Starting SEO for your Existing Website

You may have recently launched a website or are about to launch a site that’s currently under development, but you have not given any thought to search engine optimization (SEO) until now. If so, then you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There is no shortage of articles and information about SEO online. Even a minimal amount of digging can give you a bad case of information overload which can leave you wondering how to apply various SEO strategies to your new website after it’s live, or even if it’s possible.

It is possible, so don’t panic! Although it is ideal to implement SEO during your website’s development, you can absolutely employ an effective SEO strategy after your website has been developed, although you will face some unique challenges. This article really caters to small or micro-sized (one person) organizations. If you work for a larger organization, you may get more out of my article titled, What You Should Expect from an SEO Proposal.

My website needs SEO and I’m out of money

Small-to-medium-sized companies may not realize they need to budget for SEO for many different reasons including the fact that they’ve never heard of SEO until after their website is complete. Web development shops often bundle SEO into the overall development package under headers such as “search engine submission” or “search marketing” without a detailed explanation of what this actually means. SEO that is bundled together with website development may not actually be the comprehensive, full-service SEO that stand-alone SEO vendors provide. Just for clarification purposes, when I say website development I am referring to both the design and programming of a website. Most website development agencies provide both services, but lone consultants tend to do one or the other.

When SEO is bundled with website development, it can be easy for companies to dismiss it as an unnecessary cost which does not provide any clear value, particularly when they are trying to get their website completed in a reasonable time frame and within a limited budget. If you did not leave any wiggle room for SEO services such as on-page optimization, keyword research and link placement in your initial budget, you will definitely feel overwhelmed if you decide you need these services AFTER your website has already been developed.

The good news is, in most cases, you do not need to delay the launch of your site because you did not implement SEO. You should, however, take immediate action to correct the situation. Here are a few things you can do if you find yourself with a brand new website which has not been optimized for search engines.

1) Speak with your website development company to see if they have implemented any SEO tactics. What you’re looking for at this point is at least some basic keyword research, customized title tags and the presence of relevant Meta and ALT tags throughout the website. If your website has dynamically generated pages (e.g., shopping cart pages), ask about search engine friendly URLs. You may be surprised to learn that your website is fairly search engine friendly, even if it wasn’t on your radar during the planning phase.

2) If your web developer (in this case, your programmer) indicates that SEO has not been applied to your new site, ask how much it would cost to add some SEO components to key pages of the site. The cheapest way to do this is to create the SEO tags yourself or hire a consultant or copywriter to create them and submit them to your programmer for implementation. It should not be prohibitively expensive to optimize a few pages of your website once your site is live.

3) Develop a short-term and long-term search engine optimization strategy starting with optimization of your home page and a few key secondary pages, and track the results. You can then build a long-term SEO strategy which may involve hiring an SEO firm the following year if you can demonstrate results from your short-term SEO efforts.

Keep in mind that even companies that are lucky enough to implement SEO during the web build must continue to budget for SEO indefinitely. In fact, many SEO packages include optimization of 10-20 top-level pages of a website. Optimization of additional pages often costs more and may never be addressed, thus you will actually be ahead of the game if you plan for optimization of all your site’s pages and not just a handful of the top level pages.

Even if you have enough time or money to integrate SEO into your online strategy after your website is live, you may feel overwhelmed if you’re learning about SEO two days after the site’s launch. As with website development, SEO encompasses many different components including keyword discovery and research, optimization of the site itself, search engine submission and link placement and (in an ideal world) ongoing site updates and content creation. It can indeed be a daunting task to confront each of these issues soon after you’ve conquered the challenge of the site build and launch. Again, don’t panic! Here are a few things to consider that may make the task at hand much more palatable.

- Remember, you are the expert in your industry. Just because you did not build your website with SEO in mind does not mean that it isn’t search engine friendly or that the content isn’t keyword rich and valuable. Spend some time reviewing what you’ve already done and create a wish list of things that you could do to enhance the asset you’ve already created. Most people will not need to start from scratch when it comes to SEO even if they are just learning about it at the end of the web development timeline.

- You probably already have the resources to implement basic SEO including web developers (either in-house or via a vendor partner), a good copywriter and the drive to learn the basics of SEO via Websites such as www.seochat.com and www.searchenginewatch.com. As stated, you can start by optimizing just a few pages of your website and build a case for more in-depth optimization when time and money permit.

- It can take up to 8-10 months for brand new domains to rank well in Google and other search engines after site launch. This gives you quite a window of time to build an SEO strategy for your new website and begin implementation of SEO tactics. Basically, your website’s not going anywhere anytime soon, so relax, take a deep breath, and read a bit more about SEO instead of going into panic mode.


- You can build inbound links the minute your website is launched, so at the very least, consider a link building strategy even as you contemplate how to approach on-page optimization. The same resources that discuss the basics of SEO also provide direction about link building strategies. You can also learn a lot by lurking and posting on the popular SEO forums including SEOchat.com’s own forum, Highrankings.com, Searchenginewatch.com and others.

If you haven’t completely exhausted your online budget on the web build or online media and can carve a bit more room in the budget for assistance with SEO, by all means do so. It is not too late to hire an agency, consultant or in-house expert to assist you with getting your website up to par and ready for indexing with the search engines. In fact, there are certain barriers that your newly designed website may have that can be overcome swiftly with a bit of hired help. In the long run, this can be worth the additional investment for your website.

Consider the following when deciding whether or not to hire yet another vendor or outside consultant to assist you with the next phase of your website’s development.

-If your website is very large and complex and contains deep content and variables in the URLs, then an SEO or programmer who is knowledgeable in URL rewriting can help you overcome this barrier quickly and effectively.

-If your primary navigation and/or site structure is in Flash, hidden behind frames or composed mainly of images, a seasoned SEO can work with you and your programmer to optimize the site as much as possible and assist you with major overhauls, if necessary.

-If you do not have much actual content on the site (e.g., product numbers but not descriptions), then an SEO copywriter can work with you to create relevant keyword-rich content that ensures people will find your site for your targeted keywords.

-If you are overwhelmed by the laundry list of SEO tasks that must now be implemented, you may want to hire an SEO for a few hours of consulting to help guide you. Remember, you do not need to be the expert here. You are already an expert in your chosen industry. A professional SEO can provide you with a game plan based on their own expertise in the field, which will save you time and money in the long run.



Just because you did not plan for SEO in the first phase of your website’s development does not mean it cannot be effectively implemented after your site has been made live. Always keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process and can be incorporated into your annual online marketing budget along with things like regular website updates, newsletter mailings to site subscribers and online and offline media planning.

It can be overwhelming to discover that your work is not done once your website is live, but learning about SEO at the end of the project curve, rather than the beginning, is not as much of a setback as it seems. Most website owners already have the tools in place for good SEO and with some relatively simple tweaks to code and copy for the short term, and a comprehensive SEO strategy for the long term, you’ll do just fine.

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