I speak to a lot of prospective clients about search engine optimization (SEO) and many that are in the process of updating or reworking their website tell me the timing isn’t right yet to engage. They want to finish their website redesign and then they’ll be ready to chat about SEO.

Hold up. Hold up. Hold up. You’re doing it wrong!

Let’s back up a bit and look at the key on-page SEO elements that go in to optimizing a website.

1. Keywords. You need to research and build a finite list of keywords that you’ll optimize your website for. These keywords need to be researched. You need to determine how searchers are using these keywords to find the information they seek (user intent). You need to make sure that you build your list strategically to ensure that the list contains a fair number of competitive keywords and some that are less competitive. Afterall, you don’t want a list of only competitive keywords or you’ll be spinning your SEO wheels with little to show for it. You’ll want to then map your keywords to your website sitemap so that you’re focusing on no more than 2 similar keywords per page. This will not only help you focus your SEO efforts, but it will help you determine whether you need more site pages.

2. Page copy. You need to use your keywords when you write your website copy. You don’t want to stuff those keywords in there, so be sure to write for your audience and not Google. But they need to be present.

3. Heading tags. Your H1 and subsequent H2s, H3s, etc. all need to utilize keywords in order to maximize your optimization efforts. Just be sure that each page has only one H1 tag. You can have multiple H2s, H3s, etc. but keep your H1 to a singular usage.

4. Meta titles. You’ll want your Meta titles to incorporate your keywords as well. You only have between 65 and 70 characters so you may need to be creative, but they are important as it’s what Google displays on the search engine ranking page (SERP) when a search is performed.

5. Likewise, Meta descriptions. Keywords need to be included here, and while you have more real estate (about 170 characters or so) you need to use your terms strategically. You’re selling a click to the page, after all. For more information on the importance of Meta descriptions to your overall SEO efforts, check out this blog: What You Need to Know About Meta Descriptions for SEO Success.

6. Image tags. You can use your keywords to tag your images as well.

7. Site interlinking. Sometimes called anchor tags, you should link pages of your website together where it makes sense – and of course using keywords where appropriate.

So, all of these seven elements above that go into any reasonable SEO effort can affect your website development efforts.

It’s important to include your SEO agency as PART of your website design process. They can not only ensure your website goes live fully optimized, they can make sure that you’re not refreshing your website refresh.

Bonus reason for engaging your SEO agency during a site refresh

Redirects. Inevitably, when you’re updating your website you might consolidate a page or two, or perhaps change a page URL, maybe even eliminate a page or more? If you do this, you need to consider a website redirect strategy. If not, you might be left with broken links and missing pages that will throw 404 errors. These site issues can affect your site’s SEO and need to be dealt with sooner than later. If you’re working with your SEO agency during this process, have them provide you a redirect strategy so that you can set up any needed 301 permanent redirects before pushing your site live.

Double Bonus – A great SlideShare on Website Migration Best Practices