Although much of the search engine optimisation (SEO) work carried out by agencies like mine is ongoing, there are important elements that need to be incorporated in the early days.
It's quite common for clients to approach us once they have just paid for a brand new website design. This is understandable, even if it's frustrating for SEO professionals. As far as the company is concerned, they now have their shiny new site so it's time to start marketing it with an SEO campaign.
Of course, once the site is finished there is a lot that can still be done, but you've missed many opportunities to maximise the effectiveness of your pages.
There are a number of ways a website can incorporate SEO in its early design. Here's a beginner's guide:
Get your SEO agency involved as soon as possible
You might find this obvious but you'd be amazed at the number of firms who don't let their different providers interact. Even if you don't want to commission your chosen agency to work on the site at the pre-publication stage, it is well worth consulting them.
You may pick one firm for it's award-winning web design and another for it's ground-breaking SEO abilities but that does not mean you can't allow them to communicate with each other.
They won't be offended that you haven't asked them to do the entire job and it will help the optimisation organisation to get some ground-level input into the design.
Add a healthy dose of social media
To get the best out of any online marketing campaign and to soar up the search engine rankings by encouraging inbound links, a website needs a decent social media campaign.
Make sure the website caters for any social media tactic you plan to tap into. If you want a blog or a forum, then this needs to be built in from the start, not tagged on afterwards.
All these things allow you to increase the content throughout the site's life, as well as boosting the inbound links, online buzz and relevant copy.
So, you should be planning your marketing campaign while you're planning the site, to make sure everything you will eventually want.
Consider optimal copywriting
You'll no doubt spend some time planning the copy that will appear on your website, making sure it's professional, punchy and perfect.
Bring in your SEO team before you commission the copy – find out what keywords and phrases need to be incorporated – and make sure the content is optimised for those words.
That is a major part of the battle, you don’t want to be on a backfoot, trying to add your chosen words to the site and jarring with all the splendid work your copywriter did.
Ensure internal links
The behind-the-scenes architecture of a site is vital to a successful SEO campaign. Search engines send out spiders (to crawl the web… geddit?) and assess the pages they find to determine the rankings.
So, make sure your pages are full of useful internal links that use your chosen keywords as the hyperlinked text, reiterating the relevance of your pages for searches under those keywords.
These links will lead to a better website experience for your users too – good architecture means great usability.
Don't get carried away with images and flash
It's very easy to be carried away with a new website. Designers who lack an understanding of SEO may well build with only aesthetic concerns – you need to ensure they are being guided by optimisation principles.
Filling pages with beautiful flash and imagery can look amazing, no doubt. However, search engines want content they understand and, for now, that's words.
Optimise your page titles
Use relevant language, ideally keywords and phrases, in the title tag of every page on your site. It's a simple, basic SEO element, but in the ratings game, every little optimisation element counts.
One final thing
Building a site that's ready to compete for high ranking places is just one half of the battle, particularly if you're trying to score well for the more popular phrases
You'll need to update your content, consider paid advertising space, entice inbound links and really fight for your placement in the search engine results pages. Once you've succeeded in reaching the top, the benefits will amply repay your hard work.