“Launching a new site is easy” said no one, ever. Building an SEO friendly site is hard work. We know, because we’re an SEO agency with years of experience helping clients increase the amounts of traffic and qualified leads they generate from their websites.
We thought it was only fair to share what we learnt along the way. Sharing is caring, after all.
First things first; what is an SEO friendly website? An SEO friendly website is easy for search engines to crawl and understand – it doesn’t block them with noindex meta tags or its robots.txt file. It has a logical internal linking structure using descriptive anchor text and demonstrates appropriate levels of expertise, authority and trust (EAT).
Here are our top tips for building an SEO friendly website and getting some great SEO results.
Before your site launches, you’ll want to do the following:
Building an SEO friendly website means building a site that all search engines can crawl, understand and subsequently index. Once site pages have been indexed, search engines use them to deliver the most useful results to users based on their searches.
To create an SEO friendly website, you need to have a basic understanding of SEO. Therefore you need to read Google’s resources on how search works and its SEO Starter Guide. The Google Webmasters YouTube channel has also launched a Search for Beginners series to help you get started.
Do your keyword research
You need to figure out which keywords you need to target to attract traffic that’ll turn into leads. Read this for help: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research
Identify bottom, middle and top of funnel keywords
Bottom, middle and top of funnel keywords relate to customers at different stages of their purchasing journey. Those at the bottom already want your product, those in the middle are looking for further information and those at the top are the furthest away from buying something and are simply browsing looking for solutions to their problems. For example, someone searching for ‘What is digital PR’ is hoping to learn more about what digital PR is and is therefore higher up the sales funnel. Whereas, someone searching for ‘B2B PR agency’ is at the bottom of the funnel and likely ready to appoint an agency.
Plan your parent and child pages
Your parent and child pages should be based on bottom of funnel keywords. For example, if ‘animation services’ is the parent page, then different types of animation services are the child pages e.g. ‘explainer video animation’. You’re going to have to make a judgement call on whether a keyword is worthy of its own page. Long gone are the days when you’d have a page per keyword – if you’re doing that now in an attempt to manipulate search results, Google many punish you (“In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved.”).
Plan your site directory structure
To ensure search engines reach your most important pages first you need to organise your site in a logical way. Google has a good resource on site hierarchy and you can visualise your hierarchy using a tool like Gliffy. We cover this some more in our guide to B2B SEO.
Next, you’ll need to prepare your parent and child page content. When writing, you should consider:
- Target audience: Think carefully about this as it will help you produce more suitable content. Think job title, size of company they work at, specific vertical they operate in, what keeps them awake at night etc.
- Key messages: Which ones need to be included?
- Funnel stage: Is this content for the top, middle or bottom of the funnel? Remember, if it’s product or service landing pages you’re drafting, the content is bottom of funnel.
- Check what the SERPs look like: If this piece is designed to rank for a keyword/group of keywords then what do the page one organic search results look like when you search the keyword? Quick analysis will enable you to produce a piece that’s better than what’s currently on page one. Also are there any featured snippets returned for your keywords that you want to try and secure? If so you’ll need to produce appropriate content – check out the Moz guide on featured snippets.
- Searcher intent: What are the searchers trying to accomplish when they search for those keywords? What does the page need to do to ensure they’re satisfied?
- Length: If you’re hoping of ranking for a keyword then consider the length of the articles returned on page one. Bear in mind though, long content, for the sake of being long is no good – it needs to be good quality and useful to the user too.
- Target keyword: This is the main keyword/s that you want to target throughout your copy.
- Secondary keywords: This is the second most important keyword/s to target throughout your copy.
- Title tag: Target keyword should be at beginning of title tag – maximum length: 60 characters. Gear this towards encouraging clicks.
- Meta description: This should include the keyword, a CTA and read naturally – maximum length: 160 characters.
- H1: This is the header tag and should include the keyword.
- URL: Keep it under 60 characters and include the keyword.
- Content suggestions: These are the words and phrases that appear on the web pages returned by Google when you search for your target keyword. Not to be confused with the keywords themselves. Use the Page Optimisation tool within the MozBar to get these.
- Images and video: Consider whether the page needs an image or a video and does it need to be optimised? Consider Google and other search engines still struggle to get a handle on image and video content so you need to help them out as much as possible with descriptive captions, file names, surrounding text, alt attributes, schema mark-up etc.
- Internal links: If you’ve planned your directory structure you should have a pretty good idea which pages should link to which pages (i.e. child pages should link to parent pages and vice versa). Remember, Google likes descriptive anchor text e.g. ‘click here’ is bad, but ‘click to find out more about explainer videos’ is good
- Structured data: adding structured data may make your page eligible to appear in special search results – like recipe lists or product info (see full list of examples here) – it’ll certainly help Google better understand the content on your page
Find a web agency and produce a brief
So now you’ve done your keyword research, planned your URL structure and written a lot of your SEO friendly content, you’re ready to appoint a web agency. Most websites don’t require hugely expensive content management systems (CMS) and depending on your requirements, from an SEO perspective you’re as good aligning yourself with a WordPress agency as any other. Afterall, Google has actually dedicated an engineering team to developing the WordPress ecosystem.
