Use This SEO Planning Template For Your Next Web Design Project

by 61 01/11/2012

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:

SEO Document

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!

About 

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

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61 COMMENTS

Preet

i like the template strategy where it goes keyword research before designing the website and deciding services. will include this is in my blog too…

January 11, 2012 Reply

eL_GoTA

thanks friend for your input

January 11, 2012 Reply

mountarreat

Thank you very mich! I came here from KISSmetrics’ tweet. It will come in handy for many projects to come. BTW the 2nd and 3rd sheet of the excel template still contains keyword researches from the original document, I suppose.

January 11, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    LOL, thanks for the heads up, as I said this is a document for a real project. Looks like I left some of the KW research in there. :)

    January 11, 2012 Reply

      Phil

      Russ,
      The article looks great, but my head was getting to the point of explosion. I couldn’t handle it. Or in other words, I had to Cntrl+Alt+Del myself and refresh.
      Either way, I am a novice to the SEO which is probably why I couldn’t hang without freezing. Do you have a “beginners lesson” to SEO or perhaps a more dumbed down version of this to help the needy like me?
      Regards

      January 18, 2012 Reply

        Russ Henneberry

        Hi Phil,
        There is no shortage of basic SEO information on the web. I got my start lurking in the SEO Chat Forums and reading SEO Moz day after day. In the end though you need to start applying some of the lessons learned to a real site and track the results. There is no substitute for doing it. Hope that helps.

        January 19, 2012 Reply

San Diego Plumbing

Wow, I’ve never seen an SEO planning/silo template. I like it! I’m downloading a copy to incorporate into our website.

Thanks for a great post!

January 11, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    It’s a powerful document! Customize it to fit your needs!

    January 11, 2012 Reply

    Phalazo

    The template is awesome for use and thanks for the best seo service tips and review.

    Cheers!

    April 7, 2014 Reply

Ryan Flannagan

Great article! We don’t use planning documents at Nuanced Media However, we do do keyword and competitive analyses. I will try out the provided doc and see how it works out. The other difference here is we use wordpress majority of the time and wordpress has some very handy seo plugins etc. Is there a SEO website analysis software that you would suggest? We currently us SEO MOZ

Thanks!

January 11, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    The best SEO Website analysis software I know of is your noggin. :) However, I do like the tools that SEO Moz provides for automating a lot of the heavy leg work. I have also heard good things about Majestic SEO and their toolset but haven’t used them personally.

    January 11, 2012 Reply

    Hugo de Figueiredo

    Have you tried “Market Samurai” ?
    This is the one I use and it is very powerful …

    January 16, 2012 Reply

Joseph Putnam

Wow, this article is legit. Thanks Russ! :)

January 11, 2012 Reply

Glenn

Nice strategy template – good common template so that all stakeholders can understand where a site is header. I’ll use it :)

January 12, 2012 Reply

Keith Glantz

Russ – nicely done. I wonder if the keyword SEO was the featured keyword in your silo for this post.

January 13, 2012 Reply

Kyle Lanning

Organization and persistence is the key. Great work.

January 16, 2012 Reply

Social Web Designer

So very nice! Clean, modern and very stylish. Good job Russ!

Sandy

January 16, 2012 Reply

Gunnar Bittersmann

[…] on a website here […] Download this SEO Planning template here […] by clicking here.

I’m surprised to see a webpage about SEO using “here” as link texts. You should avoid it; use meaningful link texts instead. Users rather scan than read webpages; screenreader users might skip from link to link. Too bad if link texts just say “here”, “here”, “here”. And link texts surely have an impact on SEO, so choose them wisely.

The image alt attribute is another on-page SEO component […]

First of all, it’s an accessability component. The alternative text provides content to users who cannot see graphics (be it they’re blind, or they have turned off graphics in their UA for faster surfing). Don’t misuse @alt for SEO! Always remember whom you are designing webpages for in the first place: for humans, not for machines.

January 18, 2012 Reply

Marja

Thanks very much for this. It´s gonna be a big help to me. I have one question though.
Under the primary-url for the home page you put “/keyword.html#. The url for my homepage is my company name, but that´s not my primary keyword, which is ‘webdesign’.
How does this effect my seo?

January 18, 2012 Reply

Akash

Dear Russ Henneberry,
Thanks for such a knowledgeable article. I really appreciate it and will look forward for some more articles like this in near future.

January 20, 2012 Reply

Phillip Mobbs

Thanks for the article and the document, its great to see how other people structure and plan the structure and SEO of a site.

January 21, 2012 Reply

Frugal Diva Designz

I never heard of a SILO document until today and it just made things so much easier to work with and helps with formatting my sitemap as well. Thank you so much!

January 28, 2012 Reply

Frugal Diva Designz

You are welcome!

February 9, 2012 Reply

chad

There are a number of strategies for attacking Web Design and SEO. The key is tweaking it to make it work for you. Once you find something that works, simply stick with it. appreciate the template.

February 27, 2012 Reply

Trish

Hey Russ,

I like your idea of a “silo document”. What a great way to organize where we’ve used what keywords, etc. Usually I have a checklist that I go by, but not anymore, Thanks to you!

Thank YOU,
<a href="http://www.ontariowebpagedesigner.com/&quot; target="_blank"Ontario web design

March 3, 2012 Reply

Angie H

Sweet! Thanks for this! I’ve already put it to use on a new project we’re starting. :)

March 13, 2012 Reply

Daniel B

This document seems like its going to save me a lot of time and also give the appearance of being well organized! LOL!

