My SEO First! 4-Stage Web Design Process

Discover my SEO First 4-Stage Web Design Process to create a website that works for you!

I first realised the importance of SEO as part of the Web Design process while working for Snap Surveys in Bristol in the early 2000s’. My design of the third iteration of the company website coincided with Google first gaining traction and launching its advertising platform. I became interested in improving visitor numbers and headed to the High Rankings forum run by the well-respected Jill Whalen to learn about SEO.

It’s imperative to consider SEO and keyword research during the web design process rather than treating it as an afterthought. SEO should be an integral part of the design process and factor into site structure, navigation and more. Merely launching a website and waiting for traffic to pour in is not a sensible approach. You cannot just launch a website and hope the results will just happen. Nor can you redesign a website after the fact to incorporate SEO without incurring inflated costs.

Justin March

From Start to Finish: An Example 4-Stage Process of Building a Website that Actually Works!

Most published Web Design processes leave out post-launch activity and keyword research and have little or no information on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I like this 4-Stage approach as it allows me to correctly give more weight to Stage 1 and Stage 4 of the process. This helps me focus on (what I think matters) your goals and what you need to do to achieve them, which most likely involves SEO.

Creating a website can be daunting. Here is an example process to give you an idea of the background work that some web design companies ignore. Hopefully, this will give you insights into the critical work involved in creating a site and a strategy designed to meet your goals and expectations.

Stage 1: Understanding Your Needs, Discovery, & Goal Setting 

When creating a website, it is essential to prioritise certain factors:

  1. Understand what specific results you want your website to achieve, such as increased sales, lead generation or brand awareness. 
  2. Identify your target audience, including their online behaviour and pain points. For example, are they local, national or multinational?
  3. Analyse your competitors’ websites to determine what they are doing well and how you can differentiate yourself.
  4. Identify relevant keywords with recurring historical pedigree that your target audience will likely use and analyse how you and your competitors rank for those keywords.

The answers to the above questions form the strong foundation that will guide the construction of your website. I work to understand your needs so I can build a better site. Most typically, I will:

  • Ask questions and interview you to understand your business goals and target visitors to tailor the website’s user experience.
  • Research your industry and competitors to identify unique selling points and market trends.
  • Collaborate with you to define your objectives and key performance indicators.
  • Help you identify and incorporate your unique value proposition into the website’s messaging and design.
  • Conduct keyword research on competitor websites to identify valuable keywords and content gaps.

Researching keywords should be an essential part of the web design process. It allows you (or your SEO) to understand how often a given phrase is searched and how difficult it will be to rank in Google for the phrase. This allows you (or your Web Designer) to correctly design your site around the most valuable phrases.

Performing keyword research for a new website design can be compared to solving puzzles or a murder mystery. It involves gathering clues to determine what people are searching for and then piecing together the right clues (keywords) to create a picture of the most effective website design possible. Just like a famous detective solves and sums up a case, you can solve the puzzle of the most effective web design by gathering information and fitting the right pieces (content) together in the right way.

Justin March

You can find out more about keyword research on Moz and Yoast.

Stage 2: Strategic Planning & Site Architecture

In the second stage of building a website, there are four key priorities to keep in mind:

  1. Ensure your intended visitors can easily navigate your website. We need to design the website in such a way that it helps visitors achieve their goals.
  2. Provide website content that is interesting and informative to your intended visitors.
  3. Create a website design that looks good and is consistent with your brand. This will help visitors trust the website and your business.
  4. Ensure the website is designed to be search engine friendly and focused on your target keywords.

I work to define the following elements to meet your needs and goals. Most typically, I will:

  • Develop a comprehensive project plan outlining timelines, deliverables, and resource requirements.
  • Factor in UX user-centred design principles for optimal usability. See: Nielsen Norman Group.
  • Create prototypes to visualise the website structure and user experience.
  • Define the content strategy, including SEO optimisation and user engagement tactics. 
  • Consider Google E-E-A-T signals to ensure your website content meets Google’s quality standards. 
  • Research and shortlist appropriate Content Management Systems (CMS) platforms based on the project needs, such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify. Alternatively, for uncommon requirements, liaise with developers for highly advanced functionality not covered by plugins.
  • Explore the potential of PPC campaigns to boost visibility and uncover valuable keywords for the client’s business.

Happy Visitors = Happy Search Engines

I create high-quality content that Google and your users love, conforming to the Google E-E-A-T signals. E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

E-E-A-T signals relate directly to how positively visitors consider the quality of a website’s content and determine whether it is reliable and authoritative.

For Google, it’s crucial that its users see high-quality search results simply because it helps them make more money from Google ads. If visitors don’t trust Google’s search results, they’re less likely to use Google or to click on ads, and Google’s revenue will suffer. By ranking high-quality content that conforms to E-E-A-T signals, Google can ensure that visitors are more likely to engage with search results and click on ads, ultimately benefiting Google. In this way, E-E-A-T benefits not only users and visitors and helps Google maintain its position as a leading search engine and ad platform.

Stage 3: Design, Development & Implementation

In the third stage of building a website, there are four key priorities to keep in mind:

  1. Take your text or input and craft unique text and content for inclusion on your site pages, keeping in mind your target keywords.
  2. Ensure your site works well on relevant devices like desktops, phones, and tablets. This is typically accomplished via responsive web design.
  3. Help ensure your website is secure and performs well so it loads quickly and users have a great experience.
  4. Ensure your site can be easily modified to accommodate your future needs. Do you want me to update the website, or would you prefer to do it yourself? Either way, I will ensure the process is simple and accommodates your future marketing needs.

