SEO friendly web design is crucial for any website. Having a website that is optimized for search engines is important for visibility that results in business. When beginning a web design project, SEO needs to be incorporated from the start, and not as an afterthought. Checking out a few SEO fundamentals that are important from not only a search engine perspective but a human perspective goes a long way in good web design and development.
SEO? What Is It?
To understand what SEO is, it’s useful to know what it isn’t. SEO is not a way to scam or devise cheating methods to slap a website at the top of a search results page in a week. That won’t get anyone anywhere worth going in the long run and Google will most likely find you and punish you. SEO, rather, is a way to tell search engines and people that a website has what a user is searching for, and that their experience is a seamless one. Many factors go into this, and good web design and development is a fundamental factor.
SEO on A Site-Wide Level
SEO is incorporated on every level of a website: site-wide, on-page and off-page. When looking at SEO on a site-wide level from a web design perspective, the things to look at include accessibility, URL structure and site maps, among others.
It’s simple: if a search engine can’t get to a page, it won’t index it in search results. So, how do you ensure pages are accessible? There are a few things that you should and should not do.
Do allow pages to be accessed by making sure there are no instances of robots.txt or robots meta tags blocking the crawlers from getting to them. However, don’t allow crawlers to get to sensitive information (such as banking records) that you would not want indexed. In this case, employ robots.txt.
If you have multiple pages that you want to break out with pagination, don’t leave a spider at the first page of a 10 pager. When looking at pagination, it is important that spiders can get to each page through rel=”next” tags and rel=”prev” tags. This allows for linking several pages together so that crawlers will then identify them as part of a comprehensive set and treat them as one page.
301 Redirects > 302 Redirects
Use 301 redirects; avoid using 302 redirects if possible. The reason? 302 redirects are seen as temporary and thus pass no link value.
Minimize 404 Errors
Do try to keep the 404 page not founds to a minimum. From a user experience perspective, running into several error pages is not an enjoyable online experience.
Don’t Be the Tortoise in Site Speed
When it comes to site speed, don’t give the user enough time to take a weekend trip to their favorite resort and spa before your site loads on their device. A slow site load time greatly affects user experience.
Mobile is A Must
Speaking of devices, a mobile phone is an important one that demands attention. Google has been hinting for a while now that mobile accessibility is important, and in April they will officially make it a ranking factor.
Do not duplicate content on a site. There are several tools to determine if duplicated content exists on a site. Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource. Use the site: search feature to discover if more than one page is appearing for duplicated pages.
Subdomains vs. Subfolders
When debating between subdomains and subfolders, keep in mind that subdomains (webdesign.website.com) are often seen by Google as separate domains. Subfolders (website.com/webdesign), however, are seen as part of the domain and carry greater link value.
Do include an XML sitemap on a website. An XML sitemap is only visible for search engines. With an XML sitemap, it is possible to make additions that can be used to provide further information such as metadata. If possible, also include an HTML, image and video sitemap.
When it comes to on-page SEO factors, there are a few things that can be useful to understand from a web design perspective:
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Don’t slap up unrelated content that a user wouldn’t be searching for. For example, don’t have information on chicken picatta recipes on a page titled “5 Easy Pork Loin Recipes.” This leaves both search engines and people disgruntled. Optimize pages around one or two keywords and include relevant, related content to those keywords. Using tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great resource for deciding which terms are optimal for a page. Generally, aim for the highest traffic potential with the lowest competitive ratio.
In addition, it is crucial to avoid keyword stuffing. This is using targeted keywords redundantly throughout content. At a certain point in time, this was the correct way to optimize keywords. However now, Google is becoming more semantic and can pick up on associated searches.
Try to avoid certain content types, including flash content. This can hinder content crawlability for search engine results pages. Combining HTML, CSS and other webfonts can be implemented to avoid certain crawlability issues.
Do not leave meta information empty. A meta tile and description let the user and the SERPs know what a page is about.
If possible, do add structured data to a page to generate rich snippets. Structured data essentially pulls in other useful information into search results pages that is both positive for the search engine and the user.
Off-site SEO also plays a major role in search rankings. These are SEO methods that go beyond the website itself. There are a few big players in effective off-site SEO.
Do aim for a high number, of high value links. Do not aim for links from uncredible sources. Inbound links from credible sources (.gov, .org, .edu, etc) can play a great role in boosting a site in rankings.
Avoid links from spam sites. This can directly hurt rankings. If this occurs, employ the Disavow tool.
If you don’t want a search engine to follow a link to a website, use a nofollow tag. Do keep in mind though, that this passes no PageRank.
These and several other elements all factor into effective SEO for web design purposes. Seo friendly design starts at the site level, and expands to on-page and off-page. Understanding the do’s and don’ts are important in order to reach search results pages. For more information on how to implement effective web design and SEO for a website, contact Forthea Interactive Marketing.