The Best Foundation for Good SEO? A Plan.

November 30, 2009

A family friend recently launched a new website for his company and asked me to take a look at the finished product. It's beautiful and professional; it sets the right tone for his customers and makes it easy to contact the company for more information.

It's not going to perform well in search engines, though. One quick look at the source code—the "stuff" that Google sees—let me know.

What Search Engines See

The problem, in this particular case, is that his site has been built in Flash, which means, essentially, the website consists of one webpage (www.example.com) with a Flash movie clip embedded on it. It's the movie clip that lets you move through the site and gives the appearance of new "pages" but, in reality, the user never navigates away from www.example.com.

In a nutshell, on his site, all Google sees is the code embedding the movie file. It looks something like this:

Compare that to this sample HTML that's been optimized for search engines:

Both code snippets may seem jumbled and foreign to the untrained, but I'm betting you could interpret that the second page talks about tires, and search engines will be able to figure that out as well.

This doesn't mean that Flash sites are bad, or even that they doom your search engine performance. Google has made some strides towards the ability to index content contained within Flash files. It's not quite there yet, but it's progress. There are also methods that we've implemented that give search engines HTML content to index on Flash sites.

That's not the real story here, though. The story is about how companies arrive at predicaments like this in the first place.

Plan SEO from the Beginning

How many sites are being launched each day (mistakenly) without consideration for how they will perform in search engine results?

A site can have perfect code and stunning design, but if search engines haven't been considered during its development, it's not living up to its full potential or giving you a maximum return on investment.

Do not—I repeat, do not—build a new website without planning how you'll address search engine optimization (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM).

Digett builds sites using Drupal, our content management system of choice, and that alone provides our clients with a solid starting foundation for SEO. At the most basic level, Drupal empowers its users to easily add and update content to their sites. (All things considered equal, Google will rank a more recently updated page above an older one.) Through contributed modules, like Meta Tags, for example, clients can also add meta descriptions, saturated with good keywords, to nearly every piece of content on their sites.

Some companies address their SEO as simply as that—with good site architecture and strong content. We also assist others that prefer to develop strategies centered around paid campaigns to increase their appearance on search results pages.

No matter the method that's right for you, decide on an SEO plan before your site is built. Tools like Drupal can give you a leg up, but the best way to make sure your site is beautiful, functional, and well-performing in search engines is to plan from the start.