How to Build a Search Engine-Friendly Web Site: Understanding Critical
How to Build a Search Engine-Friendly Web Site: Understanding
Critical Touch Points
As a seasoned search engine marketing professional,
I’ve optimized hundreds of Web sites over the years. A vast
majority of the time, I’m brought into the Web development
process late in the game. Rarely am I brought in at the ideal time:
during the planning phases of a site design or redesign. This oversight
typically means higher costs and delays in the development process.
Due to this fact, my team of search engine optimization (SEO) professionals
has adapted to engagement during any phase of a W eb site’s
lifespan. Based on past experiences, we’ve identified critical
touch points during the site development process where
Web designers and optimizers must collaborate. Each of the following
Web development steps involves one or more touch points: site planning
and specification, site architecture, wireframes, design comps,
beta testing, site launch and maintenance.
Site Planning & Specification
In an ideal scenario, a company looking to create a new site,
or redesign an existing site, should engage SEO professionals from
the very start. The planning phase usually determines site objectives,
functionality and content. Building a search engine-friendly Web
site should be one of the objectives.
As such, the site functionality (or code) should be clean and content
are not inherently search friendly, and should be used judiciously.
Content should consist of HTML text containing keywords relevant
to each pages’ theme. If one of the Web site objectives is
to be search engine friendly, the site specification should be reviewed
and approved by an SEO professional.
During the architectural development phase, the W eb design team
typically determines the overall size and shape of the Web site.
Two important elements of site architecture to search engines are
the navigation and URL structure. Ideally, the Web site will have
at least one set of HTML-based navigation that can be easily “read”
and followed by search engine spiders.
From a content perspective, the architecture should include a
site map and custom 404-error page. For the URL to be SEO friendly,
it should be keyword-loaded (i.e. www.bmw.com/5series/M5) whether
it is dynamically created or not.
More advanced site developers often include wireframes, or early
design comps, that illustrate task flow and information architecture.
Even though this phase does not address creative elements or code,
it does illustrate basic page layout and contents. As such, a SEO-friendly
Web site should include HTML text and navigation (often in the footer).
The design comp phase addresses template design refinements, including
layout, colors and imagery. In this phase, the design team should
understand the impact of using HTML text for page headers instead
of text graphics.
In addition, the copywriter should be made aware of the impact
of keyword density, proximity and relevance on each page. The programmers
should be aware of the impact of their choice of platform and code
All sites should undergo a thorough quality assurance testing
phase prior to launch. During this stage, the SEO professional should
review the site on a page-by-page basis and provide specific recommendations
on ALT, META and title tags. In addition, they should review the
copy to ensure it is properly optimized.
About the Author
Kent Lewis, President,
Anvil Media, Inc.- With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis
left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his search engine
marketing career. Since then, he has focused on helping clients
solve business problems via the Internet.