When Should I Start SEO For My New Website? (via Forbes)

Claude Harrington 10.22.2015

Earlier this week, there was a great post on Forbes entitled When Should I Start SEO for My New Website? The piece was written by a contributor named Josh Steimle—the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency—and takes a very intuitive and illustrative approach to discussing the importance of integrating SEO with your web presence. As the title suggests, Steimle’s piece is particularly geared towards those creating new websites (or re-designing old ones). Much of the logic behind his advice, however, is not only insightful but also evergreen. So let’s take a closer look at some of his suggestions and see how we can apply them—and more importantly, his overall mindset—to our businesses.

[note: statements that appear in bold are excerpts from Steimle’s story in Forbes]


The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Steimle begins his piece by using an old Chinese proverb to answer the million dollar question: “When should I start SEO for my new website?” His point, of course, is that achieving authentic SEO strength often takes years; so the earlier you start the better.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself—oh no, I haven’t started—the main takeaway here is not to panic but rather to embrace the opportunity of now. So while you might be starting behind the eight ball, it’s much better to start than worry about not having started. But what if you’re not making a new website? What if, like many of us encounter at some point, you’re either going through a web redesign or considering such a change? Well, even if you’ve been successful in the past, there are some important things to keep in mind which Steimle goes on to specifically address…

Launching a new version of an existing website can have serious consequences.

Wait, how serious are we talking here?

It could put you out of business–that’s how serious.

Before we take a closer look at what Steimle is alluding to here, we wanted to isolate this sentence because it’s really that important. And a constant theme throughout this piece—and search optimization in general—is that prior success not only is no guarantee of future results. Especially when you factor in two things:

  • Search Engines are constantly revising their algorithms
  • With new software, hardware and customer interfaces can come unexpected pitfalls.

For example, I know of an ecommerce company that redesigned its website, which included thousand of product pages, all of which were showing up prominently in Google. Unfortunately, the company doing the redesign of the website had no SEO experience and in creating the new website they changed the URLs without redirecting traffic from the old URLs to the new ones. Suddenly all that traffic from Google was finding nothing but “404 – Page not found” errors, sales collapsed, and within one month the company was bankrupt.

Referring back to our previous point, I think we all on some level realize that “Search Engines are constantly revising their algorithms.” As we’ve discussed in the past, this is a good thing for us all in the long-run and, on a daily basis, makes our job more challenging and rewarding. But while we all may be conscious of that fact—especially because it gives us the autonomy to actually make a difference—it’s much easier to forget that technology we don’t quite understand could potentially send us off course. And the worst part is—like in the example above—the time when we’re most prone for this kind of danger is when we’re doing something we believe we make us stronger than ever before.

Now, after reading an example like the one listed above, it might be tempting to take more of an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it-approach. If your SEO strategy is already working okay or even good, then maybe it may seem best not to mess with whatever you’ve got going. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this mindset. After all, okay (or good) is certainly better than bad. But as we’ve learned through our own experiences, and listening to those of others, being “good” in this current digital landscape is just not good enough. You need to be great in order to stand out. And therefore that means that whether you’re embarking upon a redesign or introducing a new type of content, the key to pulling this off successfully is by educating yourself and working with people/products/firms you can trust.

My recommendation to a client who wants to redesign a website is to complete a thorough SEO audit before any new design is considered.

Exactly. It’s important to know more than just what is happening, but also why and how.

Your SEO strategy may impact what content is placed on your homepage, and where it’s placed on your homepage. The same goes for every other page on your website.

This is where Steimle gets into the nuance of his thesis above: the importance of starting to think about SEO as soon as possible (and how to go about preparing your integration).

Like the marketing of any product—be it a film, consumer electronic or a bundle of bananas—thinking about how that product will be perceived and discovered should not come as an afterthought. It should be part of strategy from the very start, beginning as early as the idea or initial design.

Because, without such an approach, then this is what usually happens…

Too often I have been approached by a client who says “We just finished our new website, we’re ready to start SEO.” We then audit the website and find out that there are so many parts of it that need to be fixed in order to do SEO effectively that the company has to scrap their new website and start over.

That’s awful. And costly.

But then if I do make an effort to focus on SEO, before I even have an actual website, what exactly does that entail?

Fear not! Josh Steiml is here with an answer…


During the first month of SEO there is often no work taking place on the website. Much or all of the time spent on SEO involves discovery, analysis, strategy, and planning. Starting this when the website launches rather than before only means pushing back the time when SEO will start producing results for you.

All of this is great! (And actually makes a lot of sense).

That’s how I felt, at least, as I neared the end of this article. I felt slightly wiser and inspired, which is what I always hope for at the end of a reading a story like this.

And then felt even better, as Steiml wound down his piece by offering additional resources like the this…

Learning design: Check out the lessons from Designlab and read The Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird and James George.

…and also like this…

Learning SEO: How To Teach Yourself SEO

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly: even if you feel like you’ve successfully digested Steiml’s suggestions, our extrapolations and perhaps even visited some of those additional resources, there’s one very, very important thing to always keep in mind:

SEO is never done.

To see more insights from Josh Steimle, you can: 

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