The following post is adapted from our free eBook, How to Brief a Web Design Agency: Part One – 17 Common Mistakes Marketers Make When Briefing Web Development Agencies.

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All too often, marketers treat SEO and content as ‘added extras’ when planning a web build.

The thinking goes: “We don’t have to worry about that now. Let’s wait until the design is signed off and the site is live – then we’ll think about our search rankings and refine our messaging.”

This kind of thinking is, frankly, back-to-front.

As we’ll explore in this post, keyword and content considerations can have a significant effect on the ‘shape’ of your website. And failing to consider technical SEO from the start can cause costly, difficult-to-fix issues later on.

That’s why, when planning a new website, you should give as much thought to SEO and content factors as design, budget and timescales. And the best way to ensure that your web development agency gives these factors equal consideration is to include them in your brief.

To help you out, here are three of the most common SEO/content briefing mistakes – and tips on how to avoid them…

1. No Keyword Plan

Keyword planning is a hugely important part of planning a web build, but many agencies fail to carry out any keyword research at all.

As part of the audience research process, keyword research helps you find the search terms your targets use. It helps you choose frequently-searched terms for maximum search visibility, and it helps you understand the kind of research your audience is carrying out – and the kind of questions they need answering.

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner

This research can provide useful insights into the kind of content you should be writing, how you should structure your website’s hierarchy, and even how you should name your URLs.

Imagine building a database with all the keywords your target market is using to find information on Google, then building your entire website structure and hierarchy around that search behaviour.

This is why keyword planning is so crucial. When done properly, it’s a really powerful and effective way of driving organic search visibility – because you’re building your site with search behaviour at its core.

What’s more, by using your audience’s search behaviour as the basis for your content, your copy will speak to them in their language – rather than conversion-stunting corporate jargon.

2. Not Creating the Content First

On-site, text-based content is often treated as an afterthought in the web build process.

But textual content is often your first point of contact with your audience when they reach your website. Needless to say, it shouldn’t be neglected.

Unfortunately, it often is neglected. On countless occasions we’ve worked with clients who have had beautiful websites created by other agencies, then uploaded some poor-quality copy at the last minute.

A page of text with proofreading marks.

Source: Nic McPhee at Flickr.

And it’s easy to see why it happens. Few web development agencies offer content creation as part of their service. Most marketing managers don’t have time to create quality content, and are not trained copywriters.

In fact, one of the most common causes of delays in web build projects is when developers have to wait for content to be delivered by time-stretched marketing managers.

When briefing your agency, you should ensure they treat content as an integral part of the planning and building process. It should be considered just as important as your website’s design, or any other visual element.

Why? Because engaging, informative, entertaining content boosts conversion rates. And bad content kills conversions and conversations with your brand.

What’s more, recent Google algorithm updates are championing quality content above almost anything else. To not provide unique, fresh, authoritative content is to risk being seen as irrelevant, or hurting your search visibility.

You’ll also find you get much more cohesive results when you create content and design elements at the same time, rather than trying to fit content to an established design.

3. Not Considering Technical SEO

Technical SEO problems can do tremendous damage to your search engine rankings – and they’re often caused by small oversights.

Keyboard with 'oops' key.

Source: Marcin Wichary at Flickr.

For example, an incorrectly configured robots.txt file could remove your site from search engines altogether. But to fix the problem, you’d typically only have to change one line of code.

Other technical SEO issues can include:

  • No canonicalization, which can create issues with duplicate content.
  • Broken links.
  • Incorrectly implemented redirects.
  • ‘Unfriendly’ URLs.
  • Non-optimised meta data.
  • Heading tags used purely for aesthetic reasons.
  • And many more…

[Want to learn more? We have another free eBook full of expert technical SEO advice: Technical SEO Best Practices – A Marketers’ Guide.]

Unfortunately, we see technical SEO problems all too often. Some issues, like incorrectly performed site migrations, can take lots of time to put right – and they’re often a result of basic technical mistakes made by developers.

We’re not trying to belittle developers here. Many web development agencies feel their expertise lies in creating websites, not doing technical SEO. That makes sense, of course.

But the reality is this: If a web build is to be successful and profitable, technical SEO considerations are just as important as design and content.

By highlighting the importance of migration in your brief, you can ensure your agency:

  • Understands the importance of technical SEO.
  • Knows how to build a website to technical SEO best-practice.
  • Has factored for technical SEO in their costings.

Other Posts in This Series

Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid

Planning and Scoping Mistakes to Avoid

Conversion and Design Mistakes to Avoid

Technical Mistakes to Avoid

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About the author:

Alan has 15 years of web development and database engineering experience for companies across a wide range of sectors including projects for Peugeot and Kia. Alan spent five years as Technical Director at a web development company and was also a trainer at Birmingham University teaching database driven web solutions.