Ask the Experts: What SEO To Require From My Developer?

by Gradiva Couzin on October 11, 2011

Q: I just hired a developer for my small-budget site development project. Is there a Top 10 list of things I should insist on SEO-wise to be built into the site?

A: As we all know by now, SEO consists of several different endeavors:

  • Technical SEO: ensuring a search-friendly and social-friendly site from a structural/technical standpoint
  • Content/Editorial SEO: creating content that aligns with your target audience’s search behavior and keywords
  • Link appeal and link-building

It’s obvious that your web developer’s work influences the technical side of SEO.  But structural issues and CMS capabilities will also have long-term effects on your ability to maximize your content/editorial SEO and link power.   Here are my top 10 developer requirements for SEO:

  • Each page on the site must exist on a separate, unique, permanent URL that is indexable by search engine robots
  • All pages on the site must be accessible by clicking standard HTML links, preferably no more than 3 clicks from the home page
  • Text content on the site must be search-engine-indexable, standard, visible HTML text
  • Search engine robots are like site visitors that do not accept cookies, do not fill out forms, do not log-in, and have limited javascript and CSS capabilities.  These robots should be able to read versions of each page that match as closely as possible what a human visitor would see.
  • Every page on the site must have a unique, descriptive HTML title.   The CMS should allow the site owner to edit the HTML title separately from editing other elements of the page, such as the page heading.
  • We recommend that every page on the site include a Facebook Like, Google +, and Tweet button.
  • The CMS should allow the site owner to edit OG tags on each page.
  • If there is any chance that identical pages will be seen via more than one URL (creating potential duplicate content in search engines), the CMS should allow the site owner to include/edit a canonical tag on each page.
  • URLs should be meaningful, human-readable and include the page title or relevant keywords
  • Images that are clickable should have ALT and TITLE tags that provide a text description of the destination page being clicked to.

Granted, every one of these won’t apply to every project, but for the majority of small budget jobs, this list will form a strong foundation on which you can build your SEO efforts.

And one last piece of advice: communicate like crazy and stay on ’em.  If you don’t have an outside SEO vendor involved in the project, you will need to serve the role of SEO watchdog during development.

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