This really is the chicken and egg question of the internet age but depending on who you ask will determine the actual answer you receive.
A graphic designer based website development company will argue in a majority of cases that the design comes first of course. And let’s face it without that aesthetically pleasing to the eye design a visitor will bounce off your site within a matter of seconds or so they would have you believe. But then that raises the big question of how did they get there in the first place?
The most common web development curve goes along the lines of website gets designed ..looks great let’s go for it. Needs some content ok, copy and paste something out of our corporate /company leaflet…..time passes and no traffic!
And then more time until eventually perhaps 6-12 months later the situation is either so dire or the company are spending a fortune on AdWords that finally the SEO expert gets called in (or somebody gets intrigued by one of those SEO e-mails that seem to hound webmasters these days), and before you know it you are on a 6 month search engine marketing campaign to try and rescue some website rankings.
Is this really the best way to go? The thousands of business owners that have been through this exact cycle will certainly argue that it most definitely is not, as this hope and pray web development criteria delays any websites success by months and sometimes years, and even more frighteningly results in thousands in lost profit, turnover and ongoing prospect capture.
What is really laughable though is that if you actually read the sales pitch on any one of the myriad of web design companies own websites many of them blatantly claim to be SEO experts as if it is a badge of honour or perhaps a must have tick in the box but a quick check of their portfolio soon reveals that if they are the search engine marketing experts, then it is clearly evident that their clients are definitely not on the receiving end of this claimed expertise.
So what is the real answer, can you really optimise a website before you launch it? Absolutely, web design and SEO should go hand in hand and the thought process of optimising a website and SEO friendly website design should form the foundations of the web development brief right from the outset, as it is the site structure, and ultimately the content that will capture free organic web traffic and also mark the website as a potential authority site or an also ran.
The search engines don’t care about what the site looks like but so often this initial chance to make the best impact when the site first gets indexed is wasted, if all the search engines find is a poorly optimised site with scant regard paid to any SEO requirements or keyword capture.
Extra time and money spent on pre development SEO (which should at the very least include keyword research and SEO copywriting) gives an outstanding return on investment as invariably when the site goes live and gets indexed it will achieve a far better website ranking from day one and even in some cases a page one result straight away.
If a web designer is not promoting web design SEO as part of your initial client brief then they are selling not only themselves short but also the client, if they don’t have the expertise themselves then best practice would be to team up with a non competing SEO professional to give the client the best possible start and return on investment on their new website.
And to any business owners who are commissioning a new website, if your developer does not offer this service then find one who does as a little extra investment will see your website many months ahead of where it would otherwise be.