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3 Critical Reasons SEO Must Start at a Website’s Inception

Leslie To
3 Critical Reasons SEO Must Start at a Website’s Inception

Many people believe that SEO is a reactive process, and many times, that is true. Our kick-off process starts with a laborious audit phase where we evaluate a website under multiple lenses to make sure we able to diagnose issues accurately before we begin “fixing” it. Fixing a website and its keyword strategy is the reactive part of SEO I am talking about. Sometimes, we are not left with much of a choice except to come in and fix problems that may have plagued a site for a long time.

But once in a blue moon, we sign clients who are currently building a new website or rebuilding one, and it is these projects where we are able to actively help a site before problems accrue.

Involving your SEO team when building a new website—whether it is a completely new website or a rebuild of an existing one—is perhaps one of the most crucial investments you can make in your website’s development process.

Many design and development companies do not always involve SEO professionals out of the gate and can sometimes forget to prioritize a website’s rankability, crawlability, and usability for the sake of development ease or design aesthetic. Now, development ease and design aesthetic are also important things to consider when building a new site, but they are not the only factors that should impact how a website is built.

Investing in SEO early on does not mean that you create a keyword strategy on day one; it means making sure the site is built in a way that it can be found by search engines and easily used by your end customer.

  1. While in-depth keyword strategies are important, you should be more interested in making sure your information architecture (i.e. how your site is laid out and how information is found) makes sense to search engine spiders and to users. Is there a natural way for users to flow through your site? Is the end goal clear? How is your Unique Value Proposition communicated to your end user? How deep is your content housed? Does it take more than 3-4 clicks from the homepage for your user to find 90% of the information they need from you?These are just a small sample of questions that need to be asked right at the beginning. You can see how, if we ask these questions after a website is launched, it can be costly (both in development and opportunity cost) to go back and fix the issues we could have address early on.
  2. Another big, proactive issue is the technology of the site -- how the site would handle users on alternative devices, and what technology is used to render your website.How is your site planning to handle users coming in on mobile or tablet? Are you assuming that users on these devices have the same goals as those on a desktop? How will you choose to lay out information differently (or in the same way) on different devices? Should you?Now onto how your site renders: is your site using HTML5? Is your site using AJAX or Flash? Is your site JavaScript-heavy? How will you deal with site security? If your site is an eCommerce site, how are you planning to manage reviews and schema? How will your site handle rich media now and beyond? How will all of this impact page load time? What does your code to content ratio look like with all of your must-have functionalities?
  3. We also want to make sure the site is flexible and can be changed if the situation requires it to in the future. The ability of a site to evolve as user behavior shifts is extremely important. If the site is rigid in its design and architecture and not amenable to updates, it will become a money pit. Being open to changes includes the ability to test and launch small design changes so that we are constantly optimizing for user experience and conversions. Building a user-friendly website is a never-ending process; you need to continuously build, test, and iterate otherwise you risk falling behind your competitors. Flexibility is key.

SEO is more than just mapping keywords, writing title tags, meta descriptions, and content. As SEOs, we are concerned about getting users and search engine bots to the site and making sure it's set up well enough that a) users stay and convert (if not immediately, then in the future); and b) bots can understand it so that it grows stronger in rankability over time.

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Leslie To, Sr. SEO Account Manager at 3Q Digital, spends her most of her time digging around in Google Analytics. Her career in SEO kicked off in 2011 with iSearch Media. In her spare time, Leslie eats, reads and sleeps (in that order).
Harrison deSantis, SEO Coordinator at 3Q Digital, also contributed to this post.
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