It’s no secret that SEO is vital for any business seeking to obtain customers through organic search. However, typically site owners think about promotion only after the site is finished. SEO implementation at this stage is likely to cause additional complications and cost you time and money — the website may be an “eye candy” but not adapted for the search engines. In this case, you will have to add additional functionality and sections and consequently create a new design along with code while considering the SEO requirements. In order to avoid that, it’s best to think of SEO as early as during the development stage.

Relationship between SEO and web development

Relationship between SEO and web development

Why You Need SEO at the Development Stage

At this stage, clients often don’t understand why they should involve an additional expert if they can finish their site first and then worry about everything else later. In fact, SEO during the development stage is a strategic step and a must-have for running an online business. Optimizing the site at the very beginning will allow you to get faster progress in organic results and avoid mistakes associated with it. It’ll also help you consider the actual user demand at the time of the site’s creation.

SEO experts not only implement metadata but also provide recommendations on the structure of the future site, its technical aspects, usability, and adaptability.

Here are some benefits of implementing search engine optimization during the development phase:

  • Saves you time and money;
  • Reduces the pay-off period for the project;
  • Eliminates the need for radical modifications;
  • Minimizes the loss of previous achievements (as part of rebranding);
  • Prepares the site for a quick promotion;
  • Helps build the site with all the requirements of search engines taken into account.

Tasks of an SEO Expert During the Website Development

In the days past, an SEO expert’s work primarily revolved around optimizing the metadata (Title, Description), content, and link-building. Now their tasks went far beyond that.

Various tasks of an SEO specialist

Various tasks of an SEO specialist

Apart from external optimization and working with content, the purview of SEO also includes:

  • Analytical tasks — analyzing existing sites or researching a niche and competitors before it is created.
  • Technical tasks — analysis and recommendations for code optimization, preparation of documents required for the correct crawling and indexing, etc.
  • Consulting — advising other experts at the task implementation stage and assessing their impact on current results.

Let’s break down which tasks are performed at the site development stage and what they entail.

Preparatory Stage

Before starting the work on a project, it’s essential to obtain the primary data from the client. The main thing is the idea and theme of the site, its geo, and plans for further development. It is also essential to clarify the stage of the project’s implementation (initial discussions, layouts drawn up, and whether the engine is selected or the site is already in development).

Website creation and promotion start with a broad understanding of a business and its goals.

Additionally, we will request information about the competitors that the client is interested in. If there are none, our specialists will rely on their own experience to select the list of competitors with the client’s approval.

For a better understanding, we would need not only the name of the domain but also access to a site’s analytics systems such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, etc. This will help collect comprehensive information regarding the ongoing performance for us to maintain it. The old website’s data is also required if the site is rebranded.

Stage outcomes: understanding concerning the business goals and advancement in the same direction with the client.

Search Demand Analysis

After receiving data from the client, we conduct a search demand analysis — the volume of demand for the goods or services the business will offer through the site. It allows us to assess the degree of competition and the state of the market when it comes to a particular subject.

Identifying search demand is key to the success of your digital marketing efforts

Identifying search demand is key to the success of your digital marketing efforts

Determining search demand is critical when creating a hierarchy of pages on the site, e.g., sections and subsections. At this stage, we analyze search demand based on a significantly reduced number of queries because the complete collection and creation of the semantic core is a time-consuming process. At this stage, we need to identify the main markers and set goals for further work.

Stage outcomes: the main markers and goals for further work are identified and agreed upon.

Competitor Analysis

The SEO competitor analysis is a must when working with both ready-made sites and those still in development. The main goal at this stage is to define the primary competitors and to figure out their promotion strategy. We need to understand what pages they promote and how they manage to generate leads. On top of that, we must also assess the functionality of competitors’ sites and their strengths and weaknesses.

Main competitors according to Ahrefs

Main competitors according to Ahrefs

The identification of competitor sites is based on the main queries defined in the previous step. Additionally, we also consider the business model of your competitors, as it must be as similar as possible to that of your own.

During this analysis, we pay attention to the following:

  • Website’s structure;
  • Technical aspects of implementation;
  • The number of users and their distribution by page type;
  • Time until the first results are achieved.

As part of these efforts, it’s worth considering both the market leaders and the new fast-growing sites.

How users are distributed across competitor pages

How users are distributed across competitor pages

Stage outcomes: a table with comprehensive data on competitors along with the structure and functionality of their sites.

Building the Semantic Core

A semantic core is a database of search queries that describe the type of activity, goods, or services offered by the site in the most accurate way.

The semantic core considers users’ desires and interests while corresponding to the project’s business goals.

Once the main keywords are defined, the SEO expert will construct a complete semantic core for the site.

Complete semantic core for the site

Complete semantic core for the site

The exploration of semantics includes:

  • Collection of a list of keywords to cover the demand relating to the subject as fully as possible;
  • Distribution of requests into clusters (sections) as the pages will be generated based on them;
  • Determination of volume and competitiveness for each cluster.

