SEO Cheat Sheet for Web Designers & Developers

Pete Peranzo
by Pete Peranzo 13 Jun, 2017
Your website might look amazing, but it's all for naught if your intended audiences can't find it. Search engine optimization (SEO) must be a part of the Web design and development process. 

Search engines are designed to supply the most relevant material to those searching for it. Search engines WANT to get people to your content.

There was a time (many years ago it seems) that Yahoo search was leading the pack, but the issue was that relevant content for searches was always found buried in the results. Google overcame this by offering more relevant content on the first page. The market responded and started using Google as its primary search engine. 

To further break it down, search engines like Google track searches made, which link is clicked the most and how long the user stays on the clicked link before closing it. All of this will point toward how relevant the results were. Here are five key points to achieving a high search ranking: 

1. Keep content unique and interesting

There is a common slogan in SEO the community- content is king. This is not a farce, and it's a mantra you should take on. Even though content alone cannot drive the needed growth in ranking, great content is the essence of the process. It drives everything else. 

Interesting content will always attract people. When this is kept up over a period of time, you create customer retention as visitors find your content helpful. Gone are the days of generic, keyword-laden junk. Google is working on artificial intelligence (AI) to read your content, and it can tell when it's "bad." So can the real people reading it and they'll click away quickly. Each piece, while catering to the need for readability, is also expected to contain a healthy amount of keywords so that search engines can recognize the article as being relevant when this word is searched.

Headers are a big part of that process. H1 and H2 keyword loading not only helps improve SEO performance, it also engages readers and focuses their attention on what you want them to take away from content. Designers and developers need to consciously format header appearance to appeal to users.  

2. Use meta tags & descriptions

It's simply not enough to have awesome content. Search engines need a system to quickly find and label content. 

A specific handle that relates to the content, comprised of the best possible one-sentence description, is a meta tag. It's used to quickly explain what the content offers.

Search engines use meta information to rank content and it appears under the title in the search engine results. Those little snippets of text that describe the content either compel people to check out your content or send them elsewhere if it's not what they are looking for. For example, let's say a search engine lists three options:

- An article with a nicely written meta description.
- An article with no description.
- An article with an inaccurate description that does not indicate topic of interest.

Which one is the search engine going to reward? Which one are users going to reward? The first, obviously. Lots of publishing platforms will generate meta information, but it's often not correct. It's important to check it yourself and adjust as necessary.

3. Be sure your website is responsive

Mobile search is trending upward, so having a platform that is mobile compatible is essential. People are no longer just looking for your content on PCs, they're checking it out on all kinds of devices. 

Search engines know this. The more mobile friendly your content is, the easier it's going to be fore search engines to find you. 

4. Link and backlink responsibly 

Search engines understand that when a website is being referred to by so many other websites, that means that the website is an authority in the subject. At the very least it offers information on some subject close to or complementary to the keywords that the referring page is ranked for. 

The art of getting other pages to refer to yours is called backlinking. Make no mistake, it is an art. One of the most common challenges is figuring out how to effectively work on back linking since in most cases we only tend to have access to our own content, not others. There are a number of ways to build back links, Here are just a few:

- Create good content that provokes linking naturally.
- Link out to others and let them know, some will return the favor.
- Build relationships with other authority websites.
- Submit to online publications and directories.
- Stay active on social media.

5. Ensure that your website loads quickly

Website speed can be as important as the content. Forty percent of website visitors will abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. To get a clearer picture, think about a time that you closed a page because it was taking too much time to load. No matter how nice the content or service is, if there is no opportunity to see it, how will the visitor know? Having a fast website is not an option but a necessity. Search engines know, and readers definitely know. 

Designers can be part of the process of by designing for speed. This is essentially a magic trick, allowing you to give your readers the satisfaction of fast loading times even if the site isn't actually loading quickly. Designing for performance means looking to the qualitative experience of the user, rather than just the quantitative loading numbers. Here are a few ways to improve performance:

- Use skeleton screens instead of spinners or loading bars, as the latter draws attention to loading times.
- Provide a sense of content progress by carefully controlling the first page load format.
- Utilize animation to engage users during loading.

These five quick keys will hopefully help you to build and SEO friendly site in a pain free and easy way. Start with these steps, then keep going and keep studying SEO. It is constantly changing.

About the Author
Pete Peranzo is the CEO of Imaginovation, a full service, turn-key digital solutions company serving Raleigh, NC and Charlotte, NC. He is a results driven individual with over fifteen years in the IT and software industry. Pete's background in customer support is a driving factor in the company's long term success and reputation. He has embedded customer service into the company's core culture, and feels that fast turnaround, great communication and high quality support are keys to long term business relationships. Follow him on Twitter @PetePeranzo.