An eye catching and user friendly design is fundamental to any business trying to find online success, but a great looking website will go unnoticed if it doesn’t have a chance at good search rankings. Designers have a trained eye for the look and feel of a site and love beautifully designed websites. SEO firms on the other hand, love a great looking website with optimised content and code.
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Nowadays the job of a web designer often entails them to play a part in writing the front end code but a large number still don’t understand SEO well enough to create a fully optimised website. It’s important that a designer understands the value of SEO to keep an attractively designed website whilst also being search engine friendly.
Prettify the Code, More Than the Design
What is visible to the eye isn’t the only part of a website that should look good but also what is unseen – the code. When building your website use semantic code to create a clean and easy process. By using descriptive tags to structure your pages, search engines will be able to read and understand your content better.
Use Images but Use Them Wisely
As designers, we want to make everything look as good as possible and the use of images enhances information in a visually attractive light. In Google’s eyes though, the contents of an image cannot be seen so its purpose and placement should be thought out. Avoid replacing text with images; instead use the image to complement the words so your keywords are still easily identified by the search engines.
Plan Your Title Tags
Title tags are the first line of text in your listing displayed on the search engine results page (SERP). They are not just critical to an SEO strategy, but are also a key element in your page design because they tell search engines and visitors what your page is about.
Your title tags should include your most important keywords without duplications and be easily readable by visitors. It’s essential that title tags are kept to a limit of 65 characters or Google may not show them.
Design Search Friendly URLs
If the URL or domain name has nothing to do with your keyword phrases it will not only make it hard for visitors and potential clients to find you, but it won’t do your rankings any favours either. It’s vital they are both relevant to the webpage and describe the contents of the page accurately.
Make Sure Your Site Navigation is Google Friendly
Although Flash is amazing for adding a unique and fun experience for users, search engines have a tough time crawling a website that uses Flash elements.
To create a site navigation that is Google friendly, you need to develop a good structure the search spiders can follow. This means you will still need to depend on your plain text and HTML, utilising keyword specific title tags, header tags and alt tags.
Design a Site Map
The fewer clicks it takes to get to a page the better, so creating a detailed HTML sitemap page is essential to link individual pages. This will help both users and search engines find the content easily.
Use Content That Search Engine Spiders Can Read
Because content is the life force of website, it should be designed into a proper structure for search engines to effectively feed on. Websites with very little content will struggle in the search results and this can normally be avoided if proper planning is undertaken in the design stages.
Make sure you consider what makes a good and easy to read structure – headings, subheadings, paragraphs and links as mentioned in the first point of this article.The Google Webmasters Tool can take some of the workload off by helping you diagnose any indexing and crawling problems through Google’s eyes.
Design the Right Keywords
Using a balanced amount of the right keywords plays an important part of any SEO campaign. Use a selection of the most relevant ones, but don’t abuse them, and place them in different and appropriate places (heading tags, meta descriptions, title tags etc.)
Page Speed Matters
There is nothing more frustrating for a user to have to wait for a web page to load. What’s worse is that the great looking design of the website is quickly forgotten about and will do nothing to enhance the user’s experience.
In Google’s eyes, it’s even more fundamental to have a fast loading website and now incorporates this as an effecting factor to determine search rankings. As a designer, this needs to be as just of a priority as a great looking design – an attractive code structure will ensure your website loads swiftly.