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How to build SEO into new websites

It’s common practice now for new or redesigned websites to have their mobile version as a primary driver, and the desktop version built on this. In the same way, it’s essential to have an SEO advocate as a major player at the table right from the concept stage. However, this seems to be rarely entertained, often with a token SEO effort (such as adding page descriptions) being tacked on at the very end, or even worse, left until after the launch.

So how do we build in good SEO from the start?

A good domain name is important – if we’re just replacing an existing site, we need to ensure it has a good history. It should be on a fast, reliable host, and should specify a straightforward design that isn’t full of bloated code. I still have to remind myself that of all the sites I’ve created over the years, the fastest remains one that I designed myself from scratch, mainly to learn how to write the code. It’s staggeringly simple, because it’s not an off-the-shelf template full of options that will never be used, and consequently blazingly fast. It even passes the W3C validator with no errors.

When mapping out the structure of the site, I hope that by now we’re all past just replicating the business structure. We might find it important that the company has four divisions, but our customers don’t. They want the products and services they’re interested in grouped together, perhaps by application.

Similarly, SEO should have input to the structure. A new site or a redesign should draw heavily on any data from its predecessor (or research) as to what people are searching for. The big searches deserve high-level, prominent pages or sections. If there are 50 times as many searches for blue widgets as red or yellow ones, then maybe there should be two pages, one for blue and the other for red and yellow.

Also, we should think ahead to the content which is going to be written. Those unwritten pages answering questions or describing applications can be built into the site framework even if they don’t yet exist. A general section where all new content is thrown is simply not good enough.

Finally, well before any launch, the new site needs to be tested against Core Web Vitals of performance, responsiveness, and visual stability, as well as accessibility. The old adage of thinking of search engines as the visitors with the greatest disabilities still holds good.