Any mistakes at this stage could potentially derail further promotion efforts.

Stage outcomes: a complete list of key queries for users to find your site online (broken down into clusters with an understanding of demand and competitiveness for each of them).

Creating a Website’s Structure

The structure is the foundation of any site. If it is initially developed correctly, the further promotion will be easier.

A site’s structure, prepared by an SEO expert, allows covering all the queries in your niche and adequately distributing your site’s internal link juice.

SEO-optimized and non-optimized site structure

SEO-optimized and non-optimized site structure

At this stage, we take into account three sources:

  • Information about the client and their business goals along with a list of products or services;
  • Semantic core;
  • Analysis of competitor sites.

All pages are arranged with a particular hierarchy — from the general to the specific. This directly affects how convenient it will be for the users to find what they need and perform the target action.

Stage outcomes: detailed terms of reference for categories, subcategories, filters, and separate landing pages.

Technical Recommendations

Working out the basic technical aspects during the website development stage is essential. For that, the SEO expert offers recommendations regarding:

  • The structure of URLs and the principle of their formation. This is important for both search engines and users. The URLs must be friendly, and the user should be able to understand what page they’re on.
  • Website navigation. This also includes recommendations for implementing filters, breadcrumbs, and pagination. Likewise, the expert will suggest which links should be added to the header and footer to help both users and bots better navigate the site.
  • Sitemap formation — XML and HTML. The correct setup and timely implementation would allow the Googlebot and other web crawlers to crawl and index the pages better. Also, with Sitemap.xml, we can communicate which pages are more important, when the content was last updated, and whether there are different language versions for it.
  • Setting up the robots.txt file. This file allows us to adjust which pages can be processed by the web crawlers and which cannot. It can also help reduce the load on the site, limiting the number of requests from the crawlers.
  • Mobile version optimization. This is an essential ranking factor for search engines, Google in particular. Nowadays, when evaluating most sites, its algorithms are focused on mobile versions. You can lose significantly to competitors without correctly configuring the site for mobile devices, even if the desktop version is perfectly optimized.
  • Work with the page loading speed. Even at the development stage, you must ensure your site loads as quickly as possible. This can be done by configuring correct data caching, lazy loading for images, and eliminating the elements that might block the display.
  • Introduction of structured data. Structured data helps the bots better understand the content of your pages. It can also assist in getting rich snippets in Google’s output so that your site is more appealing and enticing for users.

Looking into these key points is essential for every site. However, this list can be expanded further depending on the type of site and its goals.

Stage outcomes: terms of reference regarding the revisions.

Content

Since search algorithms are still learning to understand scripts and images, we should also keep the content portion of the pages in mind. The content is as important as the technical optimization, so it’s best to take care of it during the initial stages.

Headings are an important but often overlooked aspect of good SEO

Headings are an important but often overlooked aspect of good SEO

The Title and H1 tags and the Description meta tag need to be added before launch. But for larger sites (online stores, service marketplaces), you can initially implement a template designed for each page type. This will be enough for launching and obtaining the first results, and later on, you can further refine these elements.

At this stage, we provide recommendations on:

  • Creating the h2–h6 page headers;
  • Optimizing the images — creating Alts and Titles.

Taking care of the anticipated text on the website’s pages is also necessary. Otherwise, the search engines may consider pages without the content of little value and exclude them from indexing. Depending on whether the client has their writers, this stage may involve only the preparation of the terms of reference for writing texts or the actual undertaking.

If we’re tasked with creating the texts, our agency’s copywriter, well-versed in the subject matter, editor, and SEO expert will participate in the process. The client can naturally coordinate the work, commenting and correcting the content.

Stage outcomes: optimization of page tags, meta tags, and headers; technical assignment for text creation or ready-made texts optimized for search engines.

Installation of Analytics Systems

To obtain the data on the visits and user goals, you need to install the tracking metrics. These allow monitoring the user behavior on the site and help you understand where the clients are coming from.

Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about your website visitors

Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about your website visitors

We can also generate and incorporate the code of the required service at the website development stage. Additionally, we will discover the goals and events that are important for your business to track.

We will create and connect the following accounts for your project:

  • Google Analytics;
  • Google Search Console;
  • Google Tag Manager.

When implemented at the development stage, analytics systems will begin collecting data from the first day of the project, providing you with a broad picture of user behavior on the website.

Stage outcomes: analytical tools are set up and configured.

Summary

SEO optimization at the development stage saves considerable time and money. As a result of optimization, you will get the site with:

  • Correct structure;
  • Interlinking implemented;
  • Basic optimization of pages for the queries;
  • Technical optimization consistent with the recommendations of search engines;
  • Analytics systems installed.

In future articles, we will delve deeper into SEO and cover the main points of on-page and off-page optimization. If you want your new site to attract more visitors from the search results page, feel free to drop us a line at [email protected]