How to Build a SEO Friendly Website

One of the most critical errors businesses make is ignoring SEO in the initial web design process. Many of these errors can be covered up or improved slightly, but large gaffes in design can cause long term traffic loss and a quick path to an unsuccessful business.

Sometimes web designers can consider themselves proficient in SEO, but still miss certain areas in the design process, or not want to interfere with design dreams of the businesses they are creating a website for. As a business owner, it is important to keep every step of the web design process in mind and be knowledgeable about it when thinking about your own perfect design.

Step 1: Domain Registration

Ideally, a good domain name will be short, and contain some relevant keywords for your business. At this late stage in the domain registration game, if you aren’t willing to pony up a good amount of cash for a domain name, this is unlikely. A better bet is to use your company name and ignore “over-SEOing”, a frequent error of many business owners.

Keyword Stuffing in URLs
Instead of using a business name, many businesses will flood their URL with keywords in their vertical, hoping that this will mean immediate rankings in the search engines. While it may help in the short term, these kinds of domain names will lower usability, result in less clickthroughs, and also less links to your site as other linkerati determine the same thing.

Bad Example #1 – http://www.losangelescaliforniacosmeticdentist.com

Bad Example #2 – http://www.couponsdiscountspromocodes.com

Hyphenated URLs
Hyphenated URLs are commonly used because the initial keyword combination has already been registered. Unfortunately, these URLs aren’t nearly as attractive as they may seem. Studies suggest that these are seen as a poor quality signal to the search engines, and they retain many of the same qualities as the URLs that keyword stuff: lower clickthrough rates, and a strong sign that your website is not one worth linking to.

Bad Example #1 – http://www.sports-news.com

Bad Example #2 – http://www.cheap-airline-tickets.com

Poor Top Level Domain Choices (TLDs)
There is more data (and popular opinion) to suggest that many TLDs are looked at poorly over more popular TLD choices, such as .com, .org, or .net. While it isn’t a necessity to choose one of these TLDs, it’s our strong recommendation that you only choose a differing TLD if it enhances the brand or user experience in some way.

Good examples of ways a TLD can enhance user experience are with URL shorteners (bit.ly, is.gd), a music site (last.fm, has a connection to radio FM band), or television (TNT.tv).

Using it primarily as a way to get your keyword in the URL is probably a bad idea and will lead to the same long term problems that the previous two mistakes create. Even if the search engines view all TLDs equally, users don’t.

Bad Example #1 – http://www.sportsnews.biz

Bad Example #2 –  http://www.cheapairlinetickets.tv

Step 2: Website Planning

And next comes an arguably more critical part of the implementation process – the website planning itself. From top to bottom, SEO must be kept in mind, or the website will face some long term problems that may be difficult to repair.

URL Structure & Site Architecture
The biggest, and most difficult to repair problem with many websites is their initial URL structure and Site Architecture decisions. If a company starts a website and creates a five-level-deep site architecture to get to a prominent keyword, such as http://www.website.com/shop/buy/keyword.html, there is a significant link juice distribution problem that may be near impossible to repair.

Business websites should have URLs they want ranking two levels deep, at most. The deeper in the URL and internal linking structure a keyword is, the more difficult it becomes to get that page to rank for the targeted terms. Furthermore, some companies won’t even have keywords in the URL, making it even more problematic to get the desired results in the SERPs.

Content Usage
Content problems come in two forms – not enough of it and duplicating it too often. Some websites will use Flash and JavaScript too heavily and completely ignore standardized text. This text is a strong sign of keyword relevancy to the search engines and is vital to get pages to appear properly optimized for a search term you want to rank for.

If you are putting this text in JavaScript, Flash, or within images, you are short sighting your SEO efforts. Strong content is important both for user experience, and for helping the search engines connect your website to the keyword you desire.

JR.com has insufficient content on the page for MP3 players.

The second mistake is content duplication. Several websites will repeat a piece of content on several pages, most often product pages. This can come off as a duplicate content error to the search engines and cause some pages to be deindexed or devalued, or worse, make the search engine hate the entire site.

As a standard, try keeping about 30% of your content on page unique, if not more. If you have difficulties creating unique content for an enterprise-level site with thousands upon thousands of product pages, think about outsourcing content creation to cheap content providers such as Textbroker, Odesk, or ELance for affordable writing options.

Title Tag & Image Optimization
Other new designers will often forget to properly optimize their title tags or images for their SEO efforts. Luckily, this error is the most easily fixed, and can be done after the fact without much issue. However, a lack of initial title tag and image implementation is probably a good sign that the actual page itself is not properly optimized for a keyword, something that might not be so repairable after the fact.

Keyword Research
When initially implementing your website, you should have already done thorough keyword research on your industry. This will give you a structure to base around when creating your pages, navigation, and overall strategy. Even if you do every other step right, if you’re targeting keywords with little traffic opportunities, much of your effort is wasted.

Step 3: Website Rollout

There’s more to the initial design process than just the on-page design. How you roll out your SEO campaign can be a strong impact on how quickly you rank in the SERPs, and a mismanaged implementation can mean a four or five month process of getting your site seen as trusted in the search engines.

Beta Invites
If your business is some sort of web application, a good way to get links, and hype, is by offering beta invites to power bloggers on the internet. They will frequently write reviews of your service, offering high quality link juice, and also provide some much needed hype if your application is indeed up to snuff.

Don’t just send out a template to reach these bloggers. Throw out personalized, detailed inquiries that will grab these influencers. For a good list of tech influencers and a little inquisition on how they like people to query them, check out Techipedia’s post on How to Get an Influencer’s Attention.

HQ Link Directories
Every website should start their rollout by submitting to the biggest, most trusted link directories immediately. Single Grain recommends Best of the Web, Business.com, Joeant.com, and the Yahoo! Directory.  Getting your business on these four directories is a great first step to getting seen as a reputable site to the search engines.

Local Listings
If you’re a local business, make sure you get your business cited and submitted to as many local listings as possible. Getting in the “10-pack”, or the local results, is relatively easy if you optimize efficiently. You can use Getlisted.org to see if you’re included in the most important local directories.

You’re ready to start! The SEO process isn’t done, actually, it’s just beginning, but at least you haven’t ignored the implementation steps that matter most if you utilized this list. As you progress forward, think about structuring a SEO campaign with long-term focus. This important next step will help your site continue its’ success in the SERPs.

Ross Hudgens is a SEO Analyst for Single Grain. Follow Singlegrain on Twitter here.

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