I take your point that most things can be changed. To answer your questions though, it's probably best to mention some of the many many things I take into account SEO
wise when I build a page. Probably giving away a list I should blog about this rather than just posting here as it's good stuff, but here goes off the top of my head.
1) Content written with both search engines and humans in mind
2) H1, H2 etc tags used to define the page structure (as they should be) rather than just to "make text bigger"
3) Title Tags and Meta Descriptions (easy to change though)
4) Alt tags on all images
6) Page structure to allow maximum text without compromising page look.
7) Page footers
8) Menu Structure & Design (ie text based links if possible)
9) Menu link texts
10) When using a CMS, ecommerce etc other things apply:
a) Permalinks structure
b) Avoiding duplicate content via multiple URLs to same content
c) Avoiding variables in URLS (eg osCommerce's osCid= string) OR ensuring rel=canonical header tag is set so ensure Google knows what the "real" URL of a page is.
And probably some more I've forgotten that I just do naturally without thinking. SEO
is about three things - on page content, on page structure, off page link quantity & quality (ie linkbuilding, link baiting etc).
The off page stuff you can do with any site. But based on my above list, how much of this is easy to change without basically rebuilding the entire site? For example, changing title and meta description tags is easy, but if this is all you consider to be onpage SEO
, well, lets say it's just the "easy part" and leaning to put these in is about 1% of the way to becoming a genuine SEO
Adding alt tags on every image...easier to do up front but can be done later. Stuff like getting the menu and page structure right can involve changes that take as much work as rebuilding the site from scratch would. And then, say you change all of the page file names from say about.htm to about-freds-widgets.htm, you then have to put in a series of 301 redirects from old to new - all stuff that wouldn't have to be done if it was done right.
Given that in a lot of cases you would basically have to rebuild the entire site to get some of this stuff right, yet that isn't in the client's budget as they just want you to "SEO
it", it means the basic things like title tags and mabye a H1 gets added in, and the rest gets left. With quality link building it's still possible to rank, but takes a lot more work in that area to make up for deficiences on the page itself.
Obviously the more complex a site and the more willing a client is to let you change things and invest the time/money, the more you can overcome it not being done right at the start. But most clients AND inexperienced SEO
's are so convinced that "title tag + description tag + a heading tag + link building = SEO
" that they don't appreciate the value of the rest - plus their idea of linkbuilding is ofter so bad that they fail in this area as well!