Our Client Operations Director, Jade Coleman, and Web Strategy Director, Alan Rowe, have worked together over the past seven years connecting SEO and Web Development. In this post, they share some insights and best practice tips for getting the most from SEO and web development – from both a performance and operational perspective of both teams.
Prospect: “We’ve just appointed a web agency to work on developing our new website.”
ClickThrough: “Brilliant – are they SEO specialists?”
Prospect: “No, they’re web developers.”
Clickthrough: “So who’s taking care of the SEO side of the new website to ensure performance declines are minimal?”
Prospect: “Not sure.”
We regularly talk to our clients and prospects about planning for website migration, and this is how several of our new prospect conversations are panning out at the moment. In fact, this hasn’t changed in years.
We are continually hearing about new websites launching and performing badly, but when asked about SEO tasks completed as part of this launch, they’re minimal, if, at all.
In this post, we’ll shed some light on common reasons why new websites don’t perform as expected by exploring SEO tasks that require a developer, and why SEO is an integral piece of any website migration. You may also want to check out our guide on Best Practice Tips to Planning and Managing a Website Migration.
SEO and Web Development Work Hand in Hand
SEO is no longer content and link building. Today, most SEO strategies require a web developer for implementation, and many web dev implementations should be reviewed by someone with a keen eye for SEO.
Here are some SEO tactics that would usually require a developer for implementation:
- URL formatting
- Implementation of structured data
- Site speed improvements
- Improving mobile usability
- Canonical implementation
- XML sitemap updates
- International targeting
But the list shouldn’t stop here. For most websites we work with, organic search is the largest traffic source, but for so many it’s still an after thought when it comes to website rebuilds.
An SEO-friendly site is one where search engines can crawl it at ease and understand the purpose of every single page.
Here are some fundamentals that will ensure your website is set up to perform:
A slow website is frustrating for users, and search engine crawlers feel this too! It’s important to host your website where your audience is situated. If your audience is based in the UK, your website should be hosted here too. For example, on some WordPress sites we see a Time To First Byte (TTFB) of up to 1 second. With a niche host you can get this nearer to 70ms.
Content Management System
Your CMS should be the right one for your business – not chosen because its favoured by your dev agency. Many choose WordPress because of its all-round functions and ease of use but there are many more out there that may work better for your business. Most on page SEO errors we find are due to restrictions with the CMS. So, do your research beforehand.
Indexation & URLs
Search engines need to be able to read your website in order to understand what it’s about and to rank it accordingly. Although search engines are now super savvy, we suggest that your site is mainly text based. Ensure that videos, images and PDFs are optimised for SEO as they can be a great source of traffic if they contain useful content.
URLs play a huge part in understanding your site structure, for both search engines and visitors. Your URLs should follow the structure of the website. Woolroom do this perfectly:
Many sites choose to remove both the category and/or subcategory folders from URLs for product pages to avoid long URLs. For example:
This is fine to do but can be difficult when it comes to tracking. For example, wanting to see performance of all wool mattress product pages in Google Analytics. Without a unique identifier in the URL, this could be difficult for some sites.
Your internal linking structure is integral for ensuring your web pages can be crawled. The navigation should contain your most important pages, with anchor text relevant to the linked to page. Search engine directives and XML sitemaps should also be used to aid this crawling process.
Another area we commonly see is where AJAX is used to load more results (blogs or products). It is vital that the pagination links still exist in the HTML so that subsequent pages can be crawled.
Linked to this is filtered, faceted or layered navigation. In certain eCommerce platforms, the way that URLs are constructed can lead to infinite loops and essentially infinite pages. This confuses Google and dilutes the value of the primary navigation route to that product. Ideally, you would pay close attention to this and ensure the end result is planned for.
This is how SEO and Web Development go hand-in-hand.
SEO and Conversion Optimisation
We know the importance of SEO to any business that operates online, but many don’t make the connection between SEO and web design. As we choose to put conversion optimisation at the centre of the web design process, SEO should be factored in here too.
Search intent plays a huge part in SEO and this should be reflected when optimising for conversions too. Words such as ‘buy now’ or ‘call to book’ are not only beneficial for conversions, but can also aid in search engines’ understanding of the page. Thinking carefully about word choices and placement is vital to ensure that Google picks up on these signals, This is particularly important if you operate in the B2B space and perhaps do not offer true eCommerce, but wish to appear for terms where indirect purchase is still possible through lead generation. In some cases, you may need to even offer some form of limited true eCommerce to rank for such power terms.
SEO and Content migration
So often, a branding company is awarded a website rebuild and the new website takes a content simplification route to try to distil the business communications and make the website easier to use. This can really aid conversion uplifts but can be disastrous for SEO. We have seen numerous instances where many pages of high-ranking content are cut in a new website. It is vital to plan for this and work out how you can retain keyword-rich copy for deeper levels of reading so that you can still rank for those keywords without upsetting the user flow.
Working Together – WeB Development and SEO Teams
Often, these two teams work in silos. To ensure that both are benefiting each other in terms of performance of the website, its important each know what the other is working on, so best practice recommendations and considerations are made.
Getting both teams involved in projects may seem like a lengthy process, but can aid a faster turnaround of work. We have seen so many websites launch without SEO taken into account, only for additional hours having to be invested by a developer to correct SEO elements.
Communication between these two teams is vital, and tools such as Trello, Slack, Basecamp or Asana can be incredibly useful in ensuring the two functions stay connected. Regular catch-ups and project meetings can also be beneficial for spotting any red flags where one team should assist the other.
The cost of Web Development vs SEO
According to Payscale.com, the Average Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist Salary in the United Kingdom is £22,825 (1), increasing to £26,143 for those with 5-9 years’ experience. We can see this increase by 29% for roles in London.
When we look at the average Web Developer Salary in United Kingdom, this is higher at £25,420, increasing to £29,788 (2) for those with 5-9 years’ experience and increasing by 20% in London.
Cost of work can be varied for SEO and Web Development. Big site changes may need a few hours’ analysis time for an SEO specialist, but could be days of development and testing for implementation by a developer. That said, its not worth the risk on performance to not have the two teams working together on projects.
Are you planning a new website migration? Get in touch with our experts to find out how an SEO and Web Development strategy could work for you.