“If you build it, he will come.”
This famous line from the movie Field of Dreams embodied the hearts and souls of a generation. Kevin Costner built it (a baseball field) and not only did he come (Shoeless Joe Jackson), but so did they (the ghosts of baseball past).
Wouldn’t it be nice if building a website was that easy?
Your famous inspiration would read: If you build it, they will find. Because it’s such a work of art people across the globe will talk about it. And it will rank #1 in all searches.
Sadly, that “site of dreams” probably won’t become reality.
Some happy news: by using some thoughtful web design SEO, you can build a website that is easier to find. And then . . . they will come.
What Is Web Design SEO
Read an industry blog post today. You won’t find many where the author doesn’t mention SEO.
In fact, there are entire companies dedicated to helping businesses develop sustainable search engine optimization strategies. In or search-driven society it’s necessary for building brand awareness.
Did you know that you can begin your SEO strategy before your website is even available to the search engines?
It’s called web design SEO.
By including specific behind-the-scenes techniques during your website build, you will have an advantage before you add your first keyword-loaded piece of content.
Some of the techniques we will discuss include:
- Navigation SEO – using an intuitive site structure is one of Google’s criteria
- Image SEO – how to effectively assign alt attributes to your images
- Content SEO – yes, content is king, but here we explain the importance of intentional design as you develop your site
- Schema – not everyone uses structured data as part of their SEO strategy. We’ll discuss why you should.
- Responsive SEO – Google said it; you should do. It’s time to optimize your pages for mobile viewers.
- Housecleaning – why it’s important to maintain and update your website regularly
By using these suggestions you will not only make sure your website is search engine ready, you will maximize its ranking potential. Let’s optimize!
Navigation is very important for search engines. If your site is not user-friendly, if it’s difficult to find products and services or information, ranking suffers. Poorly executed site navigation may reduce the percentage of visitors that turn into leads.
As you hit the drawing board, keep these suggestions in mind.
A logical site structure (how a user navigates your site) guarantees a positive experience for your customers. Unfortunately, many website developers tend to overlook this crucial area of web design SEO.
Think about it.
If your customers can easily move from page to page in a logical fashion, so can the search engine crawlers. If your customers get frustrated and “bounce” quickly, Google notices that too.
Want to get noticed in SERPs?
As Neil Patel explains, an effective site structure can result in a listing format with included sitelinks. He says: Sitelinks are a huge SEO advantage. They increase the navigability of your site, point users to the most relevant information, increase your brand’s reputation, improve user trust…”
Seo-friendly URLs are another aspect of quality site navigation that is often overlooked. Although they won’t rocket you to the number one spot by themselves, they are an effective detail not used by many of your competitors.
An infographic compiled by Backlinko founder, Brian Dean offers some excellent advice on structuring URLs for better search engine optimization:
- Rank higher by using shorter URLs
- Limit the number of keywords used in URLs
- A URL should be simple; easily read by humans
- Use descriptive names for your URLs rather than hard to read dynamic ones
- Use subfolders, not subdomains
Another great tip: Use search friendly page names to improve web design SEO.
Create a sitmap.xml
For web pages to show up in search results they must first be indexed. Indexing basically means discovered by search engine bots (crawlers).
Once discovered, web pages are included in Google’s (and other search engine’s) “library.” Now they are available to show up in user queries.
Has this ever happened to you?
You’re looking for a restaurant in an unfamiliar area. You get lost.
Some people will dig in and continue searching until they find the intriguing eatery. Others think “it can’t be that good if I can’t find it” and head to their local haunt.
Googlebots are the latter.
If indexing a website becomes too difficult or confusing, they stop and head off in a new direction.
Many website developers don’t realize the amount of traffic they might be missing. Creating a sitemap.xml gives Googlebots an easy road to all the areas of a site you want indexing.
Make finding you easy. Make a map.
The images on your website are not just about aesthetics.
Search engine crawlers cannot “read” images. The need text to inform them. Added correctly, images deliver the perfect combination of web design SEO and creativity.
Size does matter. Especially when it comes to loading time.
Reducing image size improves site performance. Search engines rank pages higher that load faster.
Many website designers take short-cuts and one of those is not assigning alt attributes to images. But when it comes to web design SEO it has valuable benefits.
Alternative attributes, or alt tags, are the textual information used to describe an image. It may also explain the purpose of the image on the page.
Why should every image on a web page have alt text?
Search engines find it very important. Crawlers find more indexing possibilities when alt text provides useful and descriptive information about images.
Alt tags are an additional area to include important keywords. But be judicious. Stuffing alt attributes with keywords gives a negative rating and may get your site penalized. Google’s image publishing guidelines encourage webmasters to “focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”
Important note: the text in an alt tag is important for more than SEO purposes. Giving a useful description of images helps visually impaired users with page readers to experience your website to the fullest.
Text in Images
A neat trick, but not something to do.
