In Boating Industry’s “2018 Digital Marketing Guide“, search engine optimization (SEO) was listed as a “top digital marketing concern” as well as a “linchpin in any successful digital marketing effort”. From this Guide, it couldn’t be more clear that not only do marine industry leaders and marketers understand the overall importance of their websites but also place a high value on attracting enthusiasts to their sites.
To add more validity to this through our own experience, it’s a rare occasion when we meet with a new client-prospect and the subject of search engine optimization isn’t breached. In fact, when website discussions begin…SEO is typically one of the first topics we’re asked about.
We recently met with a prospect (we’ll withhold names to protect the innocent) in the marine industry, specifically regarding search engine optimization (SEO) and their website’s current Google rankings. In this case, the website was recently redesigned (6 months prior) and while the design looked pretty good and the content was organized fairly well…a quick look “under the hood” revealed that literally nothing was done in terms of tailoring the site for organic search. Ouch.
The result is the site owner has a decent looking website – but is getting killed by their competitors for niche keywords that are critical to rank for in their vertical.
Now I understand quite well that on-page optimization is not the ONLY ingredient in search engine marketing. I should mention that having a solid content strategy in place, site performance and other factors contribute to a site’s organic rank. However, when a site is developed or refreshed a certain amount of focus needs to be directed to understanding what the site’s audience will likely search for and strategically working the findings into the fabric of the website.
Read on to learn a bit more about the key elements of on-page SEO, who should be responsible for it and when it should be implemented.
On-Page Search Engine Optimization Elements
Without going into detail, let me start with an overview of what I consider to be the high-level elements of on-page SEO. Of course each of these items could be the subject of many blog posts, but for this post I’ll just provide a list:
- Keyword Research
- Site performance (speed)
- Site Structure & Naming Conventions
- Page/SEO Title Tailoring
- Meta Description Writing/Tailoring
- Appropriate use of Rel Canonical
- Proper Use of Robots.txt, .htaccess, redirects and xml sitemaps
- Proper Use of html Heading Tags (h1, h2 etc.)
- Proper Use of “alt” Attributes
- Broad Keyword Usage in Content of Pages (Content is and Always will be King)
This is the “short” list of factors/elements that have to be accounted for when doing the on-page search engine optimization of any website. That being said, when is the best time to perform on-page optimization and who should do it?
The When and Who of On-Page Optimization
Let’s get back to that Client meeting. The “person whom shall not be named” I met with was in a position where they had a live website (6 months old) but isn’t ranking very well for the keywords their prospects would be searching for (because no keyword research or optimization was ever performed).
Perform On-Page Optimization During Design & Development
Hands down, the best and most cost-effective time to perform your on-page search engine optimization is during the planning and development of the website. This is true for a number of reasons:
Keyword Research – Keyword research should be performed before site structure and content are planned. A site’s keyword research might reveal areas of content that should be further developed upon and will somewhat dictate site structure and at the very least url (link) naming convention. If this is not done before the site is developed, content will need to be re-written and changes to site structure/naming can be difficult at best.
META Description, Page Titles, ALT Attributes & Rel Canonical etc – All of these will need to tweaked or re-written, sitewide, if keyword research and optimization isn’t done during development. It is again, much easier and less costly to implement these correctly during content development than to re-write after site launch. It simply comes down to doing this one time and not re-doing!
Complete at Site Launch – If all on-page SEO was performed and completed, prior to site launch, then when the site is made live it can very quickly start gaining relevancy with search engines – rather than being made live and remaining “silent”.
It just doesn’t make sense to NOT perform a site’s on-page search engine optimization prior to launching a new site. You end up wasting valuable time while your site could and should moving up the ranks and spend more resources by doing this work after the fact.
Your Website Agency Should Understand and Perform On-Page SEO
If it makes sense that on-page SEO should be performed during site development (and believe me it does), than there are two choices for who should provide the SEO services. The most clear choice is to hire a web design agency that is also experienced in search engine optimization or bring in a third party to work with your web designer/developer (this is more and more rare these days).
In the case of the folks we recently met with – their site would be in a much better place if:
A – Their web designer/developer had a firm understanding of SEO
B – The on-page optimization was performed during site development
I hope you’ll find my thoughts useful, as I see a lot of well-designed (and some not so well-designed) sites out there where the designer/developer didn’t take search engines into consideration. I’m a firm believer that the majority of on-site SEO should be performed during the development or re-design of sites and on-going SEO should come from your content strategy (more on that in another article).
And if you think you could use some additional assistance with the SEO of your site, we’d love to perform a comprehensive audit of your site, see where you’re currently at and how we can help make your website more successful!