performing keyword research before you start coding is also critical. This will help you learn your customers’ behaviour patterns, and this knowledge is likely to impact the site architecture and navigation.
  3. It would help if you had lots of content, probably far more than you might think (or a smaller number of pieces of earthshakingly good unique content). Content drives link building and is also essential for picking up search traffic from the long tail of search, where 70 per cent or so of all search volume can be found.
  4. You need the previous three items to have a chance to compete for search traffic, but you need inbound links to drive rankings. Put another way, without ties, and you can’t rank. Far too often, people understand the need for technical SEO but then think they’re done.

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While you may already know these things, it’s also critical that senior managers who make decisions related to the Web site also understand them. 

They may need to receive some training on the nature of search engines and what needs to be done to obtain traffic from them. Try to get them to learn these critical points, so they don’t unintentionally blow up the Web site’s chances of success.

Start Strategic

Even before we get to the nuts and bolts of SEO, we need to solve a couple of age-old marketing problems.  What is the product, and what is your plan for marketing it? For example, in the case of a Web site, this starts with:

  1. What are the goals of the Web site? To sell a product? To develop leads? To disseminate information? How would you build the Web site if no particular activity was needed to obtain search engine traffic?
  2. How will you market the Web site? What is your plan to get people to link to your site, and why will they relate to it? The link building plans for a Web site are likely to change the organization, structure, and even the look and feel of the site.

Develop your Link Building Plan Early

Because link building can affect your site architecture, it makes sense to figure out your plan at the start.  Do you need a media outreach campaign? If so, what will cause the media to be interested in a site like yours?

Are you going to focus on social media? What will your site need to offer to do well in your target environments? Whatever link building plan you settle on, you will need to answer this question: How will you stand out? You can’t win the Website marketing game without answering this question well.

Being the 25th site to present a set of articles on a given topic won’t get you anywhere. It would help if you did something different. Figure out what that is, and then map that into your site architecture.

Summary

Getting your SEO started at the beginning of a Web site project is essential to success. It’s better and cheaper to take the time to do it right than to take the time to do it over.  While this column was tailored to new site development projects, you can modify it to update existing sites.

Review the site and determine how you would like to structure it and how you would like to market it.  Then back up and consider the Web development costs and the impact of changing a Web site that the search engine has already learned quite a bit about (not something to be taken lightly). 

You will likely need to make some compromises based on these factors, but you will still be better off knowing the optimal structure before you start.

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est. 2009

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