Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or trying to get a website to rank for specific keywords, is big news; you don’t need me to tell you that. But how you build websites can have a huge impact on its success in the search engine rankings.
So, for all you developers, here’s what you need to know:
Basics of Web Development for SEO
Every web page needs to contain the following elements:
- A unique URL. Ideally this should be simple, logical and keyword-rich, e.g. www.example.com/web-design not www.example.com/post-id?=14537 This isn’t just good for search engines, users will find them easier to remember.
- A heading marked with a <h1> tag, this tag should only be used once on the page, so don’t highlight logos with the <h1> tag.
- Search engines also look for subheadings and highlighted text, so be sure to style <h2>, <strong> and <em> tags.
- A unique Title Tag and Meta Description. These should be easy to edit by hand, but for large e-commerce sites writing from scratch is likely to be unpractical. In these situations, you may need to develop an automated system for generating unique and keyword-rich Titles and Descriptions for every page.
- All images need ALT Text. Not only is this important for search engines, but also it is vital for accessibility, as the ALT Text is used by screen readers.
But, creating SEO-friendly web designs doesn’t end there.
Page Speed Affects SEO
Google discovered that its users are annoyed by websites that are slow to load, and so they made load times a ranking factor.
Flash and SEO Still Don’t Mix
Search engines have improved their ability to read PDFs and understand images, but flash continues to stump them. While using flash for elements within your site design can still be effective, building an entire flash website is a recipe for disaster.
Leaving the search engine issue to one side, don’t forget that Apple and Adobe have ongoing issues. The upshot of this is that if you rely too heavily on flash in your website design, iPhone and iPad users will be unable to access your content.
XML Sitemaps Can Improve Indexing
There are a number of simple techniques that you can use to improve the indexing of your website. One of the easiest by far is to install an XML Sitemap that updates automatically, and ensure that you use a robots.txt file that points to the location of your sitemap.
Not having an XML Sitemap will not harm your website, but these can be directly submitted to search engines like Google and Bing to help them find and index every page on your website.
Search engines can only deliver indexed pages in their search engine results, so anything that you can to improve the progress is a bonus for SEO.
Great Web Design Can Help SEO
As search engines get smarter they are including social signals and user behavior in their ranking factors more and more. It’s no longer enough for a website to rank well – users have to stay on the site, share the content socially and show they love it.
A user-friendly and beautiful web design can go a long way towards retaining users and getting them to talk about your website. So, while technical elements still matter, and a site should never sacrifice user experience for design, creative and slick sites are definitely the right way to go.
There are many more technical elements that can help or hinder a site’s ability to rank in search engines. But if you follow these guidelines your SEO will already be on the right track.