Website Development and SEO – Creating SEO Friendly Website

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7 min read

Fortunately, times of vigorous link building and spammy keyword stuffing have passed, and hopefully will never come back. Modern SEO focuses on the quality and value that a website can bring to its users. Thanks to AI-enabled search engine algorithms, organic marketing has resurrected in a new and more complex way than ever before. Comprehensive SEO strategies combine not only old-good staples such a keyword research, competitive analysis and on-page optimisation, but also covers in-depth content creation, technical website improvements, as well as oftentimes, Conversion Rate Optimisation and Online Reputation Management.

This being said, too many businesses neglect SEO during the early stages of website development and redesign, making optimisation harder post-factum. Too often businesses and webmasters tend to separate web development and SEO into different stages, missing out on some essential elements. Whereas modern SEO and web development go hand in hand, and the earlier you can involve SEO specialists into your website creation planning the better.

In this article we will cover the most common development and web design mistakes that can cost you your future SEO success and have you spending more to correct issues that could have been avoided altogether.

SEO Website Development is Not What You See – It’s What You Don’t

As mentioned in the intro, modern SEO is more technical than ever. Ignoring the importance of involving SEO professionals during the website development stage can cost you more than you imagine. In some cases, webmasters have to completely rebuild their brand-new sites to have a chance for any SEO success.

This is due to some knowledge and expertise discrepancies between technical SEOs and web developers. First and foremost, we don’t mean that developers don’t know what they are doing, they do, and they definitely have a deeper technical knowledge for coding than marketers. However, their goal is completely different. Developers focus on the website itself, ensuring that it is and will be functioning as it should, that all components are included, that the backend is configured correctly, etc. Developers work for their clients, not their target audience, and not Google.

For example, sitemaps are not necessary for the website to function, incorrect canonical tags or hreflang implementation do not directly impact “technical” website performance, so as any heading can be styled to fit the desired website design without any additional “H”-tag hierarchy. Visually everything will look fine, technically the website will work. However these missing or incorrect elements can cause major duplicate content issues, problems with indexation, and weak targeting signals.

An SEO professional might not know about 100% of what a web-developer does in terms of coding, however, it is the difference in their focus and expertise that can make or break your future organic performance.

For example, certain CMSs (for instance Magento) might be a great choice for E-commerce websites from a functionality standpoint, however, they might also have, by default, non-SEO-friendly URL structure that can cause issues with crawlability, duplicate content, and therefore indexation of the website by search engines. The more complex the website is, the more challenging it might be to resolve these issues after development is complete. Whereas it is possible to modify and customise the website during the early stages and avoid these issues altogether in the first place.

SEO Website Design - What to Keep in Mind

seo planning

When building a website or redesigning an old one, one of the most important elements and by far the most scrutinised aspect is the look and the feel of the website. This includes images, colour scheme, overall branding, and, of course, the layout. Design is probably where the vast majority of your efforts go, at the end of the day, website design is the face of your company.

Oftentimes website templates, and sometimes, even the CMS is chosen due to the design opportunities prior to functionality and definitely prior to SEO friendliness. While there is nothing wrong with impressive-looking websites, putting the looks first can significantly limit your SEO potential.

Choosing a template and the layout of the page before consulting with an SEO professional can significantly limit targeting potential. The popularity of both very clean designs and heavy visuals often significantly reduces the possibility of adding any text, which is crucial for SEO targeting. While you can most certainly make your website minimalistic or use video elements, forgetting about text areas before approving the designs can make it very difficult to amend it afterwards, especially when you are already deeply in love with the way the website looks. It is much harder to find a compromise once something is fully set then to find a solution during the development stage. SEO website design should not only be beautiful but also functional and informational (for both users and Search Engines).

In order to come up with an optimal ratio of text to visual components, an SEO expert would perform keyword research in order to establish the topics that would need to be covered on a target page, as well as competitor analysis to identify the industry SEO standards. This information would then be passed onto content writers, developers, and of course clients to come up with the best solution that would cover all essential aspects for all parties involved.