I do have a question… I’ve seen different SEO experts have conflicting info about the titles… your silo file says branding then keywords but others say keywords then branding last. Is there any proof one works better than another?

I’m a beginner on the SEO frontier so I’m asking out of ignorance!

June 10, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    It’s a great question Daniel. First, it’s important to understand that the title tag is the most prominent text that Google uses in its search results.

    The first words in the title are given greater weight by search engines and humans alike.

    In other words, if you place your keywords first you will get greater SEO benefit. If you place your company name first you will get greater branding benefit.

    If your company name contains your keywords, you get both! :)

    June 11, 2012 Reply

Steven

Incredible. I was just working a document now when I came across this post, which is pretty much an exact replica of the spreadsheet Im working on.

I’ve also expanded the document to include AdWords columns too to ensure consistency via SEO and PPC marketing. Thanks for sharing

November 2, 2012 Reply

Steffen

i do something similar using workflowy.com, but not in such detail. maybe it is needed to have something to show for clients or a team, but overall i like it to be more flexible and thus less detailed.

December 2, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    I use this document throughout the entire process. It is used internally and externally (with clients.)

    December 3, 2012 Reply

Maria Fernanda Larrosa

Thanks a lot for this document!

Maria, from argentina!

January 19, 2013 Reply

EVO

Russ, I wish I had read this before starting up my blog. It would have made the entire process much simpler and less cluttered.

One question I have pertains to keywords. When you are selecting keywords, how should one determine which keywords are best, given that the keyword must accurately and concisely describe the page itself but also give the site the ability to rank highly via Google search – that is, after all, crucial to the goal of SEO.

How do you determine which keywords you can rank for, and what do you do if the “best” keywords are out of your rank?

Thanks in advance for your input, and thanks again for a terrific article!

Cheers,
EVO

January 30, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Hi Evo and thanks for the compliments. Keyword Research is an enormous topic and beyond the scope of a blog comment.

    I would dig into the keyword research articles over at reputable SEO sources like SEOMoz. Also, I should say that once you start thinking about your keyword selection and monitoring the results in an analytics program you will begin to understand the keywords that your site is capable of ranking for. All the reading in the world won’t replace the experience you will get by doing some keyword research, optimizing an article for that keyword and then tracking the results.

    January 30, 2013 Reply

AJW Design + Illustration

I’m in the middle of re-assessing the SEO on my website to try and improve its ranking, and I’m glad to have found your guide while I’m still early in the process. This silo document idea is fantastic and one I definitely plan on using going forward, not just for this project for any of my future projects where SEO work is required. Thanks for a great article!

March 20, 2013 Reply

Mike

Russ, thanks for this article – well written and easy to understand. Your readers may benefit also from a web site implementation project plan. Project planning is an essential part of any web site project or launch. Here’s a freely downloadable template… http://www.mlynn.org/2013/04/web-site-design-project-plan-free-project-template/

April 28, 2013 Reply

Vishal Ramanah

A beautiful designed website comes on the google need support for ranking. And the support given by the SEO. SEO is a part of the website which provide ranking through their strategies and techniques. And I think proper information of website is not enough for your customer. And this problem can be sorted out Silo. thanks for share your descriptive knowledge on silo.

May 28, 2013 Reply

Catherine Coombs

This is a great template which I will start using! I currenlty use something that is far too complex for my needs.

June 28, 2013 Reply

SEO Softech

Thanks for sharing useful information with us. I have read your article and really it’s very informative for all the seo beginners. Now a day’s Google has changed the algorithm and all given points by you will play very good role to achieve ranking in search engines.

July 3, 2013 Reply

suggest

I like it..thanks for sharing this..

July 13, 2013 Reply

Adeel Qamar

Nice information. This document can really help us to boost our seo. Usually these all options are provided in wordpress so using wordpress for Seo purposes is best.

September 27, 2013 Reply

Nettt

Great post but can you provide a downloadable version of the document, it would be more helpful, thanks.

December 18, 2013 Reply

Darren

My question is to do with the images SEO – in the spreadsheet there is only space for one image filename and one image alt tag.

Are we supposed to assume we should add as many cells as there are image on any one page? Websites have dozens of images per page, especially if you use WordPress

June 5, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Darren, I would practice moderation and find the optimal number of images. As with anything, you don’t want to overdo it.

    June 6, 2014 Reply

      Darren

      What I mean is, there are lots of images on any one page, espcially since I am building my spreadsheet around an existing site. On some of the pages there are dozens of images and I’m wondering if these ALL need to be documented with regards to image filename and alt text?
      WordPress includes (sidebars) mean that the same imaes are appearing repeatedly.

      June 8, 2014 Reply

        Kathryn Aragon

        Hi Darren. If you want to use the spreadsheet as intended, then yes, add cells for each image. Document the images in your sidebar separately rather than treating them as part of your page. Does that help?

        June 8, 2014 Reply

        Neil Patel

        Darren, thanks for the feedback. I think if you follow Kathryn’s advice you’ll find it helpful :)
        Let us know if you need help with anything else!

        June 8, 2014 Reply

Jeff Herd

I ike the strategy, Thanks

June 11, 2014 Reply


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