Most mid-sized B2B companies recognize that their inbound traffic is lower than it should be. A fair number of these companies probably also recognize that to a large degree, this is caused by not optimizing their websites for search engine traffic. Because Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still considered a “black art” by many, marketing teams often avoid an SEO campaign because they simply don’t know when, where or how to start. They delay their SEO initiative, ostensibly waiting for the right time to finally tackle the SEO beast. And from their perspective, that “right time” is usually after the next major website rework.
Their logic is to build it first, and then optimize it afterwards.
But that logic is unfortunately faulty, and thus expensive. Leaving your SEO campaign till after the website is built or reworked leads to costly problems down the road. It’s like hiring the contractor to build your dream-house before you hire the architect. Progress appears rapid. At first.
In this post, we’ll give you a sampling of the key structural issues and implications that you must consider as you design your new SEO-friendly website. These issues, if ignored, will limit the SEO potential of your website for the rest of its life!
Design Issue #1: Make content spider-friendly.
And watch the hash (“#”) tag. Programmers love to use this parameter to dynamically create detail pages, and it is not uncommon to find a url structure like www.abc.com/ widgets/#big-widgets . Unfortunately Google ignores anything after the hash tag, and so your “big-widgets” page simply won’t get indexed. If you don’t catch this up front, it means having to reprogram the site later.
Design Issue #2: Add an easy-to-use Content Management System
Search engines love websites that serve fresh content. And that means having a content management system that allows your marketing team to easily update and upload new content without the help of a programmer.
Design Issue #3: Make sure your CMS system gives you full SEO parameter control.
Make sure your Content Management Systems is SEO-friendly, and gives you control over the important SEO parameters – like pages titles, alt-text for images, anchor text for hyperlinks, <H> headline tags, etc. Otherwise you will not be able to control your SEO destiny.
This includes being able to deftly handle duplicate content: like archive files, tag files, and dynamically created product pages with essentially similar content. You need full control to add “no-index” tags and “canonical” tags where needed to ensure the search engines don’t penalize you for having duplicate content.
Design Issue #4: Use a flat architecture
Flat architectures are easier to crawl and index than deep architectures. Here’s a rule of thumb. For sites with fewer than 10,000 pages, any page should be accessible from the home page with no more than 3 clicks. Now that’s an SEO friendly website!
Design Issue #5: Keep your url naming structure simple.
Search engines love static urls, like www.abc.com/widgets/big-widgets . They don’t like dynamically created pages with a url structure like www.abc.com/widgets/index.html?&DID=18&CATID=79 . The more dynamic parameters, the less likely search bots will index the page. Also, such dynamic url structures do not allow you to place meaningful keywords in the url.
Design Issue #6: Resolve Domain and subdomain issues up front
If your company is not yet the 800lb gorilla in your market, and your corporate name is not yet top of mind with prospects, you will be much better off to base your domain name on your primary keywords, rather than your corporate name. Instead of www.abc.com , consider using www.mechanical-widgets.com. For mid-sized companies, it’s a sure way to improve your rankings on your primary keyword phrase. You’ll want to make this change as early as possible; otherwise you’ll have to go through elaborate 301 redirects later, which can affect both your traffic and your rankings over some period of time.
The same goes for subdomains like http://catalog.abc.com , where “catalog” is the subdomain of abc.com. Subdomains can add unnecessary complexity, and can reduce the SEO value of your entire site. So unless really needed, it is a good rule to avoid structures like subdomains.
Design Issue #7: Develop your keyword identity first, and only then build your content.
This is the biggy: If you haven’t developed your keyword identity upfront, how will you know what content to create? And if you build your content first, and then only later define your primary, secondary, and long-tail keywords, you’ll have the herculean task of going back and modifying all the copy, all the titles, all the anchor text, etc. Even after such a massive rework, chances are the content will be awkward and misaligned, leaving your website visitors cold and heading for the exits.
Other Design Issues: The above list is by no means complete. Creating your particular SEO-friendly website design really depends on the individual characteristics of your site. For example, international businesses have concerns around multiple languages, and whether to have one central international site, or several locally-hosted national sites.
But the message should be clear. Add real SEO expertise to your website redesign team, right upfront. If you don’t, you’ll pay the price later.
Related posts in this series:
- Managing your SEO Campaign – A survival guide for B2B Marketing Managers. The overview post for this series, aimed at giving Marketing Managers the big picture on what they need to know to successfully manage their SEO initiative, without having to become an SEO expert themselves.
- What to look for in an SEO consultant to ensure success. A simple but effective one-page checklist to ensure that your SEO consultant knows his/her stuff and is able to deliver on the big promises.(coming soon)
- How to best track, measure, and manage your ongoing SEO performance. Some of the brightest SEO minds in the business have helped to create this SEO scorecard that you can use to keep your SEO strategy on track. (coming soon)