How SEO Can Be a Lot Like Product Consulting,
Development and Design

by on 5th October 2010

It seems perhaps, that people behind emerging technology products understand that digital marketers share a passion, an enthusiasm for the same ideas. Our passion drives a natural compatibility with the product design and development process, and a natural ability to suggest user stories at an early stage that may be critical to later launch success.

Today, I’m going to ask this question:

How does SEO look a lot like product consulting and design?

Keyword research discovers new markets

Critical to the design of any new product or online service is research. Does the demand exist for an idea beyond the mind of the inventor? Will we have to create a desire for a product by creating a strong brand? Will we need superior outreach, competitive SEO and PR? Thanks to gradually improving tools and data, market investigation becomes possible, relatively cheap and  relatively easily. Where might our target market exist, how do they search and in what volume? Think about it – if the keyword research stage of the last project you were involved in began before any other work had started, how would the research look and how might it have influenced the early design stages?

Keyword research and market discovery can tell you much of what you need to know, especially where brand, opportunity, seasonality and market size by location are concerned. There are always limitations and flaws, but provided you’re aware of them, you can work around them.

The need to be competitive fuels innovation

If you’re doing something new, do it well. If you’re replicating something else, do it better than everyone before you. The raw competitive urge I see in good SEO people can be harnessed for more than just competitive link building. Share an idea with someone who, by their very nature is eagerly competitive and creatively intelligent. Chances are, they’ll return that idea back to you in a new, improved form. Try telling an SEO consultant about your new idea early.

Design and wire framing stage

There’s something inspirational about working with wire frames and very early design ideas. The fear of changing an already built web site is  strong, particularly if every small change request has to be evaluated, estimated and added to ever burgeoning project milestones. Wind back to the early wire framing stages of your technology development and wish that you’d included the feedback and comments of a digital marketer.

Designing products for consumers

Product design should aim to meet the needs of a consumer. In web terms, we’re talking about solving a problem, aesthetics, ease of use, performance, agility, simplicity of messaging and likely a myriad of other variables. It just so happens that SEO people have a strong interest in all of these factors. Conversion rate optimisation, site performance and the subject of search engine accessibility are all front of mind for SEO practitioners. It’s our job to help web site owners fulfil the needs of the consumer to improve performance metrics like conversion. When it comes down to user flow, messaging and “what happens when”, SEO’s can provide important expertise early on.

Engineering and technical SEO strategy

Probably, the most commonly encountered SEO advice on the planet is “get your SEO involved early”. There are so many technical requirements beyond URL structure, page layout and meta code that, if implemented early, will accelerate the proliferation of new products online. Take a story like, “as a user I’d like to be able to embed a chart in my blog” or “when someone shares a link to my web application, I’d like them to be rewarded with a discount on their monthly subscription”. These are super SEO and sales friendly, viral ideas that need to be baked in early to work to their fullest potential.

Go to market

You now have a vastly improved online product in development. The final piece of the puzzle then, must be the launch and marketing strategy. When do you start planning the market launch? In my opinion, before the product is even designed. Then again, I am an SEO.


  1. Hi Richard,

    A great example of how good SEO should go way beyond just the search results. I wish more people would take the advice of getting an SEO involved early, would make life 10 times easier for everyone!


  2. Your last phrase reminds me the common quote <blockquote cite"What did come first? The egg or the chicken?". That to mean that a marketing plan can be generally planned also before the product, but the product has to influence and maybe change that first marketing plan.

    Apart that, I almost agree in everything you say, Richard, as I find your idea of SEO as a strategic marketing tool very close to my of SEO as a Renaissance form of Art

    In this sense we generally think to SEO in terms of Search Marketing itself, where Search represents the technical part of our discipline and Marketing all you are suggesting here.

    • Yes, absoloutely! I’m glad you agree – I really think that insightful, gifted digital marketing should shape and influence the product design and development. We’re in a great place right now, we understand what people want, where they are, the problems they commonly encounter in their day to day lives and how many of them there are. Cool, eh?

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