This article is not a run-of-the-mill list of SEO tricks. In fact, the tips here are things that I have picked up through experience, and I am extremely excited about sharing them with the readers of Tech Terrain Blog.
One of the biggest privileges and coincidentally, one of the largest responsibilities of a freelance web designer is the fact that they act as the gate-keeper to most small business owner’s “marketing-budgets.” A lost of small business owners trust the advice their web designer’s give them. So, here is a list of the most critical and fundamental aspects of SEO that designers need to consider before building a site. This will empower you to give clients a website that will outperform even some of the most “optimized” sites in your industry.
These tips are a mix of technical, developer-focused tips, usability tips, and design philosophy. For the sake of the entire in-bound marketing community, I hope this helps set a standard of web designers who have a deeper understanding of SEO.
#1 What Are You Going To Put Above The Fold?
I know that the fold has become a hot-phrase lately and for the sake of CRO, “above the fold” is not a guaranteed win but when it comes to SEO the top of the page has more authority than the bottom. It is important to put your keywords towards the top of the page and even more important to make sure the keywords are semantically targeted.
Let’s talk about semantic keyword research. This is a critical concept in modern SEO, and, if you fail to capture these concepts, you run the risk of NEVER ranking for competitive keywords. As a web designer you are able to decide how content is structured on a website and where it is located. The following explanation will teach you enough about these two concepts to properly set your clients up for SEO-success.
#2 Semantic Keywords:
Have you heard the phrase, “you are just arguing semantics?” Well, semantics might be annoying in conversations but when it comes to search engines, these razor-thin differentiations will make or break your site. Google uses machine learning to determine the meaning of words. This algorithm goes beyond a standard Webster’s definition. Google determine the cultural understanding of words and gives them a semantic interoperation. A good SEO strategy needs to target semantic meaning of all keywords.
Example: If you search for the phrase “castle,” Google will give you results relating to ABC’s hit TV show. 10 years ago a search for castle would have resulted in websites about ancient architecture. Before you start filling your client’s website with irrelevant keywords, do a simple Google search and see what other websites rank for those phrases. If your client owns an apple orchard, please do not try to rank for the term “apple.” Trust me, that is a losing battle.
Help your client determine their keyword strategy by finding the most popular version of their products or services (I use Google Keyword Tool for this research) and place those keywords above the fold of your site. Using Long Tail Keyword Researcher helps you to find top ranking key phrases for your content.
#3 Don’t Stuff Your Page With Links
Keyword-stuffing has been frowned upon for a few years now but link-stuffing is just as bad (if not worse.) Stuffing your footer with links is not a good SEO strategy. Some sites have actually been “black listed” for having too many unnecessary inks on their webpages. Every link on your website needs to be extremely helpful to a visitor. A little known fact is that Google measures the probability of a visitor clicking on a link and gives it value according to their calculation. Try to avoid link-stuffed footers and sidebars because these are usually annoying to visitors and potentially harmful to your website.
#4 SEO Resources For Developers:
SEOmoz Web Developer Cheat Sheet: This is an extensive overview of every aspect of SEO that a developer can effect. This cheat sheet covers title tags, URL structures, re-directs, images, the number of links per page, and much, much more. Read this.
Ginza Metrics Interactive Cheat Sheet For Developers: This cheat sheet is fun to use. Ginza Metrics has built an interactive way to generate SEO code for you site. They ask you a few easy questions about your website, and then they generate the most important SEO tags for your site. You can literally copy/paste them into your site in less than 3 minutes.
#5 What Are Your Main ‘Call To Actions’ Going To Be?
Usability is now a huge part of SEO. Google uses their data on web-structure and usability to “look at” websites like a human. They have decided what high quality and low quality websites look like and they actively promote the higher quality websites. This means that design is now officially a ranking factor.
When this comes to CTAs you need to use them sparingly. Pick one or two CTA objectives per-page and stick to them. Cluttered “sales” websites with too many call to actions or advertisements may appear to be spammy (and Google hates spam.) Decide on a few powerful objectives for your website and focus on those. In my experience, a website that is focused makes more money so you will help your SEO and your wallet.
My Love/Hate Relationship With WordPress:
WordPress is great because it can be made into anything but it has a few features that can hurt your SEO if you miss use them.
#6 Tags & Categories:
The first feature is Tags and Categories. Google hates “thin and duplicate content,” so be careful about creating hundreds of categories and tags unless you plan on filling them up with content. I suggest you use your categories as a top-level keyword strategy for the competitive keywords and use your tags as a lower-level tool for long-tail keywords. Make sure every tag and category has at least two posts assigned to it or your pages will look like thin content. I also suggest you customize your category pages to make them more user friendly. Inc.com has some of my favorite category page designs.
WordPress was created with so many features and no one needs to use them all. Make sure you go through your theme and remove all of the un-needed features and remember that a feature is useless unless it provides significant value to your readers. Are you a news site that produces time-sensitive content? If not, you may want to remove the date-published feature on your blog posts. One of Google’s ranking factors is based on how recently an article was published. They will rank ever-green content higher for being old and they will rank news-content higher for being new. I suggest you hide all dates from Google unless it benefits you to show them.
My last and final tip is about permalinks. The rule-of-thumb is to keep URLs as simple as possible. Most sites should use a /%postname%/ permalink structure. If you have a URL that looks like this: domain.com/keyword, the keywords in your URL will help you rank. If you have a URL that looks like this, domain.com/category-name/date/blog/keyword, your keyword is going to have little-to-no ranking power because it is too far away from the root domain.
Bryant Jaquez is the owner and co-fouder of innovative companies such as BrewSEO , RedFounder and most recently Noble Creative. To sum up his role, he helps companies make lots of money.