9 basic rules your Web Developer needs to know about SEO

During our webinar SEO for Website Redesign, we received lots of questions and we didn’t have time to answer them all. One of the questions we didn’t get to was “Is there a good set of basic rules for SEO considerations that I could give to my Web Developers for their education?” That’s a great question.

You might want to start their education by downloading our free eBook “SEO for Website Redesign QuickStart”. It includes lots of SEO essentials for website redesign projects, but I thought if I had to list some basic rules – just the absolute essentials that every web developer really must not miss on a redesign project – I would suggest these 9 rules as basic things your web developer needs to understand about SEO.

Rule #1: Keep the customer top of mind.

I know this has nothing to do directly with web page coding and cool technology, but really, this is big for your website’s success and your long term SEO efforts.

If you put your customers first, they will reward you by interacting with your website, linking to it, and telling other people about it. The search engines will notice that your site is getting traffic, people are spending time on it, going deep into your web pages, linking to it, and sharing it on social media. All that love from your audience will be noticed by the search engines, and they will reward you for it in the end because they will take these signals as indicators that people find your website relevant and authoritative in your particular field of interest. Plus, if your web developers keep your customer top of mind, it provides a touchstone to all the decisions that have to be made during the design process.

Your web developers may be getting pressure from all kinds of people with different agendas. The Sales department might be pushing to give prominence to benefits like competitive pricing or other advantages to make their job of selling easier. The Product Development team might want to see their latest R&D highlighted to show their innovative approach (and to raise their stature in the company hierarchy). The Marketing department may want the website organized by Lines of Business. The CEO might want pictures of the company’s beautiful new building placed front and center on the website, and so on.

Your web developers need to resist the urge to design your website and present your company from your company’s point of view: the website isn’t about your company, it’s about your customers and how your company will make their lives better by making them more efficient and effective at what they do, by giving them more time, lowering their costs, or whatever it is that’s important to your customers.

Rule #2: Make the site easy to navigate

Websites that have logical navigation and architecture are better for people and search engines. Think wide and shallow, not deep and narrow. Use a sub-folder structure rather than sub-domains.

Sub-folder example:

Sub folder tree

Sub-domain example:

Sub domain tree

Rule #3: Give each page a theme

A simple test is to ask the question: what is this page about? If the answer isn’t clear, rewrite and/or redesign the page until the answer is plain to see. All the content on that page should support the theme.

Rule #4: Choose and use keywords wisely

Do some research, make a selection, then use those keywords in context on appropriate pages.

Rule #5: Create meta title tags that support your keywords and page themes

They matter, and here’s a great example from Old Navy of how to do it. Their home page meta title is this:
Clothes for women, men, kids and baby | Free Shipping on $50 | Old Navy

Rule # 6: Write descriptive, informative meta description tags

This is another important meta tag. It could become what customers see on the SERP. In the case of Old Navy’s home page, there is not a lot of text on the page, so the meta tags are put to good use. Here’s the meta description code from Old Navy:


And here’s what shows up on the SERP:
Old Navy serp

Here’s what their home page looks like:
Old Navy website home

Rule #7: Include sitemaps

Include XML and HTML sitemaps. Charlotte Bourne explained why in this webinar.

Rule # 8: Write clean code

There are ways to minimize the amount of Javascript, CSS, etc. coded onto a web page. Google provides some good tips your web developers need to be aware of to, in their words, “minimize payload size”.

Rule #9: Use 301 redirects, if necessary

If it is necessary to redirect any of your old pages to new pages on the site (i.e. old content moved to pages with new URLs) be sure to use 301 (permanent) redirection.

Those are my suggestions for the absolute basic rules of SEO for a website redesign. If your web developer understands and follows these rules, you will have made a great start on transitioning to a new website.