SEO Principles for 'Net Builders
By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor
There are plenty of considerations to be made when designing a website for visibility, usability and conversion.
This is especially true when one considers just how many people are involved in a Web design project - often leaving Web designers and developers at the mercy of making modifications for marketers, the C-Suite and others who have a stake in the success of a site.
What some 'Net builders need in order to contribute to the conversation, particularly when it comes to SEO, is a better understanding of the choices they can make to impact a website's rankings for the better. Website Magazine has enlisted the help of several industry experts who outline their guiding principles below.
Leverage Responsive Design
Following Google's recent, well-publicized algorithm update, all webmasters should be aware of the importance of having a mobile-optimized site. Responsive design is Google's recommended design pattern (over dynamic serving and having a separate mobile site) as viewers only have one URL to go to [and the search engine only has one site to crawl].
~Farhad Divecha, Managing Director of AccuraCast
Design and Code with Change in Mind
There is nothing more frustrating when a developer makes a good website that becomes successful only to realize there is barely any room left for expansion or change. Make sure to create a design that is open for additions [to adapt to Google algorithm changes].
Address Loading Speed
Minifying, merging and compressing CSS and JS files and optimizing images for the Web should be no-brainer routines for any Web developer.
~Martin Milanov, Digital Marketing Lead at Fair Point GmbH
Leave Space for Text
Websites have become very image led in recent years. While this might look great for the user, it can be restrictive when it comes to SEO, because text content on a site is crucial for Google to understand what a website is about (Google cannot interpret images like humans can). Therefore, developers need to assign areas on each page for text.
Show the User the Way
User and usage data is an ever-increasing metric in SEO as well as being critical for website conversions. Clear page structure, menu and content areas will prevent high bounce or drop-off rates [metrics which have long been considered part of Google's multi-faceted algorithm].
~ Simon Ensor, Managing Director at Yellowball
Make it Accessible
Often, when a site is being developed, best practices are to disallow search engines from accessing it. When the website is finished and delivered to the client, it is highly important to ensure that all of the blocking directives are removed; otherwise the site will simply not appear in the search results.
Design for the Actual Search Result
Since designers usually focus on what the user sees when viewing the website, they tend to skip certain tags such as the meta title, meta description and structured data implementation for rich snippets. These "invisible" tags help search engines better understand what the content is about, and can use them to style how the website appears in the results.
Block Pages with Thin Content
In certain situations, a website may be configured in such a way that it would generate pages that contain little to no content. These pages may not even be intentionally generated, but can be found by search engines, in which case they could lower the overall perceived quality of the website. There are cases, however, when pages like these are actually a result of the website's normal behavior; such as when applying filters in an e-commerce store that leads to showing empty pages. In any case, it's recommended to block search engines from indexing these types of pages, thus making sure that they only offer quality results to users.
~ Dmitri Logounov, Head Designer and Founder of New Design Group