When we get a phone call or an email from a potential client asking us about SEO, the conversation goes something like this:
The phone rings.
o5: o5webdesign, good day.
Potential Client: Hey there. We have just had a website built and… we seem to have lost a considerable amount of traffic.” OR “… we don’t rank for the keywords we used to be visible for.” OR “… we are just not getting any inquiries.” OR “… we want to look at what we can do to improve our SEO.”
Now, there might not be anything wrong with these questions, but there is a problem here that harkens back to a period where SEO wasn’t considered as such a huge part of your online marketing strategy.
Today, SEO isn’t something you simply stick over an existing website to help it succeed. Websites need to be DESIGNED with SEO as part of its overall goal of success. Solid SEO powers paid search, social media and virtually every other digital marketing effort in existence.
That’s why, we’re looking at why SEO and Web Design are in & the same.
Forget eco-friendly; SEO-friendly is the name of the game
Having a website, it needs to accomplish two things: it needs to sell your products and services to the many visitors who you are marketing to, but it also needs to be search engine friendly, which consists of a heck of a lot requirements that must be met.
And, it is here where the comparison can be made.
So, to start, let’s look at the fundamentals needed for a good website.
To start with, your website needs these three things:
- A domain name – without it no one will find you.
- A decent hosting account – without hosting, you’re missing a big chunk of what you need to run your website and you won’t be able to use your domain name.
- A website framework (be it a WordPress CMS or similar) – this is the actual skeleton that gives your website life.
Without the three of these things, you essentially have NO website. For SEO, these three things are equally as important because:
- A good, keyword-rich domain name can HELP your ranking.
- A good, reliable and fast web hosting account should deliver your website at lightning speeds and without fail.
- A good framework should be lean and optimized for both speed and ease of use when it comes to SEO.
But, that’s the outside. What about inside your website? Well, that’s just as important, too.
Open & Accessible
Your website needs to be built in a way that search engines and human beings can easily access it. To do this you need to look at two things which is indexation and link structure.
Indexation is important as that relates to the ability for both human and search engine to read the content on your website. This means that all the text on your site has to be text-based. No exceptions. And, even though we as humans can see images and we can see Flash graphics and video, this doesn’t mean that search engines can.
The second thing is how the links are structured in your website.
To give users and search engines an easy way to navigate from point A to point B on your website, links need to be structured and built in such a way that search engines (and humans, too) can crawl your website easily.
Information makes up the bulk of what your website is. Without information, there’s nothing for us to promote to our users. There would also be nothing for us to market and promote through SEO. But information, in the context of this article, goes beyond this.
You’ll need to look at:
- Page Structure: Think of your website as a filing cabinet. Major categories are your main menus, with the sub menu underneath these acting like folders. Within them are your pages, which can be compared to files within these folders. Organizing your pages into sections that relate to each other is a good way for users to know what each section of your site is about. This makes sense on a website design level. For search engines, this is true, too. They’ll be able to read and know that the way your pages are structured and related to one another because they are structured together. If search engines can distinguish that, then they can rank your site better. If not, they’ll get confused and move along.
- URLs: This goes hand-in-hand with page structure. To enable your users to find the pages they’re looking for, you need to name the pages on your website. Good standard practice in web design says that a simple naming convention is best. So, the best bet would be to use something like this:http://www.example.com/services/Simple enough. Users can read this easily. Now, what about search engines? Like humans, they only want what’s simplest and best. To them, the above-mentioned example is the best, too. A good example of a bad URL would be something like this:
- Navigation:When it comes to building the navigation for your website, it’s always good to make it as simple as possible, not only for your users, but for search engines, too. Navigation shouldn’t take a lot of guesswork on the users and/or search engine’s part as both users and search engines need to find what they want easily. Building it requires some finesse, though and it can be easy to get wrong. There’s another analogy here that we can use, and this time it’s that of a signpost. Look at the screenshot below and try to figure out which way you need to go to find either car park or where the deliveries are made.
- Content: Content is what makes up 90% of each website. It’s something that has the power to really make or break a website. Without content, your users won’t have anything to read or learn on your website and without content, search engines won’t be able to surmise what it is your website is about, which prevents them from ranking it in the right category. You should have content that can be easily read, discovered and understood by users and search engines. If your content is hidden deep within your site, embedded into it through code that obscures it from search engines, as well as content within Flash graphics and videos, then you MAY be able to give your users something to see, but you’ll be excluding search engines completely, as they have NO way of distinguishing what’s in those things.
- Responsiveness: This is called responsive design. This simply refers to having your website built so that it resizes itself to fit the screen of whatever device you’re viewing a website on. This is probably just as important than any of the other topics here. Consider this: If you’re browsing your website from a mobile phone, you come across a website that looks small and must be resized manually to view it perfectly. That would be rather frustrating, I bet. That’s why it’s important to design and build your website with a mobile friendly design in place: your users need to be able to view a website that’s perfectly sized and spaced without them having to lift a finger – except to scroll up or down. For search engines, mobile-friendly design is important because a.) having such a design gives you an edge in mobile rankings and b.) search engines will give your website a boost in those same rankings.
Need for Speed
Take a stop watch and time these two intervals: 1 second and 3 seconds.
Why are those two intervals relevant? Because they relate to your site’s speed.
Your site needs to load, from start to finish, in no more than 1 second. This means, from the moment a user clicks on a link and the browser opens until the very last image on your website renders and loads into place. Also, if your website is STILL loading once your stopwatch hits that 3 second mark, then you may be saying goodbye to your site’s visitors. To search engines this is a big deal. The faster a website is, the better. To users, this is equally important. We may wait a few seconds longer for a website to load, but the moment it takes longer than that, studies have shown that people click away to another website.
From my experience, making sure your website loads quickly is super important. Especially here in South Africa where internet speeds are more slower and tend to be more temperamental. To achieve this though, you’ll need a good web host.
SEO – on and off the page
With everything else that we’ve already covered, it’s important to note that before any sort of on-page or off-page SEO can be considered, everything else preceding this needs to be considered and taken care of beforehand.
Only then can you start working on things like:
- Keywords – to help users and search engines find and rank you better online. The key here is good research and good content, as a start.
- Meta tags – These are small bits of code that search engines use in for ranking your website. Having well optimized meta tags is the backbone of traditional SEO. And many people might say that these are obsolete or worthless, but if they do, our advice would be to run for the hills.
- Headings need to be present on each page, to help users distinguish between sections of a page, as well as to know on what page they’re on. Headings also need to be structured and optimized for SEO with keywords.
- The content on your website, as we know, serves a dual purpose: it’s there to give your site something worthwhile that you can offer your users (and search engines), but the crux of it is that your content should be optimized with the right amount of keywords as it is within this that search engines really distinguish how they’ll rank your website.
And, finally, we come to…
As search engines become smarter, so do users who search.
Using and optimizing the images on your website might seem unusual, BUT, it can drive the right kind of traffic to your website under the right circumstances.
Full disclosure here: search engine CANNOT use and rank images with your website’s content (not yet, anyway). That’s why, like the content and other elements on your website, you should take time to optimize the images on your website.
- Using simple and descriptive file names
- Using alternative text that search engines and read
- Using the right physical size and file size to ensure they load quickly
- Making them shareable through social media.
Keeping those things in mind will ensure you’re on the right track.
Beyond all of this, you still have things like Sales Funnels and website usability to keep in mind, both of which can help your users buy into either your email marketing campaigns as well as into the products and/or services that you offer to your users.
So, that’s why web design and SEO are one in the same.