Before you build a new website, there are SEO best practices you need to consider when formulating your strategy. Doing so up front is much easier in the planning phase rather than after launch when a problem has come up. Your website is a big and very important investment so it's critical to carefully plan out every aspect (with the appropriate experts).
Here is the SEO strategy to get your new website found.
Put a lot of thought into your URL.
Start with your business' name and long-term plans. Are you planning to grow your business beyond your current geographic area? If so, your URL should not include a geographic indicator. For example, if your flagship retail location is in Nashville, TN and your long-term plan includes growth outside of that area, don't choose the URL nashvillesbestboutique.com. Doing so tells search engines that your business is located only in Nashville and could hurt your rankings if someone is looking for boutiques near your second location in Mobile, AL.
You should also choose a .com extension whenever possible. Those extensions are typically easier for people to find and remember. If the .com you want isn't available, check out these tips from MOZ for choosing a domain.
Speaking of choosing a domain, don't get carried away. Long domain names are harder to type, harder to speak out loud, might get shortened on social media.
Aim for balance between branding and keyword usage in choosing a domain name, weighing which factors will ultimately have the most positive impact on the business.
Do NOT use a multi-site approach.
According to MOZ (and every other SEO expert), building multiple websites to represent different locations or different services is not a good approach. Many businesses try this approach when in order to rank broadly on the basis of exact match domains. Unfortunately, doing so doesn't work for a number of reasons.
- Marketing efforts are divided up across multiple sites instead of concentrated into building a single brand.
- Search engines (and users) see duplicate content, usually resulting from lack of resources needed to manage more than one site.
- Possible NAP confusion leading to local ranking problems if the same name, address, or phone number appears on more than one website.
- Dishonesty in which a single business attempts to trick consumers into thinking they are looking at multiple companies when they are really looking at just one.
Have a content strategy.
What pages should you include in your new website? It's important to understand your buyer personas and what their needs are when they land on your website. Each business should plan to create pages for home, about, contact, as well as a page for each main service they offer and each of their physical locations.
If your business has multiple locations, consider developing a page for each of their main service cities. Each page that is built should feature original, thorough, optimized copy that serves a specific goal for that area.
Each business should also have an ongoing content strategy that extends past the launch of the new website. Continually updating a website is a cue to search engines that your website is active. This could include on-site blogging or off-site social sharing. For more on local content development, check out these resources from MOZ:
- The Best Types of Content for Local Businesses: Building Geo-Topical Authority
- Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages
- Using the Barnacle Method to Prove Local Community Awareness
Map out how your users will move through the site and what actions you want them to take.
If navigating your website is difficult and consumers cannot find what they need, chances are your bounce rate is going to be sky high and your users are probably going to go to a competitors website. The larger your site is, the more likely it is that you’ll have to research solutions like siloing to maximize discovery and lead your consumers down a path to the calls-to-action you would like them to take.
A page without well thought out calls-to-action is a waste of internet space. Tell your users in plain language that you want them to click to learn more, to make a call, to fill out a form, etc. Every page of your website should have an easy to decipher call-to-action.
Have a plan to move your established authority with you to your new site.
When business changes occur, like a rebrand or a move to a new website, failure to follow specific best practices can result in a massive loss of rankings and traffic. Research current proper technical procedures for managing the transition in a way that helps and maintains your SEO rankings (like 301 redirects). A pro should include this in their services when selling you on a new website.
With all of that said, no website is perfect when launched. It's important to partner with an SEO expert during the planning phase as well as after launch to monitor what's working and what isn't so that appropriate steps can be taken to better serve your audience through your website.
This list of SEO best practices isn't exhaustive. We recommend partnering with a pro to make sure all your SEO bases are covered.