Use This SEO Planning Template For Your Next Web Design Project
It’s a tragedy.
A beautifully designed website sits alone on the Internet with no one to admire it. No traffic. No love from the search engines.
It’s a tragedy because the vast majority of clients do not want a fresh look or a beautiful design. They want more sales, leads, referrals and donations.
A website redesign may be what they order, but increased commerce is usually the goal. A clean and professional website that represents the branding of the company and communicates the right message to the customer will go a long way.
But it is dangerous to dismiss the power of SEO. Search Engines like Google are not to be ignored and clients are increasingly making SEO a prerequisite to signing off on a design project.
The trouble with SEO and website design is that it is terribly difficult to keep it organized. It’s easier to build the site first and apply SEO later, if at all.
This document solves that problem.
A single document that changes everything
Before going live. Before comps and even before wire frames, the information architecture of the website should be determined.
Developing the information architecture is the “this page with this information belongs here” exercise that is done to determine the site map.
A silo document is a way to organize the information architecture in a coherent way. Proper organization of information is not only good for your site visitors, it is also good for search engines. Bruce Clay, whom some would say is the Father of SEO, explains the importance of siloing or themeing information on a website here.
But the silo is so much more than a way to organize site information into themes.
The silo is a living, breathing document that is used before, during and after the design of the new website. It is a spreadsheet that contains a plan that is updated as the attributes for a web page change.
An example silo document
The silo document pictured below is a real document used for the redesign of an accounting firm website that had ~150 pages of content.
This is an abbreviated version with just four fields, additional fields are discussed later in this article:
Here is a short explanation of each field in this abbreviated document:
ID - The ID creates an easy way for all stakeholders in the design process to refer to a page. The ID immediately communicates the location of the page in the information hierarchy. In the example above, the 0 page is the home page. The 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 pages are 1st level pages. 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 are all sub-pages of the 1.0 page. Not shown here is 1.1.1 which would be a sub-page of the 1.1 page.
Page Name – The Page Name is what will be used in the navigation elements of the site.
Keyword 1 -This is the primary SEO keyword that will be targeted on this page.
Keyword 2 – This is the secondary SEO keyword that will be targeted on this page.
As you can see, this is a plan, an SEO plan.
This document becomes the go-to document for the client, designer, SEO specialist, developer and copywriter on the project.
Other fields to include in the silo
Because this document allows you to record attributes at the page level, there is no limit to the amount of data you can keep in it.
Here are some other fields to include in the document:
Title Tag – The title tag containing the primary keyword, secondary keyword and any branding elements such as the name of the business. Try to keep the title tag to around 75 characters. The title tag for the 1.0 page above might be: ABC Accounting | Tax Consulting | Tax Compliance Services.
URL – The URL has a surprisingly positive effect on SEO. Create files that incorporate the primary keyword. The file for the 1.0 page above might be: /tax-consulting.htm
Meta Description – If you are comfortable writing paragraphs into a spreadsheet, the meta description can be held in the silo document as well. Try to incorporate both the primary and secondary keywords into the meta description.
Headings – You can create fields such as h1, h2, h3, etc and populate these fields with the headings and subheadings. This gives direction for the copywriter and the developer that will be incorporating the content into the design. A heading tag on the 1.0 page above might be: Providing Tax Consulting Since 1965.
Image File Name(s) – Google Images uses the file name of the image to determine what the image is about. For websites that would benefit from Google Images traffic, optimizing the image file names is time well spent. An image file name for the 1.0 page above might be: tax-consulting.jpg
Image Alt Attributes – The image alt attribute is another on-page SEO component that gives a slight SEO advantage to those who take advantage. Specify the image alt in the silo so that the developer can add the optimized attribute as the images are uploaded to the new site. The alt attribute on the image for the 1.0 page above would be: Tax Consulting.
One document to rule them all
All members of the web design team including the client can view the silo document as a blue print for better SEO.
The client will use it to better understand how their site should be organized. It will force them to organize the information on their site and give the pages clear names. Discussion of the site contents and the SEO elements on those pages will uncover issues in the site redesign early. Issues such as gaping holes in the content on the site, semantic issues with the names of their products and services and other issues will be uncovered during the building of the silo document.
The designer will use the silo to create navigation elements and gain a better understanding of the design elements that will be needed on each page to communicate the correct message. Developers will use it when incorporating page-level attributes such as title tags, heading tags, image alts and meta descriptions.
The copywriter will use it to incorporate SEO elements into the copy.
The silo document is a single document that keeps all that are involved in a site redesign on the same page. It allows you to easily organize your SEO and build it into the website redesign process.
Download this SEO Planning template here.
Do you use a template like this to for SEO planning on a website design? Do you use a similar document? Please share in the comments!