At a basic level (and I can’t emphasise this enough – there’s a lot that goes into a website build) you want:
- A mobile friendly responsive website that doesn’t change its content when viewed on different size screens (e.g. make sure on a mobile all the H1s don’t suddenly disappear) – you have until March 2021 to get this right
- A secure website – get an SSL certificate
- A fast website – test it here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
- A website that’s easy to update. Request page templates and an easy to use CMS so you can quickly and easily add new pages and update content yourself
- Google Analytics (plus any goals you might be interested in e.g. form completions, button clicks etc.) and Google Search Console set up and ready to go on day one
- A user-friendly website. You don’t need to spend loads on user testing if you’re short on budget. Get family and friends to pretend to be customers and ask them to buy something/make an enquiry on your site, each using a different device mobile (Android and Apple), tablet, and desktop) once it’s live. Ask them to feedback on their user journey. Maybe your contact forms are too hard to find? Maybe the screen cuts off the form’s ‘Submit’ button on a mobile?
- A website that focuses on the user experience. Google uses a set of essential metrics, called Core Web Vitals, to assess the experience provided by your site. The vitals will act as a ranking signal. The metrics that make up the Core Web Vitals will change over time, but for now they focus on loading performance, interactivity, visual stability. If your website scores highly against these metrics, you’ll be on the right path to delivering a great user experience – which is exactly what Google wants!
- Other stuff to consider when putting your brief together:
- Uses canonicals – lets search engines know which the original version of your page is (useful in preventing duplicate content issues). Google has a handy guide here
- Uses an XML sitemap – a page on a site that tells search engines where the other pages are and how frequently they should be crawled
- Uses structured data to tell search engines what the important bits on each page are (easiest vocab is schema and easiest format is JSON-LD – this’ll help you get started: https://moz.com/blog/json-ld-for-beginners)
- Pipes PageRank (link juice from any links pointing at your website) around via internal, followed ahref links
- Has an easy to access HTML sitemap page e.g. https://toplinecomms.com/sitemap
- Uses hreflang tags to indicate regional pages (if you’ve produced pages for different territories e.g. you have one page for blue widget sales in America, one for blue widget sales in the UK and one for blue widget sales in Spain, you can use hreflang tags to let Google know which is which)
- Lots of descriptive internal linking using absolute not relative links – search engines want to know where they’re going when they follow a link on your site e.g. bad: ‘click here to find out more about animation services’ vs. good: ‘click to find out more about animation services’. An absolute link is one that includes your whole URL instead of just part of it e.g. bad: /animation vs. good: https://toplinefilm.com/animation
Create a content calendar
If you want to become an authority on your subject and what you’re selling, half-baked blogs won’t work. Focus on quality over quantity and produce fewer well-researched blogs that genuinely solve user intent. Aim for two of these per month, optimise for longer-tail keywords and use them for internal linking purposes. Always look at what’s currently returned in the search results for your target keyword and think how you can be better. Blogs could take five to ten hours each if you’re doing them properly – otherwise you just end up knocking out thin content for the sake of it which is fine if it solves a problem i.e. answers a common customer question, but pointless otherwise. Don’t blog for the sake of it.
Prepare the redirects
If you had an old site, then redirect all URLs from old to new. Tools like Moz can help you track links back to your old site, so you can work on getting them updated. Don’t forget legacy l.inks either i.e. links from an old old site pointing at your old site.
Got a new domain? Then make sure it’s added to your social platforms. It’s surprising how many people forget to do this and it’s really important.
Test your site
You must test your site before it goes live. Your ability to do this depends on your tech expertise and resources but we like the staging/testing environment to be noindexed, blocked by a robots.txt file and password protected so that we can ensure it doesn’t get indexed by search engines before we’ve finished testing it. You can use a free version of a crawler like Screaming Frog (it will crawl up to 500 URLs for free) to check for things like duplicate content issues.
Track your keywords
An SEO friendly site only fulfils that criteria if it actually ranks for your target keywords and attracts the right kind of traffic that then turns into leads, qualified leads and sales. Ensure you have keyword tracking set up before the site goes live so you can monitor progress and the results of your hard work!
Once your site launches, you’ll want to have a checklist ready to go through to make sure it’s working properly and generally doing what it’s supposed to do.
Here’s our mini checklist for your site launch:
1. Technical spot checks
- Is the site working? Check across a few different browsers.
- How fast is it?
- Can it be accessed on different devices (e.g. mobile, desktop etc.)?
- Are the contact details correct?
- Do the forms/contact email addresses work?
- Are your priority pages returning any errors? You can use a free tool like Page Insights to check individual pages, or use Search Console – you can submit individual pages to be crawled. We think Search Console is a better way to do it because it also enables you to check the page rendering i.e. what the search engine can see when it crawls your page. It’s important to check it can actually see all your page content, and you can a free tool like Google’s very own Lighthouse to check the whole domain.
- Is Google Analytics showing real time traffic and real time event completions (if you have events set up)?
- Crawl the new site to verify that there are no 404s or 301s (or any other 3xx, 4xx, or 5xx codes), no index directives, header tag issues or robot.txt issues.
2. Submit the site’s XML sitemap in Search Console (thus prompting the search engine to crawl your site).
There’s no getting away from it – launching a new site is hard work – and the above is a fairly basic one size fits all guide – every new site launch has its own nuances. But if you do it right and get your SEO strategy down from the start, then you’ll reap the rewards. Take it from us – over 70 percent of the leads we generate come through our website.
And, if you need help with any of the above, drop us a line!