Put SEO First During Web Design

Why put SEO first?

When designing a website, what is the first thing that goes through your mind? Is it content, design, visitors to your site, tons of emails or something else? Does SEO feature in this list of first thoughts when planning a website? Do you even consider SEO first?

For most, design and looks are the first things to crop up and become priority. Everyone tends to worry and fret over how their site is going to look opposed to why they have a site to begin with. Usually, content and messaging comes second – a distant second in most cases.

While design is important, let us remember that not only will people be looking at your site; they will be there for other purposes as well. More than likely, they are coming to search for product, services, find specific information or to shop. These are the most popular reasons for searching and landing on website pages. Seldom do visitors that frequent the site pay specific attention to the attractiveness. Most users are concerned with how they can find what they want, and whether the site serves their purpose – efficiently and quickly.

Define the Purpose

The first step then, should be to determine WHO your website should serve and who should find it relevant. WHAT are the needs of your target audience that your website will serve. Always keep in mind WHY a visitor to your website should return or find your site engaging. Determining the purpose of the website and defining as precisely as possible the target audience it should serve should be the primary concern when designing a website.

SEO First

Most people make the mistake of associating SEO with link development or Meta tag optimization. SEO is much more than that. In fact, if you start with SEO first, it can help you define your site's objectives, the target audience, the messaging and much more.

Putting SEO First Helps You Define the Website Target Audience

Whether you are creating your website for the first time or revamping it, there is a lot of information out there that can help you define your target audience and scope of the site.

For a new site, SEO can help you analyze what competitors have done to make their site a success. Insights from competitor analyses can give ideas on things to include / avoid in your website design. Keyword research can help you determine what your target audience is searching for and help you create a framework for content on your site. With SEO, you can create a website framework that meets the diverse needs of your target audience and avoid things that will not serve the audience that matters most.

Putting SEO First Helps You Create Your Content Framework

With the site scoped out, your next goal should be to figure out what your site is going to say to your target audience. This helps you create a content framework and organize the content meaningfully on your site. Do you need just marketing pages or more? How many marketing pages do you need and what need of your target user should each marketing page address? Among the non-marketing pages, do you need a blog? What about articles? Does your audience seek demos, videos, whitepapers or some other form of content? Keyword research can help you identify these patterns in the behavior of the potential visitors to your website.

Putting SEO First Helps You Create SEO Compliant Content

Armed with the above information, you can start your content building. At this stage in the game, it really does not matter what your website looks like, where the banner is placed or where your menu will be. Your website content and its usefulness to your target audience is the focus.

When writing your content, you should always write with SEO in mind. By putting SEO first, you would know beforehand what your target visitors look for. These "keywords" can become the central messages on pages in your website. This will ensure three things. Your content will address the needs expressed by your target audience and it will be rich in keywords, helping your content rank better in search results. As a result, your content will attract more focused and targeted visitors from search engines.

SEO Can Guide Design

With your content framework in place, you should let your content and messaging guide the design. Good website design is that which effectively highlights the right content, makes it accessible to visitors and guides them towards a desired goal – be it readership, purchase, sign-up, download or something else.

The best website design is not that which looks "cool", but one that helps visitors get what they need quickly and efficiently. Let your content and content framework guide your design needs and do not try to force your content to fit into a pre-determined design. When your design addresses the needs of your content, it will more often than not, be SEO compliant. Avoid design gimmicks that can block or obstruct search engines from accessing the content in your website and work with your SEO experts in creating a design that will work best with search engines and visitors alike.

SEO Compliant Website Development

By the time you reach the development stage, you would have already achieved the following if you put SEO first in your process:

With the above in place, you would be ready to get into the production mode. Even here, it is important to have SEO experts work with your web developers. SEO can help you create a healthy code to content ration, faster page load time, deploy search friendly technologies, judicious use of JavaScripts, AJAX, iFrames, ensure an error-free site and more. If your website coding is search friendly, you would be scoring valuable brownie points with search engines. What's more, visitors to your website will find it useful, fast, informative and easy to use.

Misconceptions about SEO, Content and Their Role in a Website

We often come across clients who do not understand how SEO touches each stage of the web development process or why content is so important to the website. We often are asked, why the design needs to be subservient to SEO and content and why coding needs to be done in a particular way, etc.

Many clients feel that content clutters or will hide the product or service promoted. "Nobody reads content" is a common excuse. Research has shown that this is a myth. It is only if your website is not targeted at the right audience, it will attract the wrong users who will not want to waste their time with the content on your website.

If you have followed a structured process while building your website, it will attract the right users. When users seek information, they will be ready for the content you give them because they are seeking it.

These misconceptions make SEO and content the last thing on the minds of many people.

Why Put SEO First?

Content should always be taken into consideration as part of the information and decision making process for your future or existing clients. Without content, you have no description of your product or service; this leaves you with only images to use for persuasion. Those seeking detailed information will be disappointed and go to a different site that gives them the information they seek. Those seeking a quick glance can also be addressed if you balance the visual and content elements of your website through intelligent design.

Granted many do not read ALL of page content, however, they do read some; we have no way of knowing what will be of interest and what page the consumer will pick to read. It is always prudent to have each website page ready with keyword-rich content. Page content can be modified as you and your business grows.

While the internet is becoming more complex business owners want more features in their websites. Not all the coolest features are search friendly. Striking the balance between the latest features and a hassle free, clean user-friendly site is a constant challenge. In addition, your site also needs to perform well in search engines. Your best option is to start with SEO. If you do not have in-house SEO expertise, consider SEO outsourcing while your website is being conceptualized.

The success of your website marketing can make or break any business. SEO is always needed BEFORE you begin to program your first code or graphic for your website. SEO and website development go hand in hand. You have to consider them as one project and that they are interlinked as automobiles is to gasoline. If you do not prioritize SEO at the outset, you may end up spending extra money to re-design or fix your website's limitations later on.

Kristi Yokley is the Director of International Business and a writer at VTech SEO. VTech SEO provides high quality outsourced SEO services, web design services and content services to growing businesses around the world. We also offer white label SEO services to web design firms, digital marketing firms and advertising agencies.

VTech SEO is among India's leading SEO firms for growing businesses from around the world. VTech SEO offers outsourced SEO services, HTML based web design services, content services, and other outsourced services from our offices in India and USA.


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