I've been doing SEO for years and I can't get past the fact that optimization continues to be the "after thought" of website development. This was all well and good in the late 90's as SEO was just beginning to come onto the scene, or even in the early 2000's when SEO was moving into it's prime. Back then websites were always developed first and then considerations for online marketing came later.

But in the past couple years, as online marketing becomes more and more important to the success of any business, online or off, it simply no longer makes sense to wait until after a website has been developed to start thinking of how best to market it on the Internet. The two are so completely intertwined that doing one before the other often times causes you to have to go back and redo, or worse, undo things in order to create a compatible synergy between the website and its marketing campaign.

I often get calls from people exploring search engine optimization but want to wait until their website is fully developed and operational before they sign on with any particular SEO company. It makes sense on the surface because they want to make sure the site looks and performs properly before dropping money into a long term commitment to an online marketing firm. But that's like making sure your brick and mortar store is up and running before you develop your business plan. It should be the other way around.

With web development, the marketing aspects should be the driving force behind how the site is developed. There are so many things that can be, and often typically still are, done wrong from a search engine marketing perspective, but still allow you to have, my most measures, a fully functional and operational site. But rolling out a site that operates at less than it's full performance capabilities is not only a waste of time, it's a waste of money, even if you're not quite ready to put the thing into high gear.

It's not good enough to develop a site that has to be re-developed when you're ready to market it. You want to have a site built from the ground up that is SEO campaign ready. It's the difference between being able to give your car a tune-up vs. having to rebuild the entire engine.

Having a good SEO or SEM onboard during the development stage can save countless of hours and dollars. Here are just a few examples:

Database Driven Websites: There is nothing wrong with database driven websites, but the most common problems we run across is not having the flexibility to create unique Title tags or Description and Keyword Meta tags. We often require developers to go back and re-program their dynamic systems to accommodate. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes it's not.

Clean and Validated Code: More times than not we come across websites with over-bloated code. As a performance issue this may not mean much, but a lean website can speed up performance to the user as well as the ability for search engine spiders to quickly gather the information that matters, allowing them to move on to other pages of your site on a more frequent basis.

Content: Many sites are still not developed with content in mind. I still hear people say that they don't want too much text because it makes the page too long, destroys the look, etc. These are valid concerns, but a properly designed site can accommodate both a graphically intense layout (if that is what is desired) as well as quality content designed to enhance the ability of the site to sell. Not all visitors want to read a bunch of content, but neither are all visitors ready to buy if they are not given the right information to satisfy their desire for information on the product or service they wish to purchase.

In a previous article I talked about allocating your web site's budget properly. I explained how the development of your website should be considered as part of the overall marketing plan of your online business, not as simply a "development" expense. This is an important point that I think still too few online businesses are getting. Even those that do but then don't bring in their marketing team to participate in the website design and development process still dont fully understand what's at stake.

Before developing your website, picking your design and development should be secondary to bringing your optimization and marketing team onboard. The marketing team can help you interview and select the right designers that will build the site within the specifications and parameters that will be necessary for a successful marketing campaign, saving both time and money in the long run.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

March 22, 2006

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > SEO Your Website First, Design Later