If you are about to develop a new website or redevelop an existing one you may not have thought about the implications of not having expert, specialist SEO guidance. Over the years that we have been offering SEO services, we have seen a number of disasters that could have been avoided by having the right people on board.

It is simply about protecting your investment. You have likely worked for years on your digital strategy, your website and your reputation so the last thing you want is to lose a big portion of this work overnight. And recovering from major errors can take up to a year or more to regain lost ground.

Many developers will build in a budget for SEO as part of their build, but in our experience this work is rudimentary at best and woefully lacking in many cases.

These are the times you must get expert guidance:

A new website
Moving to a new CMS
Moving to a new domain

We have often been called in after a new website has gone live due to sudden drops in organic traffic. Often, this is too late. We can mitigate a lot of the issues and set you back on the right path but it is a slow and arduous process to win back your reputation with Google.

When website development goes badly

We worked on a recent project that is a very good example of what can go wrong when you take a developer’s assurances that they are capable of managing the complex technical elements of SEO.

Fortunately we were brought in to help before the website was launched as these were the mistakes we discovered:

Incorrect canonical tags – they all referenced the same non-existent URL
Poor mobile pagespeed
No Open Graph Tag fields
No 404 page
Unnecessary meta keywords field
Broken XML sitemap
No structured data
Mix of pages with and without trailing slash
Typos in key page URLs
Blog post URLs unrelated to content
Meta robots set at nofollow for all pages

We can only imagine how bad the results would have been if all of these errors were not picked up. I have seen websites lose up to 60% of their organic traffic through lack of SEO oversight or getting advice from people who are not qualified to offer it. And unfortunately, there are a lot of agencies and consultants who offer SEO services but do not have the skills or experience needed.

animated website development concept with blue background

When should you get SEO input?

It is important to get SEO advice right from the start of the planning process. Decisions about architecture, navigation, CMS, website features and integrations, calls-to-action and more should have oversight from a qualified SEO specialist. The most successful website launches include SEO as a development partner from an early stage.

If you include SEO in the last couple of weeks of development many of the key decisions have already been made and in most cases it is difficult to change course at this late stage.

The ideal process

This what the ideal process looks like:

Create a website team including in-house resources, development, design, hosting and SEO
SEO team creates the development SEO checklist for the developer and has a session with them to explain any requirements that are unclear
SEO is included in all major steps of the development process – features, content, navigation, optimisation
SEO advises on content – pillars, topics, target keywords, structure
Allow plenty of time for final SEO checks as there will be adjustments and corrections
Post launch audit, testing and corrections
Measurement – organic traffic, ranking keywords, domain authority – Use GA4, Search Console and SEO tools

None of this is as simple as adding metadata or adding keywords into pages which is the simplistic SEO approach of many developers. In fact, Google’s approach to keywords has changed dramatically over the last two years. There is no value in adding exact match keywords into content multiple times. Google’s use of AI and LLMs means that it has an accurate and broad understanding of context, intent and relevance.

Other website projects we have been brought in to rescue include one where only the first 10 changed URLs were redirected, one where large sections of a website were simply deleted, one where the loading speed was so poor that Google’s tools gave it a zero out of 100 and others that accidentally blocked Google from accessing the website.

I have seen so many disasters yet many businesses still don’t realise how important website development SEO management is.

Animated image of SEO and web development concept

How can you tell if an SEO agency knows what they are doing?

A good way to judge the skills of any SEO offering is to look at their own content. Does the content read well or are there jarring anomalies where a location is clumsily inserted into the content. I see this example often and there are still a number of agencies that think that having an exact match phrase will help them to rank for it.

I’m thinking in particular about agencies that try to jam “Auckland SEO services” into every possible location on their SEO service page. Like this – “We are a top Auckland SEO services agency and we offer Auckland SEO services for businesses around New Zealand.”

The thing is that Google already knows if you are based in Auckland. There are a large number of ways beyond the Google Business Profile or footer and contact page details that Google can accurately assess where you are based. Backlinks, social media profiles, team members, clients, business directories, reviews, history, content and more all contribute to this understanding.

The second aspect to look out for is the competence and knowledge of the contact person you are speaking with. If they are evasive or avoid answering questions about their development process or seem to be making it up as they go along these should be red flags.

Ask to speak to their clients about their experience working with the agency. Were they successful in at least retaining organic traffic? Were they able to improve on previous organic results? What were they like to work with? What was their communication like? Did they meet deadlines? How was the quality and accuracy of their work? How was their attention to detail? Would you work with them again? Would you recommend them to others? Did they outsource any of their work? Were you handed off to a junior team member once you agreed to the contract?

These are all useful questions to keep in mind. You want expert technical skills but you also want big picture thinking. Your agency needs to understand your business, your market, your products or services and your goals. These things need to inform decisions and your agency should not be afraid to call out any strategic errors as they come up. Sometimes these challenges can be a bit uncomfortable but delivery of the best possible results are the primary aim of taking on an expert.

Are you thinking about a new website?

We have more than 15 years experience with managing SEO during website development. Over this time it has become even more important to take SEO into account during this process. Google’s technical requirements have intensified every year and failure to adhere to these requirements will hurt your business results. Our SEO team is highly skilled and has experience with multiple CMS and with website projects of all sizes and types. They live and breathe SEO.

I am happy to jump on a call with you to discuss your project and how we can help. You can use the Book a consultation feature at the end of this post to book an appointment with me. I look forward to hearing from you.