Continuing our discussion of search engine friendly design considerations I offer you part 2 of a 6 part series on SEO friendly design:
So how do you get started? Do some research and get organized.
The first step in the process
is to design your website navigation links so they can be easily crawled and followed by the search engines, and visitors. The process of search engines visiting your website, to explore and catalog your content, has been referred to as web crawling or spidering or indexing. Considering how visitors and search engines will find their way around your site is a critical first step in effective, SEO-friendly web design
A good “best practice” is to spend a good amount of time researching and determining the best way to organize your content and categories before starting your design. This is the foundation of designing an excellent user experience. If a user can’t find what they need, their experience is not going to be great. How your content is organized is very important and is referred to as your information architecture. The practice of designing your information architecture focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. Keyword research is an important–and necessary–part of this as we’ll discuss later.
As a designer myself, I’ve tended to dive directly into the creative process and mold things into a workable solution. Many designers take this approach because we’re eager to get to the fun stuff. But ideally, we need to take a step back, put pencil to paper, and think through things a bit. Actually, if I’m honest, for large sites it might be necessary to spend just as much time in the planning and organization stage as you do with the design phase. Sorry to break the bad news.
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 for customers, far more crawlable by the search engines and more sustainable in the long run.
Lastly, spend time on keyword research before you start your design. We’ll talk more about this in a bit. Here’s a quick example though. If I have a company that offers landscaping services, a link on my site navigation might seem effective and sleek and simple as “services”, but if you’re interested in helping search engines and users to understand what your company does clearly, it’s going to be the best choice to label this link as “landscaping services”. Making this small change is an obvious decision for the bright and ambitious web designer and one that may have been missed without a little planning with SEO in mind.
Spend time researching your keywords before you even start thinking about “design”.
One of the most critical 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 is an inefficient way to go about it and highly time-consuming to rework if the designer has missed the mark.
The proper keywords might not fit in the navbar. 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. Knowing the right keywords to use is essential.
Give yourself a chance at being found by spending 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 best damn grass maintenance company in the world, but I’ll bet the farm on the fact that you don’t know if the majority of your potential customers search for “landscaping company”, Grass mowing company” or “property maintenance” — or any other variation that a common, layperson might use to find someone to mow their grass.
When you’re dealing with products and services on the web you’ll be blown away by the number 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 key phrases in your design from the beginning.
These are just a few of the best practices of SEO-friendly design, and this is only part one in this series. Following these simple rules is easy and we’ll be providing more tips in the near future. Follow the links in the show notes for additional episodes around the SEO-friendly design when they become available. We’ll be back again soon with part 2.