Create a website with SEO in mind: Technical pointers

After a lot of its and buts, you have finally decided to create a website. A personal website for yourself, or that long overdue website for your business. You know you have to think about design and should supply well-written texts. You’ve already been inquiring about that thing called hosting. You may even have called someone that can build your website for you. All in all, you’re pretty confident that you can now start a website without any problems. But wait. Have you thought about this little thing called SEO?

Create your website with SEO in mind

A large part of the search engine optimization process starts with focus: what is your website about? You have to focus on what we sometimes call ‘top tasks’. It’s a term used in mobile UX but it most certainly also goes for that moment when you decide to create a website from scratch. What is the purpose of a visitor coming to your website? And how can we make the journey of that visitor a pleasant user journey?

When we discuss SEO with people that want to create a website, we focus on two main areas:

In this post, I’ll highlight a number of important technical issues. In a follow-up post, I will go into the content side of things.

The technical side of things

With WordPress, it’s easy to build a website yourself. But a lot of you have probably hired a web agency to construct your website for you. That doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for them to finish. There are a lot of things you can check and optimize yourself.

Speed optimization

One thing you want to pay attention to is the speed of your future website. You can easily check that on websites like Google PageSpeed Insights, or Pingdom. In an ideal world, your web agency has already tested things and your own check of your site’s speed will result in nothing but greens and great ratings. If not, these tools will tell you exactly where you can improve. That could be an image of several MBs that slows down the loading of a page, or the loading of an excessive number of JavaScript files, just to name a few.

If you want to learn more about speed optimization, please read Site Speed: tools and suggestions. And make sure your new website is as fast as possible.

URL Structure

Since you are setting up a new site, you still have full control over your URL structure. In most cases, focus is your friend here. Including dates in blog URLs that aren’t related to dates is my favorite example of what not to do. You just don’t need a date in there, unless you are a news website and that date does matter.

For shop websites, focus the URL on your product. Do people use SKUs to find your products? Include one in the URL. If not, please leave them out. Ground-rule: strip your URLs from anything that’s unnecessary. And if we’re honest: /blog/ isn’t a useful addition to your URL, neither is /shop/.

A small remark about the length of your URL: if you use focus, your URL will never need to be too long. I’m not against long URLs, especially since Google seems to leave them out of the search result pages in a growing number of cases. But a shorter, logical URL is easier to remember. And easier to share offline, for that matter.

Heading tags

One of my favorite subjects: heading tags. HTML5 allows for one H1 per block element, am I right? I still recommend against that. If you use one H1 and one H1 only, you need to make very clear for yourself what the subject or focus keyword of that page is. By restricting yourself to that one H1, you most definitely will add focus to that page. It’ll help you to properly optimize – read more about that further down in this post.

It’s simple:

  • Just one H1 per page
  • H2 for subheadings
  • H3 for subheadings of an H2 subheading
  • H4? You probably don’t need that.
  • Try to refrain from using the above HTML headings as design elements. They serve another purpose: structuring your content.

Make it responsive

The mobile version of your website is equally important, if not more important than the desktop version. Mobile-first, they say. Fact is, that your website probably has as many mobile visitors as it has desktop visitors, of course depending on the type of site you have. I think, therefore, that a responsive site should be the default for every website that has been built in 2010 or later. We all use our mobile devices to browse the web, and your website should be ready for that.

If your web developer tells you that the website is accessible from a mobile device, don’t just trust him/her. Go over your mobile website yourself and check if you, as a visitor, can do all you want and need to do there. I already mentioned our article on mobile UX; use that as a reference when testing your mobile site yourself.

Read more: Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide »

Local optimization

We have written a lot about structured data. Using structured data, you can serve Google your address details in the most convenient way. With for instance JSON, or using our Local SEO for WordPress plugin, you can insert a snippet that will help Google to fix your website/business to a location. This information is used for local searches, but will also end up in Google’s Knowledge Graph:


So if your business or website is related to an actual location, be sure to optimize for that part of your site right from the start as well. And definitely add your LocalBusiness data right now, if you haven’t done that already :)

Track your traffic

Let’s not forget this one. I have seen my share of websites where the owner told me that conversion was low or that nobody filled out their contact form. But the owner had no idea how many people got to his/her website. No idea what the main landing pages or exit pages were.

