Many people overlook the importance of website planning and developing an SEO strategy when beginning the process of redesigning their website. However, skipping this step is tantamount to picking out all of the furniture and interior décor for a room before a blueprint or floor plan had been created.
Website planning should be the first step in the long process of building a new website, and the SEO strategy and architecture that result are an integral piece of the project’s post-launch success. What follows is a guide for how to do website planning and ensure that an SEO strategy has been created before the website heads down the design and development path.
Goals of Website Planning
- Create a user-friendly and search engine friendly platform.
- Plan a website with flat architecture.
- Create intuitive information architecture and website navigation.
- Optimize the internal linking structure for SEO, usability, and flow of traffic and authority.
- Plan a site based on keyword research, focusing on page structure and page targets.
- Ensure that all onsite factors have been optimized for SEO based on the keyword research before launch, including:
- Title Tags & H1 tags
- URL structure
- Alt Tags
- Develop a comprehensive content strategy that will support the website goals.
- Create a complete SEO Strategy that will remain an integral part of the process as it moves to design and development.
Step 1: Client Intake
Client intakes are an essential part of website planning. Without in-depth discussions with the client, it is impossible to fully understand their needs and goals.
The primary focus of a client intake should be to:
- Learn about their business/organization.
- Discuss website functionality and website goals.
- Discover where the business is headed so that the website is forward thinking in its representation of the company.
- Learn who the client’s competitors are in order to make sure they are competing with the right people in the online marketplace.
- Discuss potential ranking keywords.
Step 2: Keyword Research
- For website planning, the goal of keyword research should be to inform your website architecture, content strategy & information architecture, internal page structure, and internal linking structure.
- Make sure the client is focusing on the right kinds of keywords and that your keyword research aligns itself with company goals and priorities.
- Utilize your keyword research to develop your content strategy and page structure for the site.
- Every keyword target that you find should have a page dedicated to that phrase (as long as there will be valuable content to back it up).
Step 3: Initial Website Architectural Outline
With your keyword research and company goals in hand, develop an initial sketch of the website architecture. Make sure to keep the following points in mind.
Architecture should be flat
Flat architecture is essential for website planning because it creates a strong backbone for future SEO.Flat architecture means that you don’t create unnecessary layers of page depth (or extra clicks) to important pages throughout your site.This is essential for user experience and SEO. Pages don’t pass 100% of their link juice, so every extra layer of depth you add means that page is receiving less link juice and authority, hurting its chance for rankings.
Additionally, search engines stop indexing pages at a certain level of depth, and if your pages don’t get indexed, you can’t achieve rankings for those pages.
And finally, flat architecture creates a more positive user experience.
Navigation should be intuitive
Categorization should be logical. Create intuitive and logical information architecture and categorization.
Step 4: Wireframes
Wireframes for SEO should not focus on design, but instead on architecture, content strategy, and internal linking. When creating your site architecture, it is very important to think about not just linking vertically, but also creating a flatter architecture by cross-linking to related products, related articles, etc.
Wireframes should also demonstrate the type of content that will be on each page.
Step 5: Onsite Elements & SEO Strategy
Once the wireframes and architecture have been finalized, the final element of creating an SEO strategy is to create a comprehensive strategy document for the client outlining the following:
- Keyword research and analysis. What does the keyword research tell the client about the market, where they should be heading, and what keywords to target?
- Title Tags and heading tags (H1) need to be written for every page.
- Detail the target page strategy to the client. How have you created an architecture that best supports the pages you intend to focus on in terms of rankings?
- URL structure. This is also especially important for very large sites or ecommerce sites and should reflect the keyword research and site architecture.
- 301 redirect strategy. When creating a new site, it is important to retain as much authority and link juice from old pages as possible by creating permanent redirects.
Step 6: Implementation
Make sure your SEO team remains an integral part of the new website as it progresses into website design and development to ensure that your strategy is not lost.