Where To Begin With Search Engine Optimization

There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to “doing SEO right.” The number of articles and videos created on this topic is impressive, but perhaps not too surprising given that SEO has been around since about 1997. While the SEO topic is broad, this article focuses on how to approach SEO when designing a new website.

SEO Begins in the Requirements Gathering Phase

When sitting down with a new client to discuss their “to be implemented” website, you will likely ask many questions before writing a single line of code. Once you have a good idea of what the goal of the website is and who the target audience is, you will want to understand how visitors search for information that the new website will contain. This leads to a discussion focused on keywords.

Keyword Research

It’s likely the case that your client already knows (or thinks they know) how their target audience searches for information that will lead them to their new website. This is a good starting point for conducting research. The goal in this stage is to understand which keywords and keyword phrases your target visitors actually use when performing searches within search engines. You can research keywords using various online tools. Google offers a free keyword planner for optimizing ad campaigns, but you can use it for general keyword research. Moz is a company that specializes in SEO and provides limited access to their keyword explorer if you create a free account with them. These tools provide a variety of information about search terms based on what people actually use when searching within browsers. Your goal in conducting keyword research is to identify keywords that have a high volume of average monthly searches and low competition that are relevant to your planned website.

Content Planning

Once you understand the goal(s) of the proposed website, the target audience, and the keywords your target audience uses when looking for websites like the one you plan to create, you should develop a content plan. A content plan considers questions that your target audience wants to be answered when they land on each page of your website. You need to predict the questions that your target audience has and create answers to these questions that incorporate keywords that you identified in the previous step.

Be sure to plan content such that each page has a topical focus. This helps search engines understand what each page is about, which in turn helps search engines match your pages with related search terms. For example, if your business offers three distinct services, consider planning a separate page for each, where each page includes content that answers questions your customers likely have about the service.

Content Creation

Using your content plan as a guide, create copy (text) that incorporates the keywords in a natural way. Your copy is essentially your headings and paragraphs. Try not to force keywords such that it makes the copy look awkward. For example, if your keyword research showed searches for “blue widgets near me” you might be tempted to include “blue widgets near me” within the copy and headings on your web pages. Resist the temptation to do this because it looks unnatural. If visitors perceive your copy as unnatural, it may negatively impact their experience and cause them to leave your website.


The primary goal from an SEO perspective is for your website to provide information that your target audience finds useful. Your website’s navigation should allow users to quickly find answers to their questions while incorporating keywords in a natural way within the content. If users have a good experience after arriving at your website, they will likely spend more time on it. Search engines attempt to gauge the relevance and importance of websites based on a variety of factors including how users interact with the content. The more relevant and important a website is deemed to be for a set of search terms, the higher the ranking it will achieve.

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