Search Engine Optimization

Thinking About SEO While You Build a New Website

By June 16, 2010 December 3rd, 2012 18 Comments

Updated 3/1/2011: There are tons of people re-designing, re-tooling or completely re-vamping their websites right now.  With all of the new technology, easy set-up and programming-free options out there (not to mention cost-effective), many businesses are taking advantage.  The problem is that SEO is still an afterthought.  We still hear things like “we’re re-building the site right now, but we will contact you after that so we can start the SEO work”.

Woah there!  But we can still do some SEO work even while the site is under redesign or redevelopment.  Here are a few tips:

1.  Do your keyword research up front. While you are putting together content, page structure, or trying to figure out what CMS you are going to use, now is the time to start keyword research.  You want to determine the 5-10 main keywords that you will want to target your site for and methodically build pages, content and links around them.  Then, determine the secondary set of keywords that are longer-tail in nature, but support the main keywords.  As a rule of thumb, start with words that are not overly-competitive.  Choose words that are perhaps more long-tail vs. head terms (like choose “seo page analysis tool” instead of “seo”) and have smaller search volumes.  High search volume words (i.e. higher than 5,000 searches per month) can indicate healthy competition for that word or phrase.

2.  Keep the architecture simple. No need for 5 and 6 levels of navigation for most sites.  Two is usually good, with 3 for more complex sites with user-generated content or e-commerce.  The idea is that you want most of your pages accessible within 2 clicks.  That means it’s not only going to be easy for human visitors to find your content, but easier for the Googlebot too.  Create an XML sitemap, and determine how you will organize your content. Our strategy is fairly simple – group related content together and create content that Google thinks is related, or that Google would suggest as an alternative search.  (see our architecture sample below).  You can also use footer links kind of like how PEER 1 does here to link out to deeper nested pages.  Always use “clean URLs” and trailing slashes in terms of URL structure – it’s good for SEO.  Also make sure you define your canonical URL, or primary URL, such as “www.site.com” and”site.com”.  Those are considered to be two different websites, and you don’t want Google to determine which one you prefer.

site architecture example

3.  Check your inbound links for anchor text enhancements. Our Competitor Analysis report will uncover your inbound link profile and use of anchor text compared to your competition.  You can read how the right anchor text will improve your search engine rankings on our blog.  We get them straight from Yahoo SiteExplorer or Open Site Explorer, and while the new site is under development, you can try to re-target some of these links to the new pages with more descriptive anchor text.

4.  Make sure you re-direct all of the old pages. Many site owners forget this very important step.  Many times when you launch a new site, the old pages are still in Google’s index, but no longer available on your site.  In this case, a search result can have one of these “old pages” and link to a 404 error.  To fix this, you need to do a proper 301 redirect from the old page to the new page, or you can remove the page from Google’s index all together.

Need more help?  Mozy on over to our affordable plans to help you get this done by signing up for our Starter Plan.  No recurring fees, and no commitment.  Easy as pie.

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan is the founder and CEO of Pear Analytics and has helped hundreds of customers with their Internet marketing since 2003. He has spoken on various topics of SEO, Analytics and other marketing at conferences in New York, Chicago and Vancouver. Clients he has consulted include Sears, KMart, CareerBuilder and PEER 1 Hosting. Ryan currently teaches two Internet marketing classes at Trinity University in San Antonio.

18 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Great post! Learning SEO is not easy but with a guide like this I can definitely do it. Thanks for sharing.

  • SEO copywriting is an wonderful, relatively new niche in freelance writing. Your writting style is very SEO friendly. Good work 🙂 Any tips?

  • I have a question that is kind of helpful to readers. What is the easiest way to get low competition keywords? Best!

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    The easiest way to get low competition keywords is to use the Google External Keyword Tool and see what the search volumes are. My general rule of thumb is if the word is >5,000 searches per month, then it’s probably competitive for a small site. You can also see the Google Competitiveness number (0-10) in the AdWords interface to gauge competitiveness as well.

  • Great post thanks for sharing.

  • Had couple of small problems viewing the website in Firefox on Linux, but apart from that loved the site. 🙂

  • Thanks for the post I have done all my seo and agree you don’t need to pay expensive consultants at all

    Roger

  • BeeMan says:

    Great site, it’s helping me everyday. I do wonder about something how will crawlers like hidden elements?
    The wonders of JavaScript and all The librarys within make use of hidden elements to be revealed of the press of a button. I love slides and movement but what does crawlers think of them, if they could?

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Hi BeeMan!

    Crawlers can still see “hidden elements” behind AJAX or other javascript tricks. If you read the source code, you can still see the HTML content (good for search engines), but help usability by not overloading the page with content to the user.

    One issue to be concerned with is IF the search engine idexes and ranks the content on a javascript slider, for example, and the user clicks on it in the search results, and then comes to the page and can’t find the content, that could be problematic.

    What you want to do is identify each JS element on the page with a hash tag, like “www.site/com/#sliderA” or “/#sliderB” for example. That way you can link to a particular section of the javascript slider if you want to.

    Email me at ryan@pearanalytics.com if this doesn’t make sense!

  • Killer post, but that link is dead. Not sure if that was just a one-time thing or not but thought you might want to know. Thank you for this helpful info!

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Hi Jerrold,

    which link are you referring to?

  • Ben says:

    Ryan,

    Great post. Far too often I see people who have changed websites without any consideration over what they need to do for SEO. Four important points, nicely covered.

  • This blog is AWESOME! I’m so glad I was surfing Yahootoday and found it. It was just what I was looking for! I have been doing this for awhile now and this even tought me something. Keep up the awesome work. I’ll be back to read more!

  • Hey, awesome blog.I saw this while using google with a semi related term. Reguards from Russia

  • Ryan Kelly says:

    Hi Thomasine! Thanks for reading!

  • this is great! this is great! this is great! this is great!

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