Website Content with SEO in Mind

Another crucial element of website development, re-branding, and re-design is website copy. A website can’t go live without any text in place. The more pages you have on the website the more content will need to be created, and the longer it will take.

Content is the cornerstone of modern SEO, and one of the most important elements for organic success. Creating website content with the plan to optimise it afterwards is always an option, but before deciding on it, it’s worth consulting with SEO professionals first.

Website content can affect website design

Aside from informational and branding purposes, content can carry significant design value as well, especially when it comes to headings and subheadings. Font, styling, size, and the amount of words that fit into an H1 or H2s on a specific page can affect your SEO targeting potential. Creating very short, catchy subheadings can look good until SEO keyword research will reveal that the most promising target term for a given page has 4 long words that simply cannot fit into your design and will look completely unnatural.

The same can happen in case you use text boxes or image overlays to divide pages into sections. The “lorem ipsum” and the copy created based off of a draft can look great. But with a word count of 20 words per section, you might be sabotaging your chances to compete within more informational landscapes.

This doesn’t mean that you will have to create insanely long web pages full of keywords, but before creating copy, it might be worth analysing your SEO competitors (meaning websites ranking for your desired terms, not just business competitors) before you decide on the content you are writing. If the competitor analysis reveals that all ranking pages in the top 10 of Google have less than 300 words, you can safely go with a minimalistic page. But if your competition average goes off-scale with over 1,500 per page, you might not stand a chance even with 500. Adjusting to such a different amount of content afterwords will essentially mean another redesign.

SEO design and duplicate content

Another common trap can be the lack of targeting and content whilst seemingly having a lot of text. This is typical for so-called lobby pages, and it usually happens due to over-templating of pages and using too many “pulled” content sections (overviews of other pages where text is being automatically taken from those pages). This can result in a significant amount of duplicate content and dilution of SEO targeting, meaning that too many pages are similar and none of them specific enough for any of them to rank.

Again, in some cases a few duplicate sections can be safe and even user friendly, however, it might be hard to intuitively identify problematic areas without full SEO keyword research and mapping of the target terms to pages across the site.

Website Design and SEO Services

website design and seo services

If you don’t have an SEO team in house, you should definitely consider professional SEO consultancy before or during your development. Depending on your needs and budget, there are a couple of options to choose from.

Find a Company that Provides both Web design and SEO services

There are many companies that claim that they provide SEO-friendly web development, however, if you are not fully familiar with SEO yourself you shouldn’t take their word for granted. Instead do your research before talking to their sales person. Try to establish if it is a development company with a few SEOs in house, or if it is an agency that provides both services in full. Keep in mind, many companies will not give you any significant discount even if you go for both services. So if in any doubt, go with 2 separate providers for each service to ensure the best quality.

Hire Professional SEO services

The best choice would be to hire professional SEO services. Whether you prefer to go with an agency or an independent consultant, an on-going SEO will be the most beneficial choice in the long run. A trusted SEO expert will help you build the website hierarchy, improve technical website performance, create on-page and content targeting, as well as ensure a smooth transition in case you will be going through a full or partial website migration.

Additionally, since they will start working on the website during the early stages of design and development, by the time the website will be built they will learn your industry and competitors, which will help to create a more efficient SEO strategy post launch.

Consider One Time Consultancy

It’s not a surprise that website development and redesign can be quite pricey. Working with our clients, budget is, generally, one of the main reasons why companies separate SEO from the website creation. We have already outlined why building a website without SEO in mind isn’t a good idea, but we fully understand that certain limitations might not be possible to overcome. In this case, you might consider a one time SEO consultancy project to help you plan the initial website hierarchy and identify the main potential challenges for developers to focus on. This way you will have some guidance through the project with a limited budget, so that you have a solid foundation in place that can be further improved after the website is live. And most importantly, hopefully, you will not have to invest in fixing the issues or even rebuild your website due to development limitations.


Gideon has over a decade of experience in internet marketing, working with globally recognised brands as well as small local business. With his knowledge of both worlds, it brings a competitive edge to the table, ensuring even the smallest business is taken care of like it was his own. Gideon's technical background ensures that each and every campaign has a strong foundation and key elements are in place for the success of whatever the goals are.
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