Continuing our discussion of search engine friendly design considerations I offer you part 2 of a 6 part series on SEO friendly design:
Take the time to organize
In addition to a solid system of organization for your SEO campaign, a good “best practice” is to spend a lot of time organizing your content and categories before starting your design so your information architecture is sound. How your content is labeled, grouped and worded is very important. Keyword research is an important–and necessary–part of this (as we all know) and probably deserves a line item of it’s own but we’ll include it here. (More on this later)
As a designer myself I tend to dive directly into the creative process and mold things into a workable solution. I’m definitely not a planner and sometimes have to take a step back and put pencil to paper and think through things a bit. Actually, for large sites it might be necessary to spend just as much time in the planning and organization stage as you do with the creative phase.
You must take the time to think through how you’re going to get people (and the search engines) to your content and plan for changes and growth. A properly planned site will be much more user friendly and far more crawlable by the engines.
Properly planning how you’re going to code the pages too will bring to the surface any potential issues before you duplicate pages. If you have a knowledge of SEO though you’re probably already aware of the need for each page to have it’s own page title, the fact that headlines on the page should be labeled with H1 tags (only use one per page!) in your CSS file, etc.
Lastly, spend time on keyword research before you start the design. A link on your site navigation might look cool and sleek as “services” but if you’re interested in SEO and the rank of your site you’ll do some research to find out that “seo services” is a fairly popular search. Making this small change is an obvious decision for the bright and ambitious web designer and one that would’ve been missed without a little planning.
Spend time researching your keywords before you start thinking about “design”
As previously mentioned, one of the most important aspects of an optimized website design is to take the time to complete thorough keyword research so you’re making informed decisions about the text elements on the page. Most designers and their clients start out with the “look” of the site and then, when it’s all finished, polished and proofed they look to a company to optimize their website.
Well, obviously this could be disastrous and highly time consuming if the designer has missed the mark.
The proper keywords might not fit in the nav bar. The proper keywords might reflow text so it looks unprofessional or unattractive. Worse yet, the client and designer might not even know why their site is not ranking well. The client will point fingers at the designer and say “I have all kinds of content about my product on the site, why is it not ranking?”. Chances are they’ve completely missed the mark by being way too general, or just writing content that sounds great but doesn’t contain the perfect golden phrases that bring real traffic.
Give yourself a chance at being found by doing a little bit of time in “the lab” where you’ll gain real insight into the thoughts and needs of the people that are searching for you. 99% of the time you’ll be surprised about the results. You might be the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding your product or service but I’ll bet the farm on the fact that you don’t know if the majority of your potential customers search for “Hire affordable seo consultant” or “funky plural product name cheap”. A real world example might be “Find seo consultant” or “Affordable Windsor Newton acrylic paints”.
When you’re dealing with product and services on the web you’ll be blown away by the amount of combinations and variations of phrases that people will use to find you.
Using the right words throughout your site design during the planning phase will most likely determine if your site sinks or swims.
Properly integrating these carefully selected key phrases into your design will also improve the user experience of your site visitors and it will save you headaches down the road if you can plan for the proper placement of these keyphrases in your design from the beginning.