Smart website design takes search engine optimization (SEO) into consideration from the start, building in certain advantages that help the site rank higher in Google and other search engine results.
While there are many more aspects than we cover below, and while SEO involves a lot more, the following represent the minimum basic ways web design should be optimized for search engine friendliness.
Individual Products or Services Pages
Every product or service you offer (or at least every category) should have its own page on your website with the name of that product or service in the URL (www.yourwebsite.com/your-product-name-here). Google and other search engines operate on sophisticated algorithms, but ultimately they appreciate the simplicity of a single page clearly devoted to a single defined product or service. Incidentally, humans like that too.
These aren’t anything too metaphysical or complicated; they’re just descriptive information about the pages on your website. Mostly, meta-tags (meta-titles and meta-descriptions) tell search engines what you want it to say in the snippets that appear under your website in search engine results. It doesn’t directly affect SEO, but by using compelling copy, you can convince more searchers to click your link. More clicks do help your SEO. Not all search engines will use your meta-tags in their result listings.
Optimized Title Tags
This HTML tag titles a web page. Search engines use the title text as one of the most heavily weighted factors in determining what the page is about, and thus what searches to rank it for. The title of every page should contain the keywords or keyword phrase people would type into a search engine when looking for the information provided.
Page Body Copy
Some aspects of page text aren’t as important in SEO as they once were. For example, search engines used to value keyword density, or how often certain words or phrases appeared in the text. This was an easily gamed system (resulting in so many unreadable “keyword-stuffed” sites) that’s long since obsolete. What matters is having clear, concise, well-written, naturally worded content and copywriting on a focused topic.
Need for Speed
Slowly loading pages put e-commerce sites out of business pretty quickly. If your website takes more than 5 seconds to load, it’s too slow. Many factors can contribute, but often there are too many images or images that are too large, or the web hosting company is to blame. If your site visitors leave often and leave quickly (meaning you have a high bounce rate), it sends the message to search engines that your site isn’t relevant to the search that got people there or that it isn’t of high enough quality. Monitor your website’s performance at www.pingdom.com.
Image file names and embedded descriptions are noted by search engines, so images can be optimized for search just like text. If your web designer uploads image files with names like 123231rv.jpg, you’re being done a great disservice. When images depict things relevant to your business, include keywords in their file names and alt-tag descriptions. Because remember, search engines show image results, too.
Navigation needs to be simple and logical; complicated navigation frustrates humans and search engines. Search engines use “crawlers” to explore websites and index their pages, and even they can miss things or devalue sites that don’t make sense to them. A large site (over 50 pages) benefits from a sitemap.
Responsive Web Design
Optimizing your website no longer just means optimizing it for computers. Today, it also means optimizing for mobile devices, because that’s where a lot of people do a lot of their searching, browsing, research, and buying. Responsive web design means certain elements are fluid enough to adapt to display on different devices with different sizes and specs. If your site doesn’t load quickly and display properly on mobile devices, you’re losing a lot of potential business. Beyond that, search engines are incorporating mobile-friendliness into their ranking algorithms. Learn more by reading What is Responsive Design and Why Do You Need It?