Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Search Engine Optimization at the Beginning of a New Site Build

I was doing some SEO research and came across an article written by Chris Boggs that talks about the importance of SEO when building a site. Specifically, how search engine optimization needs to be part of the build plan and not an afterthought for when the site is launched.

If SEO is done after a site is launched, it can actually present more problems than if you were to do it at the front end of development. Reason being, you may have to make many tweaks to your site's code to handle the changes you want/need to make. This can also lead to an ugly looking site.

We've done search engine optimization on some sites where SEO was done post-launch. After auditing a particular site we proposed numerous changes to optimize the site which cost the client a decent sum. This cost could've been avoided in two ways:

1. SEO up front: if you don't have in-house SEO, hire a consultant or firm to be part of the site build team

2. Choose the right CMS or Ecommerce platform: Right off the bat, the client could've saved money by choosing the right content management system (CMS). There are numerous CMS options out there so you should carefully analyze each option before choosing one that best fits your needs.

Our site build process includes SEO on the front end and is a major component of the build plan. SEO presents the best ROI over the long term and if you're not ranking well for your business critical terms then what's the point of the site? Seriously! It's like a store without a sign...you exist, but, no one knows who you are or what you do.

When we do an ecommerce implementation, we use Magento and it is a great platform for SEO. Some of the things we like about it for SEO:

- Each page can be customized with unique meta data, page title and URL. Sounds simple, but, you'll be surprised how many sites don't have this

- Dynamic Sitemaps: the platform will create sitemaps for Google and the site itself. When you add/delete a page the sitemap is automatically updated

- Tags: a customer can organize their shopping experience with product tags. Sally might browse a selection of couches for her living room and might tag them as 'living room couches.' This creates a tag associated with those products and not only can she see that tag...you and the search engines can see it. The more that tag is used, the bigger it gets and eventually it'll get an H1 tag

- Popular Search: this simple, but, very useful feature aggregates all site searches onto one page for visitors and search engines alike to view. What does this mean for SEO? It means you get a page with a bunch of links and great anchor text leading to products. Again, the more often that term is searched the bigger it'll get. Here's an example from Bruges Home

- Add content to category/sub-category pages. To maximize this, develop unique and descriptive copy that targets a couple key terms

There are several other features that can be leveraged to maximize a site's search engine performance, but, the key thing is to make SEO a priority on the front end. If you do this, you'll have a better site, you'll save money and you'll get more organic traffic.

- Julian

1 comment:

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