Why Your Web Development Project Needs an SEO Agency
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be an afterthought when creating or redesigning a new website. Look at it this way: Having a solid foundation is key to building a house, and having a solid SEO friendly website design is a similar analogy… so, why is SEO often a lower priority? It may be that there’s so much going on in the website development process that SEO becomes, “We’ll get to it later.” Or, it may be that your web development agency just doesn’t specialize in SEO, even if they say they do. With the constant evolvement of the search and digital landscape, you need an agency that’s knee deep in SEO best practices to ensure your website launch is successful.
Is Your New Website SEO Friendly?
One of the first deliverables we recommend to new clients is an Onsite SEO Audit. We start with an audit because even the most beautiful website or well-optimized content isn’t going to be found by Google if your overall website isn’t SEO friendly. If SEO is considered during the initial website development phase, you can avoid SEO issues down the road. According to Moz, these are common but easily avoidable, SEO mistakes you can find when web development agencies own the website:
Add SEO Into Every Phase of Your New or Redesigned Website
Where should SEO weave into your website development project? In every phase. SEO helps support the structure of your website and ensure Google can find your new site. During each phase below, we’ve outlined the SEO deliverables we’d recommend incorporating.
Website discovery and design phases:
- Keyword research: You want your website to rank for the keywords your customers are searching for. Even if you’re not building a new website from scratch, we recommend digging into analytics to ensure you’re targeting the correct keywords for your business, and identify terms that may help you garner more conversions and leads.
- Information architecture: Once keyword research is performed, those insights can be used to layout the content on your website, and the relationships between that content. This is typically a collaboration between SEO, user experience (UX) and strategy.
- URL structure recommendation: For search engines to find your content, your link structure needs to be crawlable. Learn more: Using the Canonical Tag and Redirects to Solve URL Canonicalization Issues
- Website wireframe and design review: It’s important that your website wireframes are reviewed by an SEO strategist. An SEO strategist will look at the overall website layout for things like, “Does the page have enough content?” Or, “Is the page full of too much content?” as can be the case with the parallax, scrolling web pages. Design review isn’t always needed if the wireframes tell enough of the website story.
Website content phase:
- Content optimization: Keyword research can help shape the target keywords for a page, but we also recommend that an SEO strategist further optimizes it and adds metadata so that your content gets found.
- Image optimization: Your images also need to be optimized. The file size shouldn’t be too large. Your images should have a descriptive file name and in plain English, and include an alt tag.
- Rich snippets or schema recommendations: While an SEO strategist is reviewing your content, they can make recommendations for rich snippets or schema. This type of structured data allows you to add code to your content so that search engines can easily identify what type of content it is.
Website development phase:
- Analytics and search engine tools: To track performance after your website goes live, analytics and search engine tools need to be set up, and code needs to be implemented on your website. We recommend Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Bing Web Master Tools, and Screaming Frog, but your company may have other tools as well.
- Keyword map: You’ll want to assign (or “map”) target keywords to specific pages on your website. This should be a living, breathing document, and can help identify content gaps and ideate projects for the future.
- Website crawl: After all the content on your website is implemented, we recommend crawling your website to identify any missing meta titles, descriptions and broken links. If you do this, you can fix the issues before your website is live.
- 301 redirects: If you have an existing website, it’s critical that you set up 301 redirects. These redirects will map every page of your existing website to a page on your new website. It’s not only important for search engines, but UX as well. There’s nothing worse than the excitement to read an article only to run into a “Page Not Found” error.
- Site performance: Since page load time can impact user experience, and ultimately conversion and leads, you’ll want to test your desktop and mobile speed performance. Google has a free tool that allows you to easily conduct tests, but there are other tools out there too.
- txt file: You’ll want a robots.txt file to be created and implemented. This file allows you to give instructions to web robots, such as disallowing pages that shouldn’t be crawled.
- XML sitemap: Your XML sitemap is an indication to search engines that the pages included in your sitemap are of good quality and should be indexed. Therefore, it’s important that you create and implement a sitemap on your new website.
- Measurement: If your current site has analytics, you should pull a measurement report for the past 2 years. This will allow you to establish a baseline data for once the new website goes live. You’ll also want to run a keyword ranking report to establish your baseline.
Hooray, all the months of work have paid off, and your new SEO-friendly website has launched! There are several items you’ll want to review post-launch. These include:
- Making sure the XML sitemap and robots.txt files are implemented.
- Verifying your 301 redirects.
- Performing a daily check of the index for the first couple of weeks to see how much of your website has been crawled vs. indexed and monitor the transition of URLs in the search engine.
- Crawling SEO data to help catch any 404-dead links, multiple redirects or loops, and other issues before they become major problems.
- Monitoring analytics to compare data one week after launch to the data previously pulled.
- Measuring keyword rankings to compare to your baseline keyword rankings report.
Are you in over your head?
If you’re in the midst of your website development project, don’t worry! You can hire an agency, such as ours, that specializes in SEO to do an audit of your website before it goes live to ensure any issues are caught before the big launch day. There are many important inputs that go into your new website design; make sure SEO is one of them.
Original Date: Oct 17 2017
Written By: Jenn Tanabe