What Comes First, SEO or Site Development?

This might be a dilemma faced by other domain owners/developers, but I always seem to have an issue with my search engine optimization once my websites are developed. When I consult with friends who do SEO, most give some very good tips, but it can be quite an exasperating amount of work – especially after a site is launched. So, my question is, how do you prioritize your SEO while developing your website?
Much like you can’t expect your web designer to be a master coder/programmer and visa versa, you can’t expect your web developer to be a master of SEO. As a result, there may be some major issues related to the SEO that would require huge back-end changes, which is something a domain owner/developer doesn’t want to hear after a site is launched. When major issues come up, there is a whole lot of redesign that might need to be done, costing a great sum of money. That said, how do you overcome these issues?
Take TropicalBirds.com for example. The site averaged less than 1 visit per day before launch. A couple weeks after launching, it was receiving over 100 uniques per day, with the majority of the traffic coming from Google. People were finding the site via searches for tropical birds and other long tail keywords – just as I anticipated. In fact, only the home page is indexed in Yahoo – and the site has been live for close to 2 months! The RPC is very low, but it was a neat topic and the site is making more money than before.
For some reason (probably natural occurrence), after a month and a half, the site dropped from #4 to #20 for the term “tropical birds” in Google. Traffic has been down, and I can’t really figure things out. I have in links from bird breeders, although I do have dupe content on the bird breeder and bird veterinarian pages. I started a forum, although I am currently blocking the Googlebot from seeing it because there isn’t a ton of content, and the free forum software would probably be considered duplicate content.
Anyway, long story short. The site has been launched after a considerable amount of time and effort. I want to help grow the site, but I don’t know how to tackle it via SEO. I know that in links are important, but those are very difficult to gather. In general terms, how does one go about building a good looking, informational, structurally sound website that also utilizes great SEO techniques? How much can someone expect to spend to on improving the SEO for a completed site like TropicalBirds.com?

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Yes, I have noticed that Google will often rank a site high for a short time and then drop it in the rankings.
    However, if your site sticks around long enough, it will slowly rise again.
    It’s hard to figure Google out.

  2. I think Google ranked you higher for a time because it thought you may have been newsworthy or timely, but unless you keep up the updated content, that bonus wears away…

  3. All I can add is that I am using four key people for my development and they collaborate on each others’ turf at every step:
    Designer, Coder, Copywriter, SEOptimizer
    The SEOptimizer provides guidance to the other three at each phase.

  4. Elliot,
    It is pretty typical to rank in the top 10 in the first two weeks of a launch of a site or launch of a group of new content pages and then trail off.
    To keep your rank, I focus on two important factors.
    1) you need to continue to build backlinks using a good keyword matrix (i.e. don’t use the same anchor text all the time – mix it up). Backlinks enbedded in articles, blog posts, forums etc work best. Straight text links are valued less by the SE’s.
    2) the overall theme of your site or category section should contain your keywords from your keywork matrix in the relevant title, H1 and content on the pages
    One of the important techniques that people miss that that you need to build a strong internal linking strategy on your site before even building backlinks and ranking for anything. Your internal linking will show google the how to find your content and how your keyword matrix is relevant to your site. [I’ve mentioned the internal linking to you privately before]
    Perhaps I will write a post on my blog about all this next week and get into a lot more detail !!
    – Richard

  5. Elliot: SEO _should_ be part of the process of creating a website from the start, but unfortunately often is an afterthought.
    One way that I’ve found almost always helps to increase your traffic (if you have content that frequently updates) is offering RSS feeds, in conjunction with notifying ping-servers of updates.
    Tim: This would probably depend on the ability of the search engines to track the actual bookmarking process

  6. Tim – Google doesn’t know what you bookmark to your browser, but public bookmarking sites like delicous.com can help you in so far as increasing awareness and driving traffic to your site (supposedly google doesn’t follow those links)

  7. Elliot,
    I had a quick look at some backlinks that yahoo is listing and many of them use anchor text of “TropicalBirds.com”. I am sure you already rank #1 for the search term “tropicalbirds.com” so using that anchor text is helping you very little.
    You should use text such as “tropical birds”, “tropical birds portal”, “free tropical bird info” etc, you get the idea.
    – Richard

  8. SEO takes time nowdays. You can either get the serps quick and then lose them even faster, or shoot for the long haul and build links patiently.
    May take months, but eventually the site can make some decent earnings.

  9. As mentioned above, a high initial rank, followed by a drop is common. Also keep in mind that time is an important ranking factor over which you have no control. For me it works well to get some initial content published on a site and then forget about it for a few months or longer. Frustrating if you spend time and money up front though.

  10. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for your comments and your wonderful blog. I am looking forward to your post on internal linking structure. You also promised us a post on ways to dynamically serve meta data and web pages out of a mysql database. Looking forward to that as well.

  11. Google doesn’t want to be the only one sending you traffic, they watch the toolbar data. You need some other organic traffic in their eyes – stumleupon, delicious links from other sites that drive traffic etc…

  12. Much like Ms. Domainer said, Google tends to initially rank a site for their main keyword, then pull back. I’ve noticed that fact especially with exact match names.
    As you may know, exact match domains get a ranking boost by Google. I’ve had an a few exact match names rank front page, and stay there just because of the bonus factor. Even though the sites are very thin, and have had very little SEO effort put into them.
    Tropical Birds is a bit more competitive than the exact match names that I’ve had, so it’s going to take a bit more effort on your part to rank it, and to keep it there. Just by allowing it to age, and throwing it in a few good directory’s, you can increase your position by a few.
    I think the challenge that we’re still seeing in the development process of domains, is that the effort it takes to build one out, get it ranked, then monetize it is still much higher than most expect. In the end, SEO is about creating and offering value. If a site offers little to no value to the web, then Google will be reluctant in ranking it. I think that’s why all the generic domains that don’t get very many type-ins, are going to see their full potential when they fall into the hands of those that are really passionate about the subject. They’re the ones who will have enough drive, to really pull all the juice out of such domains.

  13. Website owners often wait until after their site is redesigned and launched before getting a SEO expert involved. Unfortunately, this can lead to expensive site design changes that could have been easily implemented during the design process.
    Sometimes, it’s difficult or impossible to correct issues after a website is launched without essentially rebuilding the site again.
    In addition, traffic from search engines can be severely reduced for months after a site is redesigned and launched. This impact can be minimized by taking the proper steps during the redesign process.


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