SEO Web Development

Tips on how to develop your website for SEO

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SEO web development is a crucial and future-proof way of doing online business. The point is that, unfortunately, SEO does not usually go hand-in-hand with the website development process. Site owners care mostly about web design and development; in other words, how your site looks and works technically.  Later on, when nobody comes to see their amazing artistic masterpiece, they are like, “Why is that?”

For some reason or another, the majority of site owners are under the impression that once they launch their site, people will just start rolling in. The question that you (if you’re a site owner) should ask is, “how will people find my site?” Sure thing, you can tell your friends and relatives about it. But how many visitors (mostly one-timers, by the way) will that bring you? 20? 50? And that’s about it. You can also go to your city’s main square and shout out loud that you’ve got a really awesome site that they all should visit right this instant. But guess what? It won’t work. Nope. What you need is to make sure that Google and the other major search engines can easily find your site. And SEO does just that.

The ideal SEO web development process would look something like this: Your web designer comes up with a design for your would-be site. Then you double-check with your SEO guy if the design that you like visually won’t do any harm in terms of SEO. The same approach holds true when you discuss your site with a web developer. Once your web developer offers you a way or two to make your site live (that usually means offering some CMS or technology like jQuery, etc.), you need to check back with your SEO guy and get his approval that the way your web developer wants to build your site won’t do any harm to your site’s visibility in search engines. Sticking to this SEO web development routine will help you prevent issues, rather than have to fix them down the road.

Well, that would be a scenario in a way better world than this one. What SEOs usually do is fix sites that already have drawbacks. What I want to do now is walk you step-by-step through all the main wrongdoings that I’ve experienced in my SEO career. Since I have web development background and am currently doing content promotion, I totally understand what SEO web development should actually look like. By the way, you may use my tips the next time you start a new site or audit an existing one in terms of SEO.

All the recommendations are under the assumption that you’re using some kind of CMS rather than a static site, which would be the same surprise for me as seeing a live dinosaur around the corner! By the way, WordPress is the best CMS out there when it comes to content promotion.

Parallax Scrolling Effect

I’d like to start from this point because the parallax effect is all the rage now. Though there are a whole lot of instructions and how-to’s, such as this parallax scrolling tutorial, you don’t really want to use this fancy thing in your site–at least not as it is usually implemented. The problem with this approach is that web developers usually just stuff all of your content into one page, and that’s the major problem from an SEO perspective because:

•  It increases loading speed (all the images are on one single page) •  You have just one page to SEO optimize for all of your keywords •  Multiple use of H1 tags, which will force them to compete with each other •  You can use only one Meta title and description for your whole site!

Title

The title is the thing that is enclosed in the <title></title> HTML tags in your code. Visually, it’s what you can see in your browser’s (or browser tab’s) upper left corner. You need to make sure that you site (or theme, a.k.a. template) has the option to specify the title to your liking. And you as a site owner and admin should make sure that you use your keyword in every single title (for each separate page), because it’s one of the most influential factors in SEO web development.

URL

Though there should be no problem with the URL of your home page, you may have issues with the URLs of your other pages (inner pages). It is best practice to use user-friendly URLs these days. For example, suppose your site is about tea and its name is www.myteasite.com. You also have a page that is about green tea. The URL of that page should ideally be www.myteasite.com/green-tea/ rather than www.myteasite.com?p=1 or www.myteasite.com?page_about=234&date=345. So, you need to ensure that both your CMS and theme support that functionality. If you use WordPress, you can set it up in the Settings -> Permalinks section. By the way, the recommended syntax is as follows: Keyword < Category | Website Title

Also, make sure that your URLs don’t have too many parameters (no more than 2) in them. An example of a bad SEO URL would be

http://www.mysite.com/brands.php? object=1&type=2&kind=3&node=5&arg=6

Other than that, you need to remember about the depth of your URLs. It should never be more than 4. For example, the following URL would be a bad one in this regard:

http://www.mysite.com/people/places/things/noun/danny/car

And here’s a good one:

http://www.mysite.com/people/danny/

One more thing. You can use your site address either with www or without. Once you make up your mind, you’ll need to redirect the other version with the help of 301 redirect. For instance, you decided that you’re going to use the non-www URL for your site. Now, if a person types in mysite.com he will just go to your site (as expected) because he enters your exact site address. What happens if he enters www.mysite.com? Technically, he’ll go to mysite.com as well, but in terms of SEO, www.mysite.com and mysite.com are two different domains, and they’ll be treated as such by search engines. The solution would be to use 301 redirect from www.mysite.com to mysite.com. Doing so will transfer most of your SEO power from the www domain to the non-www domain. Plus, you need to specify which version you prefer in your Google Webmasters account.