If you are serious about your website, at least install Google Analytics or any other preferred statistics app. Collect data about your visitors, and find out what the customer journey on your website is. Find out what pages people like and which pages they dislike. If you want to know more about Google Analytics, please visit our Google Analytics archives for related posts. When you start a website, don’t wait too long before adding Google Analytics, so you can see your traffic grow from day one.

Get your technical aspects right

If you have covered the technical issues of a new website, you’ll have properly prepared your site for all the great content you’ll be adding. Adding content is the next big step in building an awesome website! We’ll deal with how to approach that in this follow-up post.

Keep reading: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

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17 Responses to Create a website with SEO in mind: Technical pointers

  1. ken meyer
    ken meyer  • 3 years ago

    Thank you so much for your advice.
    My site uses wordpress, but my host and not allowed any plugins, and told me he never will. so I can’t add cache plugins or any wordpress tools to help with SEO. Besides getting another host, is there a way of sorting my SEO out without the wordpress plugins?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Run away from that host and switch to one of these. It’s your site, it’s on WordPress, and you can’t use it to the fullest because of your host. That’s plain stupid. I can see why some hosts ban certain plugins, but all? That’s stupid.

  2. SEO Şefi
    SEO Şefi  • 3 years ago

    Traffic can be tracked for great results. Content is among the foundations of SEO. It’s possible to get great results with well-optimized content. It is absolutely necessary to produce solutions for pages that do not receive traffic.

  3. Nico Puno
    Nico Puno  • 3 years ago

    Hi Michiel,

    Hey I’ve asked this questions to forums and they have different answers about this. So I thought asking an SEO Expert yourself. I’ve been using H2 and H3 instead of H1 since my H1 is too big. Is that fine? Or will it affect my SEO?


    • Michiel Heijmans

      Hm, so what you are basically saying is that you are not using H1 because of styling/design reasons? Fix that in your CSS, make that H1 smaller or have someone do it for you. 2 minute fix.

      More on headings here.

    • Dorado
      Dorado  • 3 years ago

      Right, I want to be clear in this point too. Please let us know.

  4. Jakob Boman
    Jakob Boman  • 3 years ago

    Great article!
    I often see that people spend too much time on design and images and too little time on the content itself.
    I like you focus on content and the technical stuff.

  5. ProHindiBlog
    ProHindiBlog  • 3 years ago

    You write every time a amazing article and thanks for sharing with us

  6. John Doe
    John Doe  • 3 years ago

    I never thought about tracking my traffic. Thanks!

    • Work Sucks
      Work Sucks  • 3 years ago

      Lol, me either, now after this great article i do ! :)

  7. Rik Flaxman
    Rik Flaxman  • 3 years ago

    Hi Michiel,

    Yes, you are right, Keeping SEO is most important things before we create our website.


  8. hipcraft
    hipcraft  • 3 years ago

    Nice tips, in general, but I’m confused on a couple points:
    – “But a lot of you have probably hired a web agency to construct your website for you”? Really, on the Yoast blog? Would’ve thought there be a lot of diy’ers on here.
    – Why are caring if a URL is “easier to share offline” for an SEO post, curious?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      1. That’s your thought. Our target audience is a lot larger than that. It varies from developers, to website owners, to agencies, to consultants in accessibility, SEO, UX etc. But perhaps you have a better insight in that? :P
      2. I said ‘for that matter’, not ‘for SEO’? I think, as a (local) business owner, it’s definitely something to consider. These are just not that simple to remember.

  9. Greg welch
    Greg welch  • 3 years ago

    I agree, mobile first is front and center. Business my be only place you find a cpu in a box in the next few years.

  10. Simon
    Simon  • 3 years ago

    Great article! what’s funny although is the graphic. I would worry about the carpet though! no money for a proper table? :D

    • Joy
      Joy  • 3 years ago

      Come on, Simon. She’s watching Mr. T on a cooking show! How awesome is that? #multitasking

  11. Noble Ozogbuda
    Noble Ozogbuda  • 3 years ago

    Yes!!! Is Good to have SEO In thought before building a website, like that of speed you speak good about that, because when website is not fast enough, the website lose a lots of traffics and revenue.

    thanks for publishing this wonderful tips…