When it comes to website development and search engine optimization (SEO) often they are handled in two different ways. The development part is typically done by a skilled programmer whereas the SEO will be taken on by a marketing team.
However, the goal of both tasks is fundamentally the same. To provide users with a great experience. Although one field tends to focus on the aesthetics whilst the other looks at content, the quality of both will influence search engine rankings and how many visitors come to your website.
In this article, we will look at Web Development and SEO and how they interact with each other.
Is Web Development or SEO more important?
The short answer is neither is more important. Marketers and developers out there might argue to the death about their individual area being more influential when it comes to achieving business goals. However, the fact of the matter is that they must work hand-in-hand if either are to be effective.
SEO drives traffic to a website and if it is designed well, there can be an increased chance people will engage and stay on the site more. It is common for businesses to try and find a single person to do the full job. However, it is rare for someone to have the skillset to cover both SEO and development and it works far better having more heads in the project.
Many aspects of your website are going to be impacted by SEO and web development.
SEO friendly website structure
When it comes to SEO, marketing teams will often put a lot of work into developing quality site content, and rightly so. However, having the right site structure in place is just as vital to ranking well in search engines.
Firstly, a clearly structured website will allow search engines to index and crawl it making it more likely to feature highly in rankings. That indexing will look at structures and in return, will create sitselinks. The screenshot below gives an idea of what we mean by a sitelink.
What we see here for BBC is links to specific sections of the website within the search engine so that users can access them directly. This is a great way to improve their experience through a faster navigation rather than always having to start from the homepage.
Google gives sitelinks based on having a solid underlying structure. That structure will normally be hierarchical like the graphic below.
The navigation should be formatted consistently. The HTML or CSS scripts should be used to allow the crawlers to access easily.
As standard, adding title tags to each part of the hierarchy also helps with SEO, navigation and increasing traffic to the site. Each page of the website should have an HTML and will be displayed on search engine results pages.
Speaking of navigation in the last section, that alone is very important for SEO. A business might have the greatest content in the industry but that’s of little use if nobody can find it once they hit the website. Think about going into a traditional brick & mortar store, maybe a supermarket. Many people will look up at the signs for what they need and go straight to the aisle. The same applies to a digital storefront. When it comes to the consumer, they will expect their experience to be nicely signposted and easy to use.
As a rule of thumb, if somebody visits your site and has to put thought into what they click on next, something is probably wrong. It should be quite obvious where the user needs to go at least 99% of the time. Visitors who can’t find what they are looking for will jump straight back to Google.
It has never been more important to ensure your website functions on all devices. An ever-increasing number of users are browsing sites via smartphones, tablets and other IoT devices. The website should have the feature to adapt to the device of choice rather than you having to create separate versions.
Mobile friendliness is now a big ranking factor with Google’s search algorithm. So, as well as providing a great user experience wherever they find you, responsive design will ensure better search results.
A great example of responsive design is the repository site GitHub.
As shown above, GitHub provides a consistent experience no matter what device is being used. Whilst the layout changes slightly and calls to action differ for the appropriate channel, a responsively designed website should appear seamless to the user.
There are some great examples of other brands doing this well here.
Linked to responsiveness design is page speed. In the mobile era, people are impatient. They want to browse on the go and shop quickly which is one reason that Amazon Prime has had so much success. Keeping pages simple and structured will ensure they load quickly and don’t lose potential customers.
Google offers a mobile friendly test where you can check the speed of your site. The result is a report that tells you how you can speed things up. As we’ve said before, mobile responsiveness is part of the Google algorithm and is an element that must be taken seriously.
Traditionally, web development is a technical role. Professionals might spend time putting all kinds of plugins into the back of the site or putting images up that are not optimized. It is well worth working together on these tasks to enhance page speed.
The content of your site is of a course a huge factor in SEO. When designing your website, you should have a solid structure for headings, paragraphs and links, and keep it consistent throughout. Images can be used as long as they are properly tagged and coded which is where the SEO marketer and web developer must work together.
Some of the key benefits of quality content are:
1. High click through rate. Google considers a high number of clicks as a ranking factor in the search engine algorithm. People clicking on your links rank you higher. Having the appropriate titles, URLs and descriptions in place during web design can be a huge advantage.
2. Generating backlinks. Top quality content usually creates backlinks. That is other people adding a link to your site on their own page because it is something worth sharing.
3. Enhanced user experience. A website with a great structure and navigation as well as strong content will get people to come back.
Visitors expect a range of content on your site these days. It is rare that somebody will simply visit a retailer, buy a product and leave for example. There is often a process of reading reviews, articles and maybe blog posts to help them decide if the site is credible. Again, if it is easy to navigate and responsive, they are more likely to find all that content.
Here are a few little bonus tips for how you can get design and SEO in sync.
So as not to compromise on design, an image overlay will put content on top of a graphic when the user hovers over it. The search engine will be able to crawl the text and ignore the image. You can achieve great design and enhance SEO at the same time. This works particularly well on product descriptions.
Focus on the top of the page
Just like humans, some search engines are lazy. The crawlers are known to only read content at the top of the page and not scroll the whole way through. Any headings and titles should be as close to the top as possible.
Don’t go font crazy
Check out Google Fonts for guidance on how to use fonts properly and avoid loss of page speed. Whilst you might love looking at your custom designed font, search engines don’t.
Video is in right now
Having video on your site increases engagement and time spent on the page. This is a ranking factor in search engines. If you host the videos on YouTube or Vimeo, it won’t affect the speed of your site. This applies to animation as well but as those graphics cannot be hosted like video, be aware of any negative impact on loading speeds.
It isn’t rocket science that website design and SEO should and are connected. Both roles have many factors that feature in the Google search algorithms and when combined, can create a very powerful force. SEO ensures that you have the right level of content, keywords and engagement for visitors to the site. Getting more traffic should result in more sales.
Web designers ensure the traffic gained from SEO stays on the site. Bounce rates decrease and you get better search engine performance.
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