Performance Marketing

SEO considerations for website projects

by Jessica Baker | August 20, 2020

In the previous post of this series, we outlined what performance marketing aspects to incorporate into a website project, and when during the timeline to address them. Now, it’s time to dive into specifics. Here, we’ll focus on the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for websites, and give you an idea of the business value of leaning on an SEO expert from the start of any new web project.

Why is SEO needed to have a successful website?

It’s important to consider SEO from the very beginning of any website project. If you’re doing a site redesign, rebranding, or handling an acquisition, addressing SEO from the start protects against losing a lot of organic traffic once the new site goes live. A website without a solid SEO strategy is essentially like moving a restaurant, but not telling the customers and ending up with a bunch of empty tables. Not great for the bottom line. A healthy B2B site generally sees well over 50% of its traffic coming from organic search, while 40+% of all site traffic to an ecommerce site originates from organic search. Therefore, SEO for ecommerce and B2B websites is extremely important!

To further underline the importance of having an SEO expert collaborating with your web team from the start: It’s not just about getting your site to show up in a Google search. How your site ranks plays a huge role in how well it’ll drive results. Position #1 for any given search query gets 31.7% of all clicks. Position #2 generally gets 24.7% of clicks—and it goes down exponentially from there. The #1 result in Google has a 10x higher click-through rate (CTR) compared to the #10 result on the same page! 

Performing quality SEO work before and during launch ensures your website pushes the domain’s authority in the right direction from the first time Google indexes it. It’s also a lot cheaper to incorporate SEO into your website strategy up-front versus having to fix it when it’s not achieving the results you were expecting later on. Waiting until post-launch to address SEO is essentially like paying someone to make site updates twice. When an SEO expert is collaborating with your web dev team from the start, they can implement SEO recommendations while your site is being built.

What’s the business value of investing in SEO?

Following the high-level timeline of any website project (Discovery, Strategy, Design, Development, Deployment), here’s the business value you can expect from an SEO expert at each stage. There are also things you can do internally to prepare and help streamline integration of SEO into your website and maximize return on your investment (see shaded box).

Maximizing the value of SEO for your website
* Identify any existing keyword lists (i.e., what’s already working; what’s not)
* Define target audience/personas
* Ensure there’s full understanding of the product or service offering(s) across your team
* Be clear on the goals for your new website
* Get a sense of what’s happening with your biz from a PR standpoint

SEO value in the Discovery phase

During this phase, an SEO expert will be helping set up the overall SEO strategy for your website project by working with you to learn about your desired goals and customer personas. For example, if you’re dealing with an acquisition, you may need to think about a migration strategy, or get an SEO perspective on whether or not to maintain two separate brand sites.

SEO value in the Strategy, Design, and Development phases

Determining a site’s information architecture (IA) is an important part of the Strategy and Design phases. An SEO expert can help you come up with a well thought out IA, which plays a vital role in how users and search bots navigate through your website and determine what content is most valuable to them. Most sites lose 50% or more of their visitors within the first 8 seconds of arrival. If people can navigate through your site easily, they’re far more likely to convert!

During this stage in your web project, SEO will also be dedicated to ensuring both technical and on-site SEO are where they need to be to avoid a massive dip in site traffic volume come launch time:

  • Technical SEO refers to optimizing your site for crawling and indexing. It also includes any technical process meant to improve search visibility. When SEO and your web developers have the opportunity to collaborate well before launch, technical issues can be addressed far more efficiently. Waiting until after launch means costly recoding dev work later. 
  • On-site SEO is the practice of optimizing web page content for search engines and users. Common on-page SEO practices include optimizing title tags, content, internal links, and URLs. Waiting to optimize a site’s URL structure and internal links until after the Development phase can end up causing issues such as redirect chains (that is, when there’s more than one redirect between the initial URL and the destination URL), which can really hurt organic performance at the time of launch.

SEO value in the Deployment phase

Up until this point, all work your SEO expert has been doing will help achieve a very worthwhile goal: Avoiding a major dip in traffic upon launch. One of the biggest indicators of a successful website launch from an SEO standpoint is if there’s little-to-no negative change in site traffic. Without SEO (i.e., if your website isn’t crawlable or optimized properly), you risk losing literally 100% of organic traffic.

Right before and immediately after launch, your SEO expert will be focused on your site’s technical health and will be addressing things like:

  • Crawling the site’s staging area, running down a pre-launch checklist
  • Measuring site speed and gauging mobile friendliness
  • Double-checking the sitemap
  • Establishing benchmark analytics for later comparisons

A site that’s not technically healthy can:

  • Make it difficult for search engines to crawl and index your site’s URLs
  • Lead to lower rankings in search results—site speed and mobile-friendliness are big ranking factors
  • Create a poor user experience, resulting in site visitors bouncing from your site and not converting

Why is SEO an ongoing effort?

It’s easy to become laser-focused on getting your site ready for launch and forget about all the work that needs to happen post-launch to ensure the new site is successful. Things like external linking, lots of monitoring technical health of the site, addressing 404 errors, keeping an eye on site load speed, keyword rankings, and checking backlinks to new pages.

Ongoing SEO support is a must-have because the digital space is constantly shifting depending on how people are using the Internet to make purchases and acquire services. Once you’ve successfully migrated your domain and launched your new site, the key is to focus on improving organic visibility over time. It may take a few months to see results when you’re optimizing your website against a robot, but we promise it’s a worthy endeavor that’ll help your business grow!

Our hope is that after reading this post, you’ll be convinced of the value of bringing in an SEO expert from the earliest stages of your website project to ensure your new site, and thus your business, is as successful as possible. The next installment of this series will cover Paid Media considerations for web projects.

About the author: Jessica Baker is an SEO consultant at Apiary Digital®. She has 13 years of experience and has supported major brands, including Sam’s Club, The Home Depot, Fandango, and Square.