I work to achieve the following to meet your needs and goals. Most typically, I will:

  • Assist in domain name selection and provide logo designs to align with your brand identity.
  • Design sites to accommodate SEO elements that competitors often miss, ensuring better search engine visibility.
  • Leverage my MA in Visual Communication and my experience (UX) design expertise throughout the process, emphasising user-centred design principles for optimal usability.
  • Implement responsive (Mobile Friendly) design principles to ensure the website functions seamlessly across devices. Implement practices and install and set up plugins to improve security and ensure your site loads quickly and users have a great experience.
  • Ensure your website allows for seamless integration of SEO elements and provides flexibility for future optimisation while ensuring the website meets any unique requirements.
  • I advise you on reliable and environmentally-friendly website hosting providers to align with sustainability and performance goals.

SEO-ready Website Design

Many factors must be considered when building an SEO-ready website, including mobile-friendliness, page speed, website structure, structured data markup, and internal linking and crawlability.

Stage 4: Launch, Aftercare & Ongoing Marketing

In the fourth stage of building a website, there are four essential tasks I recommend to ensure success:

  1. Implement website analytics, rank tracking, competitor tracking and ongoing technical SEO site audits. This involves setting up tools to identify areas for improvement and making improvements on an ongoing basis. I will adjust your website’s SEO strategy and based on my analysis improve search engine visibility.
  2. Ongoing website maintenance and support help ensure your website stays working and is user-friendly. This includes regular updates to plugins and software, troubleshooting any emerging issues, and ensuring your website is secure and protected from hacking attempts. 
  3. Develop ongoing strategies to aid growth and attract more visitors, increasing engagement and revenue. This may involve creating content marketing campaigns, improving search engine optimisation (SEO), and engaging with users through social media and other channels. 

I work to achieve the following to meet your needs and goals. Most typically, I will:

  • Advise on security and implement 2-factor authentication of your website and other vital accounts to prevent hacking attempts.
  • Implement a content strategy for regular content creation to enhance SEO and engage the target audience, establish thought leadership, and improve SEO.
  • Offer PPC services when needed to boost results and uncover valuable keywords for ongoing content creation and blogging efforts.
  • Offer online training for the client’s team to manage and update website content if required.
  • To enhance the website’s authority and visibility. I incorporate ethical link-building (White-hat SEO) strategies such as guest blogging and citation building.
  • If the website is for a local business, set up and optimise your Google My Business profile(s) and implement local SEO to increase local search visibility and relevant geo or local landing pages. 
  • My monthly technical SEO audits cover everything from HTTP status codes and external links to the website’s structure, site security, duplicate content, textual content, redirects, internal links, external links, localisation, images, mobile optimisation, and more. These audits ensure your website maintains the highest readability and quality standards.

Building a website is like planting a tree; ongoing work is required, such as nurturing it with regular care and attention to help it grow strong and healthy.

Justin March

Web Design Process FAQ’s

What is the relationship between Web Design and SEO?

Web design and SEO have a strong (symbiotic) relationship.

Considering SEO from the beginning of the web design process is crucial for building a successful website that generates organic traffic and enhances search engine rankings.

Perhaps it’s helpful to consider some key design elements that directly or indirectly impact website SEO:

Mobile-Friendly Design: Modern web designs must work on all relevant screen sizes and devices. Google places great importance on this, favouring mobile versions of sites when indexing and ranking.

Images: Google values original images designed to download as fast as possible, with descriptive file names and alt tags. Images should be used carefully to ensure they don’t impact loading time.

Website Navigation: A good navigation system makes it easy for users to find what they’re looking for and helps search engines find and understand the potency and relevance of your website’s key content. The quality and nature of links, including backlinks and internal linking, can significantly impact SEO rankings.

Fast Loading Time: Your entire page, so every part of your web design! (code, images and text) should load quickly, in 3 seconds or less.

Why do you think a complicated Web Design process like this is necessary?

It may not be; it actually depends on your specific needs. Without a proper process, you may waste money and fail to get the desired results. 

The process can be as simple as some light keyword research, a simple website and a one-off round of marketing.

I have designed sites for small businesses like Stroud Valley Windows that bring in sufficient leads or results in the way the owners wish without hundreds of pages and ongoing marketing efforts. 

Still, I have never designed a site without a plan to get results. That rarely works; if it does, it’s accidental and often sub-optimal.

Can’t I get a Website designed, launch it, and hope for the best?

It’s your money, so you can design your website however you like, but remember that only with a plan will it rank well and achieve your desired results. My approach is customised to meet your specific goals and objectives. My main focus is creating a website that looks great, ranks high in Google, and offers a positive user experience. With my methods, your website will be tailored to your unique needs and developed to provide a valuable return on your investment.

Justin March - Owner Stroud Valley SEO
Owner Stroud Valley SEO
Justin March is a highly skilled freelance SEO and web designer with human-computer and user interface design expertise. He has achieved position 1 rankings in Google for tricky key phrases like "Survey Software" and "Water Coolers". Justin has worked as a marketing director and shareholder at Quench Water Systems Ltd. and WaterCoolers Ltd. Justin now designs, markets and maintains websites for numerous Startups and SMEs in the Stroud and Bristol areas.