by Guest Blogger . March 30th, 2011
I seem to notice that SEO (Search Engine Optimization consultants) get plenty of push back from web designers, web developers and even copywriters whenever they collaborate on a project. And to a large extent, I understand why this disconnect usually occurs, which usually starts at the beginning stages of the design process. It usually happens like this: the designer gets excited about laying out the creative elements of a website , the developer wants to return to his cave so he can diligently code on the back-end, and the copywriter retreats to somewhere peaceful and serene to write immaculate content. Enter…the wet blanket SEO who serves as an annoying reminder that no matter how awesome the design, functionality and copy of a website is, the website is nothing unless it has keywords, keywords, keywords and more keywords so it can be indexed and ranked by search engines A, B, C and D.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum situation for all parties. With proper planning, optimizations can be implemented to help a site rank high in the search results without compromising the aesthetics and functionality of the site. Below are a few important SEO concerns and pointers to be aware of before the design process begins:
Flash is amazing for adding a unique and fun experiene for users. Unfortunately, search engines aren’t so good at interpreting Flash elements as they are with HTML. And although Google recently announced that, in cooperation with Adobe, they have improved their ability to handle indexing of Flash-based content, there is a long way to go before they can fully intgerpret it. For a searchable website, you still need to depend on your HTML and plain text. Utilize keyword specific title tags, alt tags and header tags.
Additionally, Flash still has security issues that make excessive use of it a real disadvantage.
Your title tags are a key element in your page design. It’s not just for the search engines, but also for your visitors. It’s usually the first line of text in your listing on the search engine results page (SERP). It should be limited to 65 characters. Anything longer than that might not be shown by Google. Because of this, it should include your most important keywords, without duplication of terms, but still be readable by your visitors. Your title tag also shows on the top bar of most browsers while your users are on the page. If they bookmark the page, the title tag will usually be what shows in their list.
A good practice is to wait until the page is finished to choose the title. This will enable you to tie the keywords into your content instead of trying to plan the text of the page around two or three keywords.
4.Keep Your URLs Readable
Long, ugly URLs are scattered everywhere on the Internet. Some of the biggest, professionally built websites are the biggest offenders of this best practice. If all anyone ever did was click it, the content of the URL wouldn’t matter much, but they need to be written down, emailed and shared on social networking websites. A good URL describes the content so that both the search bots and visitors can relate it to your page content. It should also be as short as possible.
Brevity makes it easier to paste, tell someone about it over the phone or write on sticky note. So stay away from abbreviations or long strings of numbers and symbols; use descriptive keywords as much as possible; and choose a format and keep it consistent throughout your website. It’s better not to use any uppercase letters. People have become accustomed to using lowercase on the web. Capitals can interfere with your website being found.
Advance planning of your design that includes SEO factors in the process should make your website efficient as well as beautiful. Some important points to keep in mind are:
Page load times are an important ranking factor. This just goes back to the rule of thumb – a quicker page load time is optimal for the user experience and improves rankings.
Test, test, then test again. You should make a strong effort to test all aspects of your website on every possible operating system and browser platform, including mobile apps. Validate all your code and click through all of your order processes before going live and fix any bugs before publishing to the world. W3C offers free validators for nearly every type of code or script. The last thing you want is for an incomplete sale due to a faulty order process.
Don’t try to game the search engines. If the search engines determine that you’re utilizing “Black Hat SEO” tactics such as keyword stuffing. For example, do not have hidden copy that’s the same color of your website’s background. You could get penalized in the search engine result pages or even have your website banned altogether. Use keywords where they make sense. Wrap your images and flash content with textual explanations of what they contain. These things also help disabled users to navigate your content.
In the end, there are hundreds of SEO tactics out there and new ones developing all the time as the search engines modify their algorithm. However, if you take time to properly plan for these aforementioned optimizations before everyone gets too far into their responsibilities, you should most likely experience postive search result rankings without hurting the overall look and feel of your web design masterpiece.
Brian Flores is the SEO for InMotion Hosting, one of the top dedicated server providers in the US. He spends a good part of his time collaborating with an awesome team of writers to post useful web design and development tutorials on WebHostingHelpGuy. You can follow him on Twitter @WHHG_InMotion or @BrianAFlores.