One of the questions I hear often from many of my clients who decide to redesign or create their website is: why should they care about SEO at this stage, wouldn’t be better to first launch the website and think about SEO later, and, secondly, can you really do SEO for an unpublished website? If this individual wants or needs clients or customers, my reply when it comes to when we should begin SEO work is always the same: yesterday. But why is that many experienced marketers recommend beginning SEO before a site launch? How can that be done without an actual finished site? Let’s touch on that a bit here.
1. It is more difficult to fix a broken website than to just make it right.
When you have a long term plan for your website, when you know your goals and expectations, you basically have everything you need to optimize it. When you build your website, it is critical to align your marketing strategy with your web development strategy and your SEO strategy. They involve different skill sets and different resources, so you’ll want to avoid the situation when your SEO specialist comes to the conclusion that you have to redesign your website altogether, while your marketing team tells you it can’t convert anything because your audience can’t find your website.
2. Build a strong branding from the beginning.
After your website launch, you’ll want people to find it, to share it and like it in social media and start building some organic traffic. Of course, it will take months for a new website to start making a difference in search engines, but it is critical to making a good impression from the beginning, to build a strong, targeted audience and give them the feeling that you were there for a long time, as opposed to leaving a “work in progress” impression. It is after all embarrassing to be found on Google as “Just another WordPress website” (if ever found).
3. Cost reduction and time-saving
It’s not cheap at all to design, build and optimize a good website: a good, professional, customized website is expensive. You don’t want to redesign your website each year, so you should ensure that at least the basic technical SEO checkpoints are covered to ensure a good usability, ergonomics and accessibility. And it is easier and even critical to tell your developer from the beginning which will be your most important pages, what are the keywords, the titles, meta description etc. than to publish the website and pay an SEO specialist afterwards to do just that.
4. Content optimization
The content and the design go hand in hand and it is advisable and easier to write optimized content instead of changing it shortly after the launch. There are pieces of content particularly important for the SEO like headlines, image tagging, internal and external links, social media buttons and links etc. The content writers should have specific SEO guidelines to follow, which will make their work and yours a lot easier in the long run.
5. Start receiving organic traffic from the beginning
Organic traffic, which means the visitors who find your website using the search engines, by typing specific keywords they are interested in, it is critical from the beginning. The way you build it affects the way your pages are further indexed by Google, and you’ll want to make a good impression from the beginning. Ensuring fast page load times, a good user experience, making the information easy to find and creating a pleasant experience will increase your returning visitor rate, will increase the average time spent on the website, the conversion rate, the sharing rate, and other important indices, which will most likely propel your website on the first search pages, and, unlike paid advertising, will ensure a steadier growth.
6. Avoid transforming SEO into a “mission impossible”
I had many customers that wanted SEO long after launching the website to whom I had to explain why some things were impossible without doing a full redesign because the costs of optimizing them would have been higher than the actual benefit. Technical details like using flash files, using subdomains instead of subfolders, counter-intuitive navigation etc., can only be changed with great technical effort and sometimes are even impossible without reconstructing the entire website. You should at least be aware of them from the start and ask your developer about the consequences of using them.
7. Google punishes new domains
This is actually the most important reason for beginning your SEO work many months prior to launch. All marketers know that Google uses domain age as a ranking factor. What experienced marketers also know is that they actually “punish” new domains by placing them in what we love to refer to as a “sandbox” for a 2-3 month period immediately after being indexed. Why does Google punish new, unfamiliar domains? Simply put, they do not know yet if they can trust it. There are millions of spammy websites out there with bad intentions, and Google likes to have some time to figure you out. During this “sandbox” period, it is absolutely critical to have an experienced SEO professional work to establish authority and trust with the new domain. If you want your business launch to be a success, you do not want to be testing this out at that time. You want to have this period of time well behind you prior to launching your new business.
Now, that the competition in the online environment is fierce, the SEO should be, among design, development and content, one of the key factors of a website creation process. Of course, there is a great amount of work to be invested in SEO after the website is finished, a work that will never end, if you want to keep up with the competition. What makes the difference is the significantly lower financial effort, time investment and the significantly higher SEO efficiency brought by an optimization process started earlier in a website’s life.