When Should You Start Thinking About SEO?

It wasn’t too long ago when the World Wide Web became popular and everyone was scrambling to establish a presence online. Large companies that were doing quite well with their bricks-and-mortar stores decided to “have a go at this internet thing” and created some of the worst websites ever seen — at least by today’s standards.

The trouble was, too many companies jumped on board the Internet bandwagon without a plan, or even a clue. Businesses “tacked on” a website to their marketing strategy and expected results.

We’ve been seeing something similar over the last few years with SEO — companies decide to “tack on” Search Engine Optimization to their established websites, expecting miraculous results. Well, it just doesn’t work that way, at least not ideally.

Sure, you can do a lot to make a web page rank higher with the search engines without making any changes to it. And you can do even better by tweaking the content a bit and making the usual adjustments of the page title, meta tags and so on. Sometimes that’s all a client is willing to do, often because they want to avoid internal battles over marketing strategies and website content.

Fair enough. But making SEO an afterthought, rather than an integral part of the overall marketing strategy, puts you at a disadvantage.

Everyone in this business has seen websites where the first step in effective SEO would be to fire the designer and start over from scratch. Sites that are light on text but heavy with graphics and Flash presentations may appeal to the designer’s artistic sensibilities, but they rarely rank high for specific search terms.

Well-meaning webmasters will do what they can to at least make the site rank for a search on the company name, but they’re up against the marketing department, which has its own ideas of how to run the website.

Part of an SEO expert’s job is to get all the departments working together and help them understand how to integrate search engine optimization into their marketing strategy. It’s one thing to get a site to rank high, it’s another to get it to rank high for the right keywords. After all, if you’re selling custom-made high-priced jewelry, you may not want your site to rank high for “cheap jewelry.”

It’s also important to build the website for the target market, no matter what the CEO or marketing manager may like personally. Achieving this means understanding what words and phrases your target market searches on when they want to find what you have to offer.

That’s why it’s important to consider SEO from the beginning. Building a site that’s relevant to the market and to the search engines involves knowing how people will find it and what they want to do once they get there.

Of course, most companies looking for SEO already have established websites. But the sooner you bring in an SEO expert, the more likely it will be that your site can rank for the targeted keywords your market is searching on.