When in the development lifecycle should you start thinking about SEO?
If you’re like a lot of people, the answer is “let’s just get this damn thing built and then we’ll worry about SEO later!” I feel your pain—redesigning your website can be expensive, time consuming, and frustrating.
The last thing you want to think about is keyword research, and besides, can’t you just hire an SEO company to work some magic once you’re up and running? Well, maybe. But the SEO company’s first recommendation might be “this site sucks, it’s all in Flash, and you need a redesign.” Have fun at your quarterly review.
OK, so SEO is important, but what should you be considering while you’re in the design process? Here are some bullet points that we’ll flesh out below.
- Keyword targeting and site architecture
- Search-engine-friendly URLs
- 301 redirects
- Analytics and tracking
- Site speed (the silent killer)
Keyword Targeting and Architecture
What keywords are you going after? If it’s a re-launch, are they the same keywords that you were ranking for before, or are you looking to expand your reach? Either way, you need to think strategically about the keywords you will be targeting.
That means that each keyword phrase will need a unique page of content and each landing page should be no more than two clicks away from the homepage. In fact, by doing keyword research in conjunction with designing the site architecture, decisions about what pages to include and how to organize them will fall into place much more easily.
Another note about site architecture: key pages should be no more than two clicks away from the homepage, in order to a) make them easier for visitors to find and b) to effectively pass the link juice from the homepage to the landing pages on the site.
But what about aesthetics? Yeah, I know, aesthetics are important. And so are the actual humans that will be using your site. You have to balance the demands of search engines and real people—and helping people find what they want is part of good usability and SEO. If Ryan Gosling was using your site, you would want him to say “you’re the perfect combination of user-friendly design and search engine optimization.”