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If you are building it, SEO it!

For modern businesses having a website is no longer a luxury, but a dire necessity. If you want to look trustworthy, authoritative and create to prospective clients the confidence that you are relevant and up-to-date, then you absolutely need to have a website, irrespective of the line of business you are in.

However, just having a website will not do the trick, as you need to make sure your website is as good as you think you business is, i.e. simply great! To convey this you need to purposely and carefully build your website and ensure, prior to its design and development that you consider and take the right decisions on a series of strategic SEO matters.

The purpose of this brief article is to draw your attention to those areas that you need to look out for prior to designing and building your website.

So, let’s begin with a brief overview over your overall strategy. Within this framework, the first issue that requires your attention is figuring out how to best communicate your mission online.

Once you have identified what your core values and your mission as a business or service provider are, then you should explore how you can convey and communicate these, online.

Are there terms describing the relationship between a customer’s problem and the solution you are proposing? Since such terms and keywords may not be searched for online, if this is the case, then you should create a brand association with the solution of the problem for specific consumer needs.

On the other hand, if the terms and keywords that interest you appear often in searches, you need to identify and understand how competitive they are. If you discover that competition is very tough, you should look for alternative or long-tail variations of what you are offering.

The next issue to tackle is whether you understand the segments of your customers.

To effectively do so, you should start by answering the following important questions:

How big is your market? Is your potential customer audience growing or shrinking?

What are your most important personas in terms of prospective clients – i.e. what are their demographics, motivations, roles, needs, etc.

How do these target audience members behave online and offline? What are their so-called touch points beyond the website? This kind of understanding will allow you to build the structure of your website, exactly around the stages your customers need to pass before they reach their goal.

The next important question to address is who your online competitors are. When you know who you are competing against, you will be able to decide better on issues such as site architecture, user experience and outreach. When dealing with this, keep in mind that there are 3 main types of competitors: The so-called search competitors: they are the ones who manage to conquer the first places in search engine results for the product or service you are offering. Obviously, they compete for the same keywords as your but it is possible that their actual offering is somewhat different than yours. The so-called business competitors: they are those market participants who are currently solving the same customer/consumer problem you are aspiring to solve too. The so-called cross-industry competitors, who are the ones that solve the same consumer problem in an indirect way. To be able to compete against them effectively, you need to study them and find out: What is their size and performance? How do they manage to stand out? How strong is their brand? How is their link profile? Does their website architecture have something special?

Having briefly identified the strategic decisions you need to consider and decide upon prior to designing and developing your website in order to enable it to maximise your chances for business success, let us now also briefly overview certain more technical considerations.

To begin with, you need to decide on simple matters such as whether you will use HTTP or its secure version the HTTPS, which encrypts all communications between your site and web browsers and enhances the safety feeling of your site visitors.

Another issue of a technical nature that you should address is deciding on the version of URLs to go with. When taking this decision, remember that there may be problems with duplicate content when Google has access to the same content through multiple URLs. Without a clear version, the pages will compete with each other for no reason. It's good to remind the developer of your website that each separate piece of content should only be accessible through only one URL.

Yet another crucial issue to have in mind when setting up your website is site speed, since this is extremely important in the eyes of users and greatly affects their overall user experience. Be aware that since website developers are often pressured to quickly deliver the code, it is possible that they may neglect factors that affect the speed of the page. To avoid this from happening in your case, clarify from the very beginning that you consider the speed of your site to be very important and your developer should respect and accommodate this effectively.

When it comes to the matters of languages and locations, you will need to decide whether your site will be multilingual, multi-site, or both. Issues such as localized keyword research, and duplicate content are better dealt with and settled before the site is built.

Editing and Adaptability are also very important considerations for a successful business website. This is so because all search engines, and especially Google, update their recommendations and requirements continually. Your platform must be flexible enough and adaptable to allow for and be able to accommodate such frequent and rapid changes, in an easy and timely manner.

In terms of your website’s design, and more specifically its architecture and internal linking, it is good to keep in mind that a properly structured architecture is vital for search engines to find your content and present it to users. If crawlers can not reach your content, how can they rank you well? Therefore, where possible, try to create a flat site structure that will keep all the pages at most 4 clicks away from the original one. This allows search engines and users to find the content they are looking for with as few clicks as possible.

Use keyword and competitor research to see which pages the site should have. On the other hand, the way the pages are grouped and linked should be user-centered and aim at making any user’s visit on the site easy, enjoyable and memorable.

What we probably cannot stress enough is the importance of content-first design and the amount of consideration that needs to go into deciding the kinds of content that your site will contain. The content strategy to be followed needs to be developed at an early point to allow the understanding of the kinds of formats you will use and, therefore, allow the identification of what kind of functionality they will require.

Yet another pivotal technical aspect when building your website has to do with machine readability and the preferred use of structured data. Though nowadays most websites use and incorporate a range of technologies (such as Javascript, Flash and Ajax), such technologies may well create difficulties for crawlers, making it harder for them to read a page. Such technologies do indeed improve user experience, but since they can also cause some problems, it is good to bear in mind that in order to improve readability, you should use structured data.

Last but not least, and perhaps the most important, when designing your online presence, is the matter of responsive design. With the massive increase in use and penetration of mobile and smart devices creating a uniform yet superb user experience across all types and kinds of devices should be your ultimate goal, and responsive design is the faster route that will get you there.

As your new website may well prove your most important ally and your most effective and efficient tool on your way to online success, it is worth investing time, thought, energy and effort to take the best decisions, apply the most appropriate SEO strategies and techniques and make your investment to a business website work best for you and your visions.

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Posted by

George Milios

SEO Expert, Marketer

When I’m asked what I do for a living, I debate in my head how to answer the question. Should I say: "I’m an SEO" and wait for the inevitably confused look? Perhaps I should go with my best friend’s answer, instead: “He looks through and organizes information on the internet to get high rankings on Google.” You have to admit, anyone who can organize the internet is probably pretty cool. Should I keep my answers brief, or should I take a little time and educate them about the awesomeness of SEO?

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