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SEO Driven Website Development

What are the main stages of website development? It usually starts with defining goals, SEO objectives and analyzing the target audience. Next, a prototype and design layouts are developed, a website is created, tested and launched. And in most cases, only after that they think about the development and promotion of the site.

At first glance, this sequence seems logical, but in real life this format no longer works. Let’s figure out why. The fact that website promotion is modestly in last place is fundamentally wrong. The SEO specialist from Portland digital agency must be involved BEFORE the website is developed, not after.

SEO Driven Development

If you follow the classic path, before starting SEO work, it turns out that the site needs to be completely redone, and this is additional money, time and nerves. Why is this happening? The vision of the site for the business owner, developers and designers does not always coincide with the desires of real users and, moreover, with the requirements of search engines.

Work with SEO objections at the stage of website development, it is often not entirely obvious why SEO is needed. You can say: “Excuse me, but we just need a website, not a promotion, why involve an additional specialist in the development, because this will entail an increase in the terms and cost of the project!”

First, you can think about the need to promote your site in the future. Secondly, SEO development requirements in 2020 can be categorized as a must-have – basically, these are recommendations for the technical part, usability and adaptability.

SEO Driven Development Concept

In website development, BDD (Behavior-driven development) and CDD (Customer Driven Development) methodologies are popular. SEO Driven Development does not exist as a separate methodology, but the concept does exist, and we at DD Planet hope to popularize it as soon as possible. Along with BDD, where the main idea is to combine the interests of a business or a product with technical requirements, development taking into account SEO optimization proves to be very effective and perfectly copes with the main goal of a business – to sell.

At the same time, it is possible to describe user stories (User Stories) for the development team, taking into account SEO, relying on the BDD specifications, according to the established structure. For example:

As an SEO specialist, I want to be able to set custom meta tags for specific subcategories of products on the site.

To summarize. In addition to the designer, programmers and layout designers, it is necessary to connect a competent SEO specialist already at the development stage. Benefit: the readiness of the site for promotion from the start, prevention of possible errors and creation of the necessary functionality.

At which of the above development stages do we need to hire a smart SEO specialist? The correct answer would be – for everyone!


Who should be in charge of the overall project? As a lyrical digression. At DD Planet, we are committed to an agile project development methodology and classic roles – Product Manager (Product Owner) and Project Manager (Account Manager).

The Product Owner / Product Manager is the person who is responsible for the vision of the final product and its value to the user. The product has a focus on defining the purpose of the site. The competence of the product owner is the answer to the questions: what to do and what product to create based on an understanding of the competition, the subject area, communication with the customer and the interests of end users.

The project (Project / Account Manager) focuses on the process, and its task is to understand with whom to do it, in what sequence, how to do it and when. In other words, the project interprets requests from the business and the product manager into tasks for technical specialists.

The answer to the question – who should be responsible for SEO development – will be a standard combination of a project manager and a product manager, but by no means an SEO specialist.

And the Swiss, and the reaper, and the player on the pipe
If you look at the stages that precede the actual development of the site, it may seem that some of the work lies outside the competence of an SEO specialist and takes place at the intersection of development and marketing, but in reality it is difficult to imagine a competent SEO who does not understand the basics of web development, analytics and UX design.

The main stages of work.The entire SEO Driven Development process can be divided into 8 main stages. Below we will consider them in more detail.

Analysis of the niche, target audience and competitors

First, you need to define for each product or service:

  • what we sell / what services we provide; to whom;
  • what is the value of the product / service;
  • analogues on the market;
  • USP (unique selling proposition).

At this stage, the SEO specialist, together with the product manager, study the incoming brief from the customer. It is important to understand the goals, the main directions of the company’s activities, the priority regions in the promotion, the customer’s goods and services and their features on the market.

Case studies

Competitive analysis in SEO comes in several types. For an example, an analysis of traffic sources for a delivery service website and the distribution of competitors in the top 10 in the field of tourism for the site of a well-known tour operator is given.

