I was working on a client site and doing a site analysis for them when it hit me that if you follow certain steps when initially creating your website, you can avoid a lot of SEO problems that could come later on. These steps might not help you avoid all the problems associated with running a website, but they will definitely help in the long run and save you from wasting time correcting SEO problems later on.
Now I am going to assume you have your domain already picked out and your hosting is all squared away, so this post will cover the steps that follow.
- Keyword ResearchNow I know you are probably saying… “Why would I do keyword research before I even have a site made?” Trust me, having the keyword research completed before a single word on your site is drafted will help you out immensely. Having the keyword research done up front makes it easier to come up with a base as to what you want to focus on per page of your site. This is a great way to help build a map for your site as well. Do your keyword research, then take those keywords and develop an outline of how your site will look and flow. Try not to focus on more than 2-3 keywords per page and build your content around that focus.Use Microsoft Excel to organize your keywords and to help narrow down your focus. You can use Microsoft Visio or Microsoft Word to organize what keywords to use on what pages.
- Create the content
Ok… so first you want me to do keyword research and now you want me to create content before I even create my site? Precisely!! Why create a site when you have no content ready to implement into it? You would rather launch a website with no content and just a big fat blank page or would you rather launch a website with some substantial and highly relevant content on it? I think you know the answer to that question.Using the keywords you came up with in your keyword research create all your page content using Microsoft Word or another text editor. Check for spelling errors, review your grammar, and make sure it reads well. Have other people check it over. You want your content to look professional and more importantly you want to look like you know what you are talking about when you launch your new site.
If you are creating an e-commerce site make sure you have your products ready to launch with unique product descriptions on each of the product pages. Don’t use the standard product description that everyone uses when selling that same exact product, because you will be competing in the search engines for the exact same content as hundreds of other sites. And besides, marketing is all about product/service differentiation so make your website unique.
Don’t forget to also create a 404 page while working on your content. Your 404 page should be informative and let the visitor know they landed on a page that no longer exists or never existed. Your 404 page should utilize the same template as a regular page and will provide the visitor with a place to go in the instance that they land a bad page.
- Create page titles and tagsNow that you have all your content created, create titles and tags for all those pages as well. You could probably do this step while working on your content, it’s up to you. When you finish a page of content, go back and draft the title and tags while you still have it fresh in your mind. Remember your title tag is easily one of, if not, the most important on-site SEO factor. So don’t mess around with it, think hard about it and be sure to use your keywords in there. A good rule of thumb is to keep the title tag at a minimum of 80 characters (this includes spaces). Most of the search engines will only display up to 80 characters on the results page, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t index past this point. Either way, you do not want your titles to get cut off in the search engines so make sure your keywords and value statements are up front to keep this from happening. Keep them short and try and sell the page to get the click through.Descriptions are bit easier; search engines do not really put as much weight towards the meta descriptions anymore due to the lovely spammers out there. But they do use your meta description as the text in the search engines. So don’t just slap non-sense in there. Keep them short and straight to the point using them as another way to sell the page. If the title can’t convince users to click, your description might be able to.
- Find Images
This is another thing you should probably be doing while you are creating your content, or right after you finish a piece of content. Go and find some images for your site, whether that be through a free image site or another place (if it is from Google images or somewhere similar be sure to credit the author). Place those images in your content and make the content look all pretty and flow nicely for your readers/customers.After picking your image, be sure to draft an ALT tag to utilize with it. Having ALT tags on your images is important as they tell the search engines what the image is about. Don’t keyword stuff or spam your ALT tags, but try to describe the image in 1-5 words.
Also don’t forget to have a friendly image file name. This is something that is often overlooked by webmasters. If the image is of a green bowling ball don’t use the file name img2000129.jpg name is something more SEO friendly like green-bowling-ball.jpg
- Create/Develop the Site
Now comes the fun part for some people – developing the site. Whether you are using a CMS (WordPress, Joomala, Drupal) or going old school and doing straight up HTML, this should be where you start to build your site and bring your vision to life. Now if you are like me you will go through many different “looks” of the site. The beginning is the best time to do this. Find the look that you like the most and stick with it. If you are un-easy about the look, change it till you find the one that you absolutely love. You don’t want to launch your site only to feel the need to change it a week later. This could slow down the process of you getting indexed in the search engines and you don’t want that. This step, along with developing the content, will most likely take you the longest. No matter what look you choose, make sure you build it as SEO friendly as possible.The good news is that you should already have your content, titles, tags, and images all ready so the next step should be cake for you.
Be sure to also create your .htaccess file while you are in this step to avoid any duplicate content issues. If you need help
creating your .htaccess file you can check out my tutorial and tips on it. If you are on a windows server you should be able to find everything you need
- Implement content/titles/tags/imagesSo you have all your content created with fancy awesome images and super awesome titles and tags right? Great, and now you also have the core of your site built as well, you are really moving along nicely. Now here comes the fun but tedious part. Implementing all your content, images, titles and tags.Once you finish a page review it, make sure it looks good. Make sure the format is good and your image and text are all over the place. When you are happy with that look move on to the next page. Repeat till you have all your pages done.
- Setup/Install trackingIf you don’t already have one set up, get a Google Analytics account (or whatever tracking you would prefer). I highly recommend Google Analytics; it is easy to use and best of all it is FREE! For the sake of this post, we are going to assume you are going with Google Analytics. Set up your account or profile and Google Analytics will give you some code that will need to be placed on your website.We are going to hope that you are utilizing a global footer file so you don’t have to go in and edit each of your pages and add the tracking code to them. If you did then you just have to throw the Google Analytic code into that footer file (before the closing tag upload the footer file and bingo bango you are done. Now if you took the harder route and did not use at global footer file you are going to have to go into each of your individual pages and install the Google Analytic code. It may seem hard but it is worth it in the end as it will be how you monitor your success/fails.
- Launch SiteNow that you have all your pages done and your tracking is installed it is finally time to upload everything and MAKE IT LIVE YAAAAA!! Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Upload everything and then be sure to go back through and check all your pages and make sure they look great and the way you like them. Also go and check all your pages in all the major web browsers (FireFox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari) to be sure that your site will look perfect for everyone.Check and make sure your .htaccess file is working properly, that your redirects are in place and not screwing anything up. Make sure that your 404 page works correctly as well just in case.
- Monitor Results
Now that your site is live you are going to want to make sure first that you installed the tracking correctly so go into your Google Analytics account and make sure they are receiving data. Once they say they are, it is just a waiting game for you. Check your results daily/weekly/monthly and watch your traffic slowly improve over time (we hope).
- OngoingYou are going to have ongoing changes/additions to your site as you move forward. It is inevitable that it will happen. Create a new page or several pages every couple weeks if possible. Work on getting links whenever possible, go out there and broadcast your website be proud of it, you spent a lot of time on it and you worked really hard on it so be proud and flaunt it.
Wow… that is a lot of information I know, but I hope it was good information that will help you. It is always troubling seeing a site that has so much potential but it just wasn’t built right and it was just thrown up on the web with the hopes and dreams of becoming huge. Something I think many never realize is how much work goes into making a site popular. It isn’t something that is just going to happen overnight, it is something you are going to have to work hard for but in the long run it will be worth it. If you follow just these simple steps you will alleviate almost all or at least 90% of your problems that could arise later on.