The answer to the question “when should I do SEO?” is often akin to the answer to the question “when’s the best time to learn to play guitar?” The best time was ten years ago; the second best time is now. That said, being an SEO at FINE provides a rare opportunity for the experienced search engine optimizer: we often get access to sites while they’re undergoing redesign. While the hood’s up, so to speak. And this is the best time to apply SEO, regardless of whether you’ve already applied it ten years ago.
Don’t get me wrong: strategic, ethical, and properly applied optimization can help a site gain more visibility regardless of a redesign, but there are distinct advantages to applying SEO while your site’s in the shop:
- Code Changes Are Easier – Designers/developers are busy people who field programming requests from stakeholders ranging from clients to internal project managers; they typically don’t have a lot of time for extra work like adding Schema microdata or rigging a content management system to allow for custom page titles. This is especially true if they’re tasked with that post-development. It’s far easier to schedule both dramatic and minor code changes into a redesign project.
- SEOs Can Do More Work – Any experienced SEO can tell you that, in many cases, we exist in a “take what you can get” environment. We’ll audit a site and develop a list of recommendations that constitutes the best of all possible worlds, then see that list whittled down due to available IT time, the level of engagement, etc. We pick our battles. When SEO is built into a redesign, those battles are far fewer, and far less pitched. Ugly, search engine hostile URLs, for example, are way more difficult to address on a live site. Pretty hard to reverse-engineer those; often it’s not even advisable. It’s much easier to get both the client and developers on your side when you can piggyback on work that’s already being done.
- Fewer Unpleasant Surprises – Not having access to a redesign calendar/task management system can be daunting. Being pulled into a project post redesign launch and finding out, for example, that no 301 redirects were put in place and, as such, the new site’s invisible, well, kind of sucks. You can fix it, sure, but it would have been a lot better if you were in there a month sooner.
These are but a few of the reasons for scheduling hardcore SEO during your site redesign. Not to blow our own horn (the metaphor – it lives in cliches), but FINE is unusual among digital agencies in that SEO and social media marketing have been embraced as part of the culture. As a result we’re able to get our hands dirty during the redesign process, and our clients get sites that are not only beautiful, but visible.