If you want particular strings of text indexed by search engine crawlers, do not include it in an image. Bots cannot read that type of text. By putting the text in your images you miss opportunities for keyword placement.
Pay special attention to page headings and menus, as well as your logo design. Do not include important brick-and-mortar information (company name, address, phone number) as part of the logo or banner. Having that information accessible to bots makes it accessible to customers.
Yes! Content is still king. And it’s not a web developer’s responsibility to write killer content.
What’s necessary is a website design that ensures maximum content exposure in search engines.
Here are a few techniques for using content as a web design SEO tool.
Each page on your site should have an H1 (or header 1) tag. Add target keywords to these heading tags. They are important elements for improving visibility and web page rankings for your site.
But headers are only words, right? “That’s not my job,” says Ms. Ida Zyne-Sytes.
Here’s the scoop.
The mere presence of an H1 and what is says isn’t the total difference maker. The formatting of an H1 and where it’s placed on the page has a greater impact on user experience.
To dive deeper into the importance of H1 tags, read Neil Patel’s article “How to Create the perfect H1 tag for SEO.”
More Pages Equals More Content
Now don’t go crazy on this one. Remember the importance of easy navigation?
Thanks to the popularity of infinite scroll, web designers err on the opposite side of this spectrum. But one page does not fit all!
For companies with multiple products or services, a one-page-fits-all design can negatively affect search engine position.
The best web design SO practice is to create separate pages for each category of product or service. And include your target keywords on every page.
This presents three advantages over the competition:
- A cleaner, more intentional site structure encourages users to stick around and explore. Improved dwell time leads to improved rankings.
- More organic keyword opportunities equal more potential for click-throughs. This can lead to higher conversion rates.
- More website pages lay the groundwork for building “link juice” (link equity). More pages mean more internal link possibilities.
Don’t make the mistake having blocks of images and minimal text on your product and service pages. Representing services in a visual manner is pleasing to the eye. But without the text to back it up the page rank suffers.
Remember: it’s not a beauty contest; it’s a “who gets the girl (or boy or customer” battle.
Time to put on your computer geek hat. (We say that with the utmost affection!)
Are you serious about catapulting your web design SEO to the next level? Then let’s get down to the grand schema things.
Schema.org – a quick history
Schema.org is a collaboration project between major search engines and webmasters.
The joint effort created a standardized vocabulary for content markup. This agreed upon language is recognized universally by all the search engine players (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex).
Add structured data to the back-end of a website. It is a best practice surprisingly few web developers use.
Structured data is on-page markup — in a sense, custom HTML tags. It “speaks” a clearer language to search engine bots than standard HTML code. This helps bots to develop a more detailed description of the content on web pages.
Some examples of content types that structured data markup can be used on:
- Software applications
- Local businesses
- Video content
The prize: Site information becomes more relevant in search queries. Your listings become more visible in SERPs.
Adding structured data to your HTML code is truly the nuts and bolts of web design SEO.
Rich snippets are the enhanced display of SERP listings. They are the listings that stand out more noticeably because they offer extra information.
These richer details are eye-catching. They impact the appearance of query results. Some businesses have reported a 30% increase in click-through rates for their rich snippet listings.
When major competitors (the search engines) join forces and agree on a set standard, it’s worth paying attention to. It’s probably going to be around for a while. It’s definitely something to add to your web design SEO arsenal.
Responsive Web Design SEO
If you build it, they will change.
And that’s exactly what they (Google) did.
As Google prepares to roll-out their mobile-first index, it’s time to go mobile or go away.
It will happen, and it will penalize websites that do not have a mobile version.
At the Search Marketing Expo conference in March, Google’s Gary Illyes gave a few suggestions to prepare for the mobile-first index:
- Make sure your mobile site has the content you want to rank for.
- Make sure structured data are on your mobile site.
- Make sure rel-annotations are on your mobile site.
It’s always important to make sure every bit of information on your website is working to benefit your bottom line.
You’ve put all that work into your web design SEO strategy. Don’t kill it by failing to fix these costly mistakes:
- Old and low-quality pages – remove them, they don’t add to better results
- Broken links – sites with a lot of broken links are penalized in search rankings
- Not updating regularly – add new pages to earn a better FreshRank score than sites adding content less often
- Crawl errors – Google analytics is your friend
- Duplicate content – even somewhat modified content has negative effects on a site’s visibility in query results
- Too much flash – remember, you want text bots can find
- Pop-ups that appear before visitors can access content – this is a big Google no-no; they don’t like it at all
- Keyword stuffing, cloaking, and creating or using link farms
Don’t sacrifice beauty over function. The best way to maximize your website ranking to its full potential is by implementing these web design SEO measures.
A website that generates ROI requires a lot more than simply having an online presence. Don’t leave your business to chance. To be successful a website needs to have a professional design that is SEO ready.
The design and SEO teams at Unraveled Media are ready to create your own personal field of dreams.
We love hearing about new projects. Tell us about yours today!