SEO at the Website Development Stage: A Step-by-Step Optimization Guide

Nowadays, creating a traffic-generating website is not particularly challenging; almost anyone can do it. However, a website tends to have many hidden mistakes in the initial stages, and it is usually not ready for comprehensive promotion. In addition, Google is wary of new sites: it indexes and ranks them more slowly.

SEO promotion helps a website not only to get traffic but also to get into the first search results for relevant queries. However, it is not an instant fix. The results of promoting a new website can be seen only a few months after the launch. So, why spend time and resources on promotion at the initial development stage, you may ask?

That's what I'm going to talk about in this article, and I'll also give you a step-by-step guide to meeting the SEO requirements for a new website.

Benefits of website optimization at the development stage

There are only three benefits, but they are worth the investment.

1. Cost efficiency.

If the site is SEO-friendly from the beginning, you don't need to allocate additional funds to finalize and improve the site. Create an optimized website from the beginning, and you won’t have to make changes to the structure in the later stages.

Your investment in the website will pay off faster, and profits can be made earlier if SEO requirements are considered at the development stage.

2. A pre-planned structure that is already optimized for SEO.

Making changes to the site structure at a later stage can affect traffic and lead to the loss of pages that have already been included in the index. In addition, expanding the structure may require moving to a new server.

Correcting all potential mistakes and shortcomings early will allow you to launch a website with a high search potential.

3. Fast results.

Optimizing a website after it has been launched will have a negative impact on the most important resource in website promotion — time. 

Conversely, you shouldn't be afraid that fulfilling SEO requirements will increase the time needed for website development. If you spend more time optimizing your website in the initial stage, you will profit in the end and get a great website that gives you quick results.

Step-by-step optimization at the development stage

The main goal of SEO for a new website is to create a resource that meets all the current requirements of search engines. All actions taken by the SEO specialist aim to ensure that users can learn about the site and visit it as soon as it is launched.

The following steps are how I approach the stages of SEO promotion. Of course, there are different ways to perform SEO. This strategy is probably not the only correct method, but experience shows that it is effective and produces good results.

Step 1: Basic niche and competitor analysis

This is a necessary stage of website optimization. It allows you to study the specifics of your business and target audience and find out:

  • the position of your company in the market; 
  • the number and quality of competitors in your niche; 
  • seasonality (if any); 
  • your competitors’ mistakes that you can use to your advantage. 

For example, use keywords that your competitors have lost so that your pages can rank for them.

At this stage, objective factors that affect the success of the promotion are taken into account.

Niche research will help you assess competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. It reveals the company's advantages that allow it to compete successfully in the market. This is one of the most important stages of SEO when developing a website, as it is the basis for building a further strategy.

Step 2: Building a keyword list

A keyword list is the foundation of the website's planning and development process.

Building a keyword list helps you understand what queries the site is targeting, and you can tailor your list to the interests of your target audience. This will affect the site's visibility in search engines and, thus, the number of visitors. It also aids in planning a content strategy by creating quality content that meets users’ needs.

Specialists will select relevant and similar queries and search tips that are as closely related to the company’s activities as possible. The keywords are then clustered into landing pages, which is the most important part of the process.

Clustering is dividing keywords into groups according to their importance in organizing information. Incorrect clustering can increase the bounce rate and decrease the search engine rankings.

Step 3: Website structure optimization

Website structure is a hierarchical organization that determines how pages are arranged and related to each other. In the context of SEO, proper website structure allows search engines to index content efficiently. It also improves the website’s ranking in search results and helps increase website visibility for key queries.

Website structure optimization involves:

  • placing the menu and sections in the best possible way;
  • organizing products into convenient categories and subcategories;
  • implementing a logical sequence for information blocks.

You can visualize the site structure with the help of a mind map, a diagram used to visually organize information into a hierarchy.

An example of a website mind map.

Step 4: On-page optimization

This stage involves creating relevant pages to the user's query and improving their search rankings. These are the main tasks of an SEO specialist in on-page optimization:

1. Metadata configuration (title, description, H1) for all site pages. Metadata helps the search bot better understand the content of the page. The more understandable the meta tags are for the robot, the more likely it is to show the page in the search results.

2. H1-H6 headings. These headings are primarily crawled by search bots, and search results are generated based on the keywords in these headings.

3. Optimization of filter pages. Filter pages are search results in product categories based on various parameters set by users. Their optimization is necessary to improve the website’s visibility and increase search engine rankings and organic traffic.
This is especially important for medium- and low-frequency queries. Proper optimization of filter pages will turn them into traffic-generating pages. In addition, it will increase the level of trust in the site among users and reduce the bounce rate.

4. Content creation. It is important for the content of each page to be more than just a bunch of words mixed with key phrases; it should be readable, meaningful, coherent, and relevant. The texts on the site are written not only for search robots but also for humans.
It’s also worth thinking about creating a blog. This will allow you to attract more of your target audience and increase their interest in your website by posting new content on a regular basis.

5. Internal linking. Links between website pages are necessary to improve navigation and help search engines understand the site's structure. With internal linking, you can increase the relevance of resource pages in search results, increase website traffic, and speed up indexing.

