Learning basic SEO concepts for web development?

I’ve been negotiating my first potential bigger freelance contract just now, and I might lose the client because of my lack of SEO knowledge.

Long story short, he has a very outdated Wordpress site, I offered to build a brand new one, he was interested but very concerned about losing the SEO rankings already built on the old site. It’s not like my solution would be really bad for his SEO, the issue was that I truly had no idea what to say because of my lack of knowledge. Frantic googling mid-negotiations is not an adequate strategy.

So, dear campers, did anyone study the basics to a level where you can appease clients and really build adequately optimized sites? What were the best resources you found? I’m asking here instead of just googling because it seems anyone offering SEO advice on the web is also the shrewd affiliate marketer type and I don’t really trust them.


This is pretty much why I never bothered to learn any of this SEO black magic. Maybe subcontract an SEO expert? It’s less money in your pocket, but you’ll probably learn something, and the client will end up happier.

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Hi TomaszGa,

I’ve studied SEO myself, but I’m not an expert. There are a lot of things that affect SEO:

  • Page Load Time

  • Mobile friendliness/responsive layout

  • Links from other sites to a site - reputation

  • How users interact with a site, do they bounce or browse

  • Content

If you are only building a new theme for an existing site, and not changing the content or URL I don’t see how that’s going to hurt SEO. If you give the site a new domain name that would definitely hurt the SEO. Also, changing the content or URLs could hurt the SEO. But it’s possible the affects would only be temporary. When it comes to SEO you have to think like a search engine. They don’t see the site like humans, they just process text. So, link URLs, H1 vs H2, content(meaning writing like paragraphs and articles), how people interact with a site, etc. If you’re not affecting those types of things then you won’t change the SEO. I hope that helps a little.


Yes I devoted as much time to learning/practising SEO as for honing front-end coding skills. That’s where the money is actually. Client doesn’t care about the quality of your code and all that technical stuff that comes with it. All they want is ROI and to achive that their site must rank high and bring conversions. That’s what SEO is all about. If you want to earn money yourself you need to deliver the product that earns money for your client. That said you don’t need to be an expert in SEO if you don’t enjoy it. It’s not that complicated but takes a lot of time (analysis, content making, optimizing, analysis again etc.). You can always hire somebody who can do that for you. But be careful. It’s difficult to assess a SEO specialist because the results of their work come with time. Especially now when black hat SEO is no longer useful. White hat SEO strategies are time consuming but bring more stable results.


Hey @TomaszG

Checkout this website, they good blog posts and articles. And they also have a Wordpress plugin!
This is one of the default plugins that we install on all our Wordpress website at work.


Thanks for input everyone! I ended up getting the job, hopefully I do well regarding SEO.

The existing site is kind of a mess - custom WP installation by some web design company, most functionality depends on 19 ancient plugins, Flash based plugins everywhere, some really strangely set up custom post types and fields, and all of that with a relatively low amount of simple content. At this point, I just get a new WP installation and move the ~70 posts by hand at the end

The basic requirements of good SEO is to build a good website that is useful to real people. Thankfully the days of gaming the system are largely gone.

A great way to learn about SEO is to analyse sites with free, online SEO analyser tools. Then you can read up on all the individual criteria they judge a site by. I learned a lot more about SEO by using these tools. This article has a list of SEO tools you can use. They are also a useful way to critique your website to ensure you’re following best practice (e.g. all images have alt properties, only one h1 tag per page, etc.).

Would you need to change the locations of the site’s existing pages? If they already have a lot of links coming in from the outside I can understand why they’d be nervous about a complete re-design. If you are just changing the theme and some behind the scenes stuff and the URLs of each page are staying the same then this might make your prospective client a bit happier.

Two useful quick tips for SEO: Keywords. Use keywords appropriately in the text, making sure you also use synonyms and phrases that customers might search with. Scatter them in a reasonable manner through the page, making sure it still reads well for your audience and doesn’t seem like it’s being written for a robot! Treat each page separately for SEO because you never know which page is going to be the one a user lands on first.

Also, ensure the site has SSL encryption and that your http:// site is redirected to https://. Google is currently boosting rankings for https:// sites to encourage a more secure web.



In addition to what @Aldek said, if you’re changing URLs, redirect the old url to the new url using a 301 redirect.