If you are planning or executing a new website design, or a redesign of an existing site, there are three good reasons why you should make SEO a core capability of your project manager:

  1. SEO is good design. By definition, technical SEO delivers a website that runs efficiently across multiple platforms, including mobile devices. SEO-led project management is excellent project management by default.
  2. SEO should be built into your site from the start. This allows you to capitalise on every opportunity for greater search visibility and better rankings. SEO should not be something you retrofit into a website after launch.
  3. SEO should be protected during website redesigns. By adopting SEO-led project management, you reduce the risk of losing your existing search presence, and of losing the investment you have made into SEO in the past.

Most websites rely heavily on search traffic to drive audience numbers and generate revenue, especially over the long term as organic SEO overtakes short-term PPC and paid ad placements.

SEO project management for new websites and redesigns makes sure your search rankings are preserved and optimised, to bring in the maximum amount of organic traffic, as soon as possible after your website’s launch.

The rapid reinvention of online retail

The Coronavirus pandemic forced retailers to adapt to socially distanced ways of selling goods and services. For bricks-and-mortar retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ by the government, an overnight switch to ecommerce was practically a requirement for survival.

In August 2021, the global analyst IDC listed some of the distance-selling methods embraced by consumers during lockdown:

  • Buy online, pay in-store (BOPIS)
  • Kerbside delivery
  • Same-day delivery

Alternatives like click-and-collect also blur the boundary between ecommerce and real-world retail, giving customers a way to order and pay online, with the convenience of collection from a local physical store.

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK means an end to obstacles like social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing and the ban on non-essential retail. But it does not mean an end to the opportunities that emerged during the months of lockdown.

IDC said: “Consumer behaviour has been indelibly altered by the pandemic, and this has accelerated new retail models.”

“The customer has spoken,” the analyst added. “They want the convenience of omni-channel, the luxury of choice, and even information about inventory availability and location…

“The race is on for retailers to give customers what they want while maintaining profitability. It’s not an easy task.”

How SEO-focused project management can help

As ecommerce operators rush to embrace new methods of selling, and bricks-and-mortar retailers capitalise on the new online and hybrid opportunities of a post-pandemic economy, SEO is more important than ever.

SEO is an integral part of any web design project:

  • New sites built from scratch should be responsive, mobile-friendly and designed for search-optimised content.
  • Complete website redesigns should be technically optimised for the best performance on Google’s ‘Core Web Vitals’ metrics.
  • Cosmetic updates should be streamlined, using methods like ‘lazy’ loading to optimise page speed, especially on mobile data connections.

Every aspect of your website should be designed and built with SEO in mind, to prevent any damage to your rankings in the search results. This is the definition of optimisation: to make every element the best it can be, so that you rank as highly as possible in competitive searches.

What could go wrong?

A website launch or relaunch without due consideration to search engine optimisation can be disastrous. SEO encompasses elements like your domain name and page URLs, page load speeds, quality and relevance of written content, and your website hierarchy.

Unlike in years gone by, it’s not just a case of putting keywords or phrases in the right place on the page. Many of the elements of technical SEO are much easier to ‘design in’ than they are to retrofit later.

During redesigns, any old removed content should be replaced with a 301 redirect notice, to direct search traffic to an equivalent (or at least relevant) new page. Without doing so, you risk losing that page’s ranking and search traffic completely once you remove it.

This is also true if you make a significant change to your website’s hierarchy, as this can make retained content appear less significant to the search robots. As a result, when your website is crawled and reindexed after you relaunch, those pages can fall in the rankings even though they still exist.

SEO-led project management factors all of these risks and considerations into account, to ensure that your website design and the process of launching or relaunching it all takes place in a way that maximises your search visibility.

An optimised timeline for website redesign

Part of SEO-led project management is to follow a logical timeline for the design process. For example:

  • Phase one: Finalise website architecture and hierarchy for a broad overview of the project as a whole.
  • Phase two: List specific page URLs and develop a content plan for pre-launch and post-launch SEO.
  • Phase three: Write relevant, high-quality page content supported by appropriate multimedia, with SEO firmly embedded throughout.

Search engine optimisation does not end on launch day, as you should continue to regularly publish new content, and show to the search engines that your website is active and engaging.

But by factoring SEO into your pre-launch timeline, you build your website logically, layer upon layer, for genuinely optimised pages and a domain that scores well overall.

Which comes first: design, content or SEO?

It’s a common misconception that web design comes first, followed by producing the content to fill the pages, and only then followed by optimising those pages using relevant SEO methods.

The truth is that a well-managed website project should not be so linear. It may be that the design should be tweaked to accommodate optimised content, or that additional content is needed to fill a space in the design.

SEO-led project management can ensure these are informed decisions, which do not undermine the technical performance of your website, but instead serve to enhance the opportunities to compete for search presence and first-page rankings.

By appointing an SEO consultant as your project manager, you can also make sure those decisions are data-driven, based on your existing rankings (for website redesign projects) as well as in-depth keyword analysis for both redesigns and new-builds.

Beyond SEO: Prioritising user experience

User experience, or UX, is a measure of how positive (or negative) a human visitor is likely to feel about your website when they interact with it.

This is a complex area, but includes elements like ease of navigation, readability of text, and how quickly a page becomes interactive when it first loads.

Since the advent of Google Core Web Vitals, some of these factors now have a direct impact on the SEO value of your page, such as how quickly it loads.

But even the parts of UX that don’t directly affect SEO are worth taking into account, as they can still influence how long visitors stay on your website, and the likelihood of them placing and order, making a purchase or sending an enquiry.

Why not designer-led project management?

A lot of the considerations mentioned above are aspects of your website design. So you might reasonably ask, why not let the web designer lead the project?

The answer is because some of the priorities of web design do not align with SEO best practice. You may end up with a website that is designed for a specific screen size, browser or requires plugins to function.

Web designers don’t need a comprehensive understanding of SEO in order to deliver a website that looks good. But in an online world dominated by the search engines, just looking good is not enough.

SEO-led project management works with the designer, not against them. Comprehensive SEO spans the technical and the creative, making it the perfect discipline to coordinate the design of your site, creation of your content, and ongoing promotion of your online brand.

A design-led project does not naturally lead to a search-optimised website; but an SEO-led project executed well will naturally result in a responsive, cross-platform website design that’s quick to load and intuitive to use.

Engage with SEO from the outset

The earlier you engage with SEO in your project planning, the better the end result will be. By appointing an SEO consultant as your project manager upfront, you allow them to start working on keyword research to develop your sitemap and content strategy.

Your project manager can also help you to understand the importance of certain pages on your site, why your website should have a clear and logical hierarchy, and how to optimise your page URLs, all before the page content itself is developed.

The start of the pandemic brought significant challenges with little to no warning, and while retailers were quick to respond, the full effects of this reimagining of physical retail and ecommerce are yet to be seen.

As the obstacles continue to turn to new opportunities, those who embrace SEO-led project management stand to gain the most from technically optimised websites with great user experience, high-quality relevant content, and a competitive presence in the search results.

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