6. Compliance of the website with the main metrics. This stage is necessary to achieve the best performance indicators. Key metrics determine how well a website meets user expectations and search engine requirements. These metrics include:

  • Page load speed. Users don't like to wait, so speeding up the load time of your website can increase visitor satisfaction and reduce bounce rates. A score between 90 and 100 is considered the best.
  • Time spent on the site. If a visitor spends a lot of time on your resource, it shows their interest in and satisfaction with the content.
  • Bounce rate. A high bounce rate (70% and above) indicates that users are not finding what they need or are having problems using the site.

By immediately creating a high-quality resource that has good content and loads quickly, you will encourage users to visit your site and stay longer. By optimizing your site for these metrics, you can improve the user experience and increase the credibility of your resource in the eyes of search algorithms. Ultimately, this leads to higher visibility in search results.

7. Analytics setup. Installing analytics tools, such as Google Analytics 4, allows you to track site traffic and user behavior and understand the results of your advertising efforts.
You can analyze traffic channels, search queries, and ad campaign performance with systematically collected data. This data allows SEO specialists to summarize the results and make the necessary improvements.

8. Adaptation for mobile devices. A responsive design positively impacts website usability, audience reach, user retention, and responsiveness. In addition, mobile-first indexing prioritizes the mobile version over the desktop version, and search engines pay close attention to mobile optimization.

Step 5: Technical SEO

At this stage, the SEO specialist provides the developer with a list of technical rules and standards that a functional website must meet. Implementing these standards is a mandatory part of resource optimization. Here are the requirements:

1. Create a clean URL (page link). The URL indicates the user's location on the site, so it should be understandable to a human and consist of simple descriptive words.

2. Set up pagination pages for indexing. Pagination pages divide website content into several separate pages to make it easier for users to navigate and interact with a large amount of information.
Pagination pages must be optimized primarily to promote the resource and get maximum traffic. They need to be available for indexing, so you must ensure that the site's HTML code includes links to all pagination pages.

3. When working with images on your website, you need to optimize them by considering the following factors:

  • Choose the right image format. WebP and AVIF offer better image compression (about 25-35%) than other formats, and JPEG or PNG can be a backup option.
  • Replacing GIFs with video can increase the efficiency of content display and provide better compression and quality.
  • Improve content quality and load speed. The attractiveness of images is directly related to their quality; users are more likely to visit the site if the image thumbnail is clearly visible in search results.
  • Optimize filenames and set alt and title attributes for images so that they are informative and contain keywords.
  • Ensure adaptability so that images display correctly on different devices, including mobile ones.

When these requirements are met, images on a website effectively contribute to its aesthetics, user experience, and search engine optimization.

4. Set up redirects. A redirect is a way to send a user from one URL to another, usually to provide access to relevant content.
Proper setup can solve a number of major problems, such as eliminating duplicates, gluing domains together, and maintaining link weight when page addresses change. Redirects help maintain SEO relevance and traffic when URLs and site structure change. 

5. Create a robots.txt file. This file contains instructions for search engine crawlers. It tells them which pages and files to crawl. Ensure that the file is configured correctly and contains the correct UTF-8 encoding characters so that the robots can process them accurately. 

Once a robots.txt file is created, the site pages will be crawled correctly.

6. Create an XML sitemap, which is a list of important pages on your site that you want to promote. The sitemap will make it easier for search bots to crawl these pages. After ensuring the file contains accurate and correct URLs, you can submit the sitemap.xml file to search engines using the Google Search Console or robots.txt.

7. Configure HTTP headers. HTTP headers provide additional information about a resource or the request itself. They indicate various data transfer parameters, such as content type, encoding, caching, security, etc.
Optimizing HTTP headers speeds up page indexing and the load time for users. Search results will then show the date the page was last updated, which helps it rank highly in the SERPs.

8. Use the rel="canonical" tag. This tag prevents duplicate content. When it is used, search bots will perceive the page as a priority or canonical page for indexing. It will be displayed in the organic search results and will receive a number of links from other pages with similar content.

9. Create a 404 page. First, it will enable search robots to understand that the page is unavailable, which in turn can prevent further indexing of such a page and waste of search engine resources. 

Second, providing information that the page was not found helps improve the user experience.

10. Implementing micro-markup is a way to add structured information to a web page to make its content more understandable to search engines. It helps search bots recognize text and other page elements and associate them with a specific type of data, as bots still struggle to determine the meaning of content.

The sections of a website should be marked up with the appropriate micro-markup, such as product, offer, price, organization, review, and breadcrumbs, and customized using the library. Thus, the robot will provide the appropriate information for the user’s request.

As a result, you will improve the user experience, get an attractive snippet in the search results, and increase click-through rates.


  1. Out of all of the above, the most crucial takeaway is that SEO at the stage of website development is a necessity. Not using the services of SEO specialists at the development stage will negatively affect outcomes and cost you time and money.
  2. Involving SEO specialists at the initial stage of developing a new website allows you to immediately create the right resource that will appeal to users and search engines, get a good conversion rate, and lead to high sales.
  3. It is also important to note that SEO at the early stages of website development is a rather laborious process. Therefore, you need to be patient, and you will be rewarded with an excellent ranking in search engine results and a high number of site visitors.
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