Competitive analysis – summary table by traffic sources:

Distribution of sites in the top 10 according to high-frequency requests for tourism:

Building the structure

At this stage, the collection and clustering of the semantic core takes place. The collected requests are distributed for promotion by category. It is important to take into account not only the generality of the groups of queries, but also their intent (the goal is what exactly the user wanted to see when typing this or that query in a search engine). Different intents require different landing pages.

Classification of requests by type of intent:

Informational (articles, reviews, analytics).
Navigational (specific brand, trademark, specific site, geolocation).
Transactional (commercial).
Case studies

Distribution by page types for queries of the “Installment Cards” cluster for the site

The site page must be relevant to the request intent. Based on the data obtained, after collecting and clustering semantics, the future structure of the site is built, sections, categories, the type of product card are being worked out, and the need for additional information pages is identified:

Blog / Articles
Questions and answers
and etc.

Defining the intent manually is a rather complex and resource-intensive task. To do this, you need to manually run each request separately for Yandex and Google, analyze the search results, and take into account the context of the search profile. The easiest way to check the request intent is to use a special tool in the arsenal of the Pixel Tools service.

The structure of the site can be made in the form of MindMap (meaning map). The development of MindMap visually helps to determine the main pages and types of templates on the future site. For example, you can parse the structure from competitors using a special tool, the so-called “frog” – Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

Case study: MindMap for a smart home site

The task of an SEO specialist is to distribute the collected clusters among the pages, think over the “query tree”, understand exactly how to create the structure and navigation, how users will search for the site.


Based on the data obtained after analyzing competitors, prototypes are drawn up for designers. SEO is characterized by a general rule of benchmarking, when the “best” projects in their segment set the rules of “success”. Nevertheless, it is worth looking not at all competitors at all, but only at the “similar” ones (the closest in format). For example, it makes no sense to compare the site of one manufacturer and a large aggregator with offers from different companies.

How SEO prototypes are created

At the prototyping stage, navigation and user interaction with the site are thought out. Based on the semantics, we build the layout of the ideal landing page, having got on which, the user will receive the most complete answer to his need.

An example from practice: development of a landing page for the Delivery of Documents service for a delivery service website.

On the example of the service “Delivery of documents” region “Moscow”.

At the moment the service is included in the package – classic delivery.

This is not a completely correct approach, since there is a list of requests related specifically to services for the delivery of documents – which means that it is more logical to combine them into a cluster and put them in a separate page in the structure.

A separate service, similar in intent to the main one.
On the right are prompts. These are the most frequent queries from users within the entered keywords. All of them relate to vacancies: people are looking for a job as a courier. This indicates the need to work out a section with vacancies.


SEO Accents on demand

In the image above, the so-called “demand accents” are highlighted in red and green – in our case, these are queries of the form:

According to the intent of requests, it becomes clear that it is necessary to work out various options for service tariffs. By combining similar requests “express” and “urgent”, we get tariff number 1 – urgent delivery. Let’s decide that for a city like Moscow, an urgent one is 3 hours. We will combine two other similar requests: “per day” and “fast” into tariff number 2 – for Moscow it is delivery up to 5 hours.

A separate service within the current semantics

Please note the request: Print documents with delivery

Intent: The user wants to download documents from his device, order the service of printing these documents with subsequent delivery to his home. Options: a photocopy of your passport, printing your diploma or term paper.

A separate service within a cluster is a very good example of something that at first glance is not obvious and hidden without a detailed elaboration of the semantics by an SEO specialist.


So, having worked out the semantics, distributing the requests into groups, we can assume what exactly the user wants to see on pedimentary page. These can be tariffs, information about the delivery time, the ability to track, the choice of time and date convenient for delivery. We will reflect the structure of the landing page schematically in the prototype – we will get a kind of Landing Page within one domain.

Prototype of the page “Courier delivery of documents in Moscow”

Conclusion: working out and prototyping the structure of landing pages in accordance with the expectations and needs of the user will help improve usability, reduce the percentage of bounces, which, in turn, will have a beneficial effect on the promotion of the site as a whole.

Design and layout

We will consider design and layout as a single front of work, the main thing is to understand the need to test layout directly by an SEO specialist. The seed drill should check:

correct navigation, linking;
the existanse of bread crumbs;
the appearance of spreading pages;
the presence and appearance of headings;
lack of layout of phones and email addresses using images;
availability of content, etc.