H1 tag

You should be able to use the H1 tag for your company (site) name on the homepage and for post (article) headlines on content pages. Plus, you need to REALLY make sure that you have just ONE H1 tag per page. In case you have more, you definitely need to get rid of them. Otherwise, it’ll definitely do damage to your search engine rankings.

If you need to focus your visitor’s attention on other content on your site, you can use H2, H3, etc. because it’s perfectly normal to use those tags a few times on a single page.  Alternatively, you can just make those words bold or italic.

Image Alt Tag

Be advised that you totally need the option to specify your alt tag content for every single image on your site, because it’ll allow you to win more Google points. That’s very important because Google can’t really see what’s actually depicted on an image (‘coz it’s not that clever as of now), and that’s why it relies mainly on the image file name and the alt tag.

Meta Title

You should also be able to specify the Meta title of your post or article. If you’re using WordPress, that’s easily done with appropriate plugins (such as All-in-One SEO Plugin or WordPress SEO). You just need to make sure that your webmaster (person in charge) installs and sets it up for you. Your Meta title does not actually influence your rankings directly, but that’s the title that potential users see in SERPs (search engine result pages) before they go to your site. And if the Meta title is right, they WILL go to your site.

Meta Description

Just like Meta titles, you need to be able to manage your Meta descriptions because it’s what your users see under Meta titles in search engine result pages. The parameter can also be set with the help of All-in-One and WordPress SEO plugins. Make sure to have one of them installed for you, or install it on your own. It basically requires clicking a few buttons, but setting up (especially in the case of WordPress SEO) does require basic SEO skills. Otherwise, you may break your site from an SEO standpoint.

Images as Menu Buttons

Web designers tend to add all sorts of bells and whistles. They don’t really care much about SEO web development per se. One of the favorites are images for menu buttons. Like I said above, search engines don’t understand images, so if you just put a word in your actual image, it won’t do any SEO good. That’s why you need to avoid using images as menu buttons. In case you really want to do that, at least make sure that you use your button names in the alt tags so that the search engines can figure out what the page that button points to is all about.

By the way, the same holds true for JavaScript. Though Google can read it to an extent, the efficiency will be way lower compared to just using plain text with CSS for your menu buttons. As a rule of thumb, you want to use JavaScript or any other technique only if there’s no other (preferably HTML or CSS) way to do the same. Just keep it simple.

Flash

Luckily or not, Flash was never friendly with search engines. Nothing basically changed since those times when Flash just appeared on the map of web design and development. So, do your best to avoid using Flash; especially if your developer wants to build your whole website with the help of Flash. For starters, it’ll be clunky; and secondly, Flash content is basically dead for crawlers (search engines). What’s more, Flash-based sites just won’t work on iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad. There’s no good reason to use the technology for your whole site, though it may be OK to do so if you need fancy banners.

Cloaking

This old time SEO method just means showing one content to the user, and then something different to the search engines (like using white font on white background). Another technique would be to show textual content at the top of your page, while in the actual page source, it will be at the bottom. It’s pretty much deceiving the search engines. If you want to be on the safe side, never use those things in your site.

File Size

In addition to loading speed, your file size can impact your rankings. The point is that Google and other search engines have indexing limits, which means putting the whole Library of Congress on your homepage doesn’t ensure that Google indexes all of it. It’ll index just about 150 kilobytes. Sure thing, it’s before images, CSS and other attachments, but that’s the size that your textual content should strive for.

Amount of Links

That’s another restriction to keep in mind. While making decisions about your site design, don’t try to put as many links on the homepage or any other page, for that matter, because the major search engines will see no more than 100 unique links. Plus using too many links will just cause chaos in terms of user-friendliness. Plus the more outbound (pointing to other sites) links you have, the less goodie each of the links has.

In Conclusion

You should develop your site with SEO in mind, because most of the sites out there want as much traffic and potential clients as possible. Practice and preach SEO web development. Otherwise, it’ll be way harder to fix the issues you gave birth to while designing or developing your site in the first place. And as we know, prevention is easier than cure.

As a matter of fact, the work of an SEO never stops; your SEO guy (or you if you’re one) should monitor any process that happens to your site, from the ground up.