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Is SEO Baked Into Your Website?

Search engine optimization or SEO, is becoming a more common and (hopefully) more commonly understood phrase. For more about what SEO is, see our article on SEO, SEP, or SEM Specialists - Who am I talking to? What is not so commonly understood is, when SEO gets factored into the building of a new web site or the revamp of your old one.

Why is it important to include SEO right from the start?

First let me say that there are two primary elements to SEO; one is technical and the other crosses into the marketing realm via link building (including search engine and directory submissions). For purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the technical aspects of optimizing a web site.

The Technical Side of SEO

When planning for a new web site or a revamp, a site owner generally will think about the design, someone to develop the site, and creating new content. What often gets overlooked in the initial planning phase are three things:

  1. Is the site that I’m building going to be search engine friendly?

  2. Do I know who my online competitors are and what my targeted audience is searching for?

  3. Will my site be user friendly?

Making Sure your Site is Searchable

A good SEO expert will first and foremost test your site to see that it is functional in a way that it can be properly crawled and indexed by the search engines. For example, if we were to visualize a web site as a car that you want to drive on the great cyber highway, then before leaving on a major road trip, you have got to make sure the car not only runs but that it can make it to your destination.

This should be part of your thought process when you set out to build or revamp your web site. Your site must function to make the long trip. That is, intuitive navigation with site map and logical internal links, no duplicate content sites, all URLs properly redirected, and all the pages on your site visible to the crawlers (minus any you may wish not to be crawled) .These finer details of maping the trip for the long haul is the job of an SEO expert to at least understand and communicate to you if not implement for you.

The SEO person should make sure that if, for example, the site is dynamically driven, the engines can still read all the pages and index them in order to give the site the credibility of the robust presence it deserves. To learn how to optimize for dynamic sites, please see our article on SEO and Dynamic Websites - how do they fit together?

Another example of searchability is, if a web site owner has more than one site and there is duplicated content on any of your other urls, then the engines may either 1) only give credit to one site or worse, 2) not give credit to any. In this case, only one URL should house the site content and the other URLs should 301 redirect to that main site. This is a benefit to the user as well as the engines.

Optimize for your audience during the early design stage

The most common association with SEO is adding key words to your web site so you can get found for those terms when a user types them into a search engine. To be more precise, here is where the SEO expert will come up with a selection of terms to place in your title, meta tags, headings, links and content. The SEO specialist will research your online competition and target audience to determine this best selection of key phrases.

What many site owners do not realize is that this selection of key words not only represents the thesis of your site and the pages within, but also that their value to the site is only as great as how they are integrated into the overall design, and development of your site. For example, if much of your site is designed using images and java script menus, the searchable value of any keywords you place behind those images or in these menus is greatly diminished.

Therefore, a good SEO expert who is involved in the early design stage can identify the most effective use of these key phrases and give you the opportunity to make an educated decision of how to proceed with your site revamp early on. Needless to say, this can save you a lot of money and time, rather than thinking about SEO after the site has been built.

USER experience? Isn’t SEO about SEARCH ENGINES?

Probably one of the greatest misnomers of SEO is that it is ONLY about search. In reality, it is the job of the SEO expert to optimize for usability as well as for search. Why? Because generating brand visibility and high ranking positions for good terms is only valuable if the user experience, once they have clicked on the site, is valuable.

For example, if the navigation of your site is non-intuitve, confusing, or requires hitting the ‘back button’ to retrace your steps, your visitor won’t stay and won’t come back, no matter how good your keyword ranking is. Again, factoring SEO in the early stages when you are mapping out the architecture, drafting initial designs and considering what platform your site will be built on, encourages better team work for better results. Most good SEO experts understand how all of these components must effectively work in tandem to generate the results you, the site owner, are looking for.

Conclusion

Because your goal is to do business online, the same goal must apply to every team member who is building and marketing your site. It’s not an option to ‘tack on’ search engine optimization as something separate from the development, design, architecture and navigation. SEO is an essential component, most effective when it is baked in to your site right from the start.

Martha Lee
Founder and CEO
Get In Position

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