At this stage, in the TOR for programmers, it is important for an SEO specialist to describe the basic logic and rules, for example:

  • setting up redirects;
  • the principle of forming a sitemap, meta tags, urls and breadcrumbs;
  • micro-markup;
  • canon pages;
  • the possibility of placing SEO-texts;
  • creation of additional selections, landing pages
  • etc.

Micro-markup and SEO

Most often, a special standard is used for markup, which was created and maintained by the most popular search engines. is needed to form a rich snippet and increase the page’s relevance.

Types of micro-markup

The most common types of micro-markup are elements that are common to almost any site:

organization card;
block “Contacts” on the site;
bread crumbs (breadcrumbs);
goods and prices;
reviews for products or organization.
The markup for social networks OpenGraph (for social networks) stands apart, Twitter has its own markup.

You can check the correctness of the micro-markup with a special validator: from Google. from Yandex. from Facebook.

It is worth noting that there is an efficient and easy-to-use alternative – the JSON-LD format. Search engines perfectly recognize JSON-LD, the format makes indexing easier and increases the visibility of the site in search thanks to rich snippets. At the same time, JSON-LD is compliant.

SEO Content Preparation

While the site is under construction, it’s time to pay attention to the elaboration of the content. An SEO specialist, based on the semantic core and the analysis of competitors, draws up technical specifications for texts for copywriters.

General content requirements:

It should be possible to set a unique text for each page of the site.

Placing the text should be accessible to anyone without specialized knowledge of html using a convenient visual editor.

The text is available without opening on click / hover, it is not loaded asynchronously.
At this stage, an SEO specialist needs:

Choose promotion priorities and pages for them.
Analyze competitors’ content.
Form a technical specification for a copywriter and content manager.
Make a content plan.
Case study: categorizing articles into three categories for a travel site content plan.

Preparation of articles, news, analytical materials during development will not only help fill the site at the initial stage, but will also provide the basis for content for a long time.


An SEO specialist connects both at the stage of testing the key functionality of the site after programming, and after the final calculation for the battle. Here, together with the project manager, it is important to check:

That is why there should be no duplicate pages. Configure a 301 redirect if both versions of the site are available with www or without www. General rules for url formation: each URL must be accessible either with a “/” at the end, or without it.

Displaying the site on mobile devices.

Content loading speed. Lack of 5 ** and 404 server responses – there should not be such pages on the site.

Formation of a sitemap (it must be without errors. In addition all links in the file must give a response code “200”. The sitemap must be up-to-date, ideally auto-updating). Plus, the presence of unique meta tags is required.

Closing your personal account, administrative panel, shopping cart and other service pages from indexing.
For example, compliance of the site layout with standards and successful validation. Also make sure you have SSL certificate connection.

Setting up SEO analytics, AMP and Turbo pages

Depending on the goals of the business, the SEO specialist and the product manager set up analytics systems at this stage. That includes such work as installing counters, adding a site to the Yandex and Google webmaster panels, checking the correctness of goals, connecting end-to-end analytics and Call Tracking systems. In some cases: customization

Chat bots, connecting AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) technologies from Google and Turbo pages from Yandex (Turbo and Amp pages are connected mainly for information sites, for example, news resources).

Schematically, all goals for tracking in analytics systems can be divided into three groups:

  1. Interaction / Landing Pages
  2. Company services page
  3. Contacts
  4. Callback order
  5. Target action / conversion

Purchase of goods

  • I put a product in the cart
  • Download price list
  • Checkout


User interest: viewing depth, time on the site, transition to related news, articles


Connecting a competent SEO specialist to the project will help prepare the site for further promotion, save time, money and, most importantly, nerves, since you will not need to rework the newly created site. In addition, such a project will correspond to the preferences of users – what they expect to see on the site.

In the case of simple sites, the impact of SEO on development time and results is not so strong, since the basic aspects are easy to take into account. And If we are talking about a large project and non-standard solutions (startups, marketplaces, etc.), SEO Driven Development can become a key factor influencing the development of the project.

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