Let's start simple, what is SEO? Most people have heard about it before, but aren't really sure what its about or how SEO works. In simple terms, Search Engine Optimisation is all about how you rank online, i.e where you pop up in a Google search.
SEO is a big player in the world of websites and if you're new to building a website, then it can seem a bit daunting. But fear not! You don't have to be a tech-whizz to understand SEO best practice.
The first step: planning your website SEO strategy
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Thanks, Antoine, we couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
It’s plain and simple: your chances of SEO success – i.e. ranking high on Google and driving web traffic – is much higher if you plan than if you just “wing it”.
When it comes to planning for website SEO, you need to start off by figuring out your website goals.
- Are you an ecommerce site trying to drive sales?
- Are you simply trying to inform?
- Who is your target audience?
- When it comes to brand awareness, are you starting from scratch?
Once you’ve figured out your goals then you can strategise your website SEO tactics to align with these, then work them into your web design.
For example, if your target audience is teenagers, it's likely that you’ll want to drive your SEO through young keywords or “lingo”, or through backlinks from social media for instance.
What next? Hire an SEO expert
Once you’ve put together an SEO brief the next step is to hire a professional.
If you’re new to web design, hiring a professional is going to be very valuable to you.
When it comes to hiring an SEO web developer, you have a few options:
- Website SEO specialist: the highest level of SEO expertise (on-page, off-page and technical); hiring an SEO specialist will help maximise your ranking opportunities.
- Web developer: as tech-experts, not only will web developers create an individualised layout, they will also incorporate elements of technical SEO into your web design.
- Copywriter: when it comes to content writing, copywriters like us have the skills to drive web traffic to your site with on-page SEO, by writing with keywords.
As you can see there are a number of web developer experts out there that can help you with both SEO and web design.
But in the end, this decision comes back to you, and if your business goals or budget restrict you from hiring an expert, then this is fine.
But at the very least you need to ensure you do your research and gain an understanding of how to incorporate SEO into your web design. And remember; before, not after!
The 3 pieces of the SEO puzzle
1. On-page SEO
On-page SEO focuses on the main elements of your website that are literally ‘on-page’. So for web design, this means your content – and more specifically; keywords.
How to optimise keywords to fit you
Most of the time, when people hear the term SEO, they think of keywords. And up until a few years back, keywords were the main element.
Nowadays, SEO encompasses a number of elements; but we’ll get to that later. For now, let's discuss how keywords can still be effective.
Keywords are the most common words and phrases your target customer searches into Google.
The most common mistake that people make when it comes to keywords is solely choosing the ‘highest’ searched term in their industry.
Why is this a mistake?
Well, if you add a basic keyword – such as “shoes” for example – there a thousands of people selling shoes, so really, a keyword like this is ineffective.
Two ways to choose keywords that will be more effective in the long run:
- Long-tail keywords: these are the longer phrases such as “retro mens sneakers” for example – they’re more specific; therefore have less competition and are more likely to drive web traffic to your site.
- Location-based keywords: another way to choose more specific keywords is researching them based on location – for instance; “retro mens sneakers Auckland” will have a lot less competition.
2. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO focuses on the things outside of your website that help drive traffic. For instance; ‘backlinks’ are links from other websites that help people find you.
Network: build industry relationships
When it comes to business, networking is so helpful! When you network, you make connections throughout your industry. And how does this help your business?
In more ways than one, industry networking:
- Increases industry know-how
- Opens doors to expand or collaborate
- Instils trust in your business
So how does this relate to web design and SEO?
Well, when you build connections throughout your industry, this opens doors to collaborate with and help one another.
For example, an industry partner can help drive web traffic to your site by adding what are called ‘backlinks’ to their website.
Backlinks are a useful SEO tool
A backlink is a link that drives people to your website through another.
Basically, you can set up backlinks anywhere you feel will help your customers find you.
- Industry partner websites
- Social media
- Client websites
- Fellow bloggers
- Supplier websites
- Email newsletters
Think of backlinks as sort of an anchor for trust.
For instance, if you’re a financial adviser, you require credibility, right? So, if for example, a well-known financial organisation had your link on their website, then this would help potential clients trust you.
Backlinks are useful at gaining client trust – and before they even reach you site!
So, our tip here is this; network as much as you can before you design!
Make industry connections, create social media accounts, and build a foundation for backlinks. So that when it comes to the web design process, your off-page SEO sorted!
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO focuses more specifically on the coding and background of web design. A website that is designed well ‘technically’ is more trusted by Google.
As we have revealed throughout this article; there are a lot of SEO elements involved in web design. But it isn’t just the words or the links that drive people to your site, it is also the technical features.
Remember the techy elements
The following are examples of technical SEO elements:
- Domain name
- Meta title and description
A good way to understand the importance of these technical elements is to think of them as the architecture of your site – the nuts and bolts that hold it all together – without them, your site wouldn’t work.
Technical features like tagging and URLs are SEO tools that are needed for Google to recognise your site and recommend it to potential customers.
If your technical elements are designed poorly, your site will simply not be recognised, and will therefore remain unfound.
So, how do you ensure this doesn’t happen?
Whether you’re hiring a professional web developer or you’re taking a DIY approach, before you settle on an agency or platform, you need to ensure they include these techy elements.
Most web developers are experts with the technical side of SEO, but it's still important you voice this to make sure they include it in their services.
Or, if you decide to create your own website then do your research and choose a web developer platform that has great reviews for technical SEO and allows you to edit these elements to your liking.
So what makes an SEO-strong website?
While SEO is important, it is not the be all and end all. You need to remember that yes, you want to drive traffic to your site, but what comes next?
You want them to stay, correct? Which is why, your overall web design – visuals, ease of navