Collaborating with SEO Experts on a Website Project
As a designer or developer, it’s not uncommon to find yourself working alongside an SEO expert or team on a website project. In these situations, collaboration is key.
While everyone will be working toward a common goal of a high-quality site, your design and functionality decisions may unknowingly impact the search marketing teams’ work and vice versa.
To help prevent miscommunications, here are five tips on how to best collaborate with SEO experts on your next project.
Establish Expectations at the Start
Starting off with clear expectations is the best way to avoid backtracking during a website project. After the contract is signed and before you start designing, arrange a project kick-off call with your client to review the timeline and project scope.
This will also be a good time to meet additional contributors (photographers, marketers, content writers, etc.) from the client’s side. One of the biggest challenges with a website project is when a key contributor or stakeholder joins the discussions late, and the approved mockups need to be reworked.
If the client has an existing SEO partner or will be bringing in an SEO expert, and encourage your client to include that partner in the early discussions. This will help you get feedback on wireframes and the information architecture before the designs are approved. The SEO team may also have website functionality requests like integrations, SEO plugins, or gated content, to name a few.
If you are frequently working with outside SEO partners, consider creating and sharing guidelines on your website process in terms of approvals, content creation, and launch tasks.
Plan for Content and Blog Migrations
Content is a critical aspect of search engine optimization. However, there is a balance between user experience and SEO in terms of the amount of content per web page and how best to organize it.
Early on in the website project, you’ll be working on the information architecture and making key decisions on the pages that will be kept, consolidated, or deleted in the process. Since the site structure will determine the navigation and content, it’s important to involve both the client and SEO team in these discussions.
When redesigning a site with a large blog or resource area, it may be critical to migrate all of this content to the new site, from an SEO standpoint. Ideally, you’ll scope out this content migration before the project begins. Some blog migrations can be smooth with import and export options, and others can be more challenging, especially if you are moving from a non-WordPress platform to a WordPress web design.
In the worst-case scenario, someone may have to manually restyle the blog content after migration, and this should be discussed as early as possible to avoid delays.
Lastly, make sure to clarify which content your team will be writing for the site, and ask about the client and SEO team’s plan for on-page optimization for H tags and meta descriptions.
Discuss Performance and Required Plugins
Website speed continues to play a big role in both on-page optimization and user experience.
Performance is a hot topic right now. Google recently announced that the next algorithm update in May 2021 will be focused on web core vitals, assessing the load time of a website and how it may impact the user experience. While every designer and developer wants to build a lightning-fast site, there are numerous factors that can impact performance.
One of the first decisions that can affect page speed is the selected WordPress framework or theme for the new site. Some pre-designed themes can be bloated with numerous features that make it harder to optimize the final site. When reviewing the design mockups with clients, consider how video, animations, and the latest web design trends may also impact the site speed.
Installing more and more plugins and endless tracking codes can also weigh down a site, so it’s helpful to discuss with the client and SEO team which plugins will be required for marketing. Your web team can then provide feedback from a security, stability, and functionality standpoint. The search marketing team may also have a preferred WordPress SEO plugin.
Lastly, the website hosting servers will ultimately play a large role in the website speed, so don’t forget to address hosting options for the newly launched site.
Manage 301 Redirects and Domain Mapping
Today, most businesses have an existing website, so you’ll often work on a website redesign versus building a new site from scratch.
When tackling a redesign, it is imperative to set up 301 redirects properly before the new website launches. Having tons of 404 errors on a website is detrimental to SEO because it can impede the search engines from scanning and indexing the site.
Setting up 301 redirects will involve some collaboration with the SEO experts. There are two steps in this process. First, you need to identify the pages being removed and decide where you’ll redirect the URL.
You’ll ideally have collaborated with the client and the SEO team on the information architecture and this will serve as a resource for the 301 redirects and domain mapping. Creating a spreadsheet for the URLs and redirects can help you stay organized throughout the process.
The second step is to implement the 301 redirects in the production site with a WordPress plugin. It’s important to address whether the website team or SEO team will do this step before the site launches.
If a client is switching domains, you’ll have a larger task to map out the URLs for the new site. Be sure that the client understands that they may lose search engine rankings when switching domains. An SEO team will be aware of these risks and will be able to offer guidance on this.
Communicate Your Launch Process and Support
The website launch is equally the most exciting and stressful day for all parties involved. However, you can get ahead of any potential problems with a clear launch process.
First, communicate your launch plan with your client and any third-party collaborators as early as possible. The client and SEO team may have marketing campaigns planned for right after the launch date, so collaboration will be key at this final stage.
Always schedule a specific launch date for the website, and ensure that no one is doing any site edits during that time. Since the SEO team may be helping with on-site optimization and 301 redirects, double check that all the website edits have been completed before the site goes live.
On the launch date, it is extremely helpful to have one person — a skilled developer or hosting manager, preferably — oversee the final checklist. With one point person acting as a showrunner, the client and SEO team will know who to direct any questions to on launch day.
A smooth launch process helps end every project on a great note and ensure everyone focuses on the outstanding new site and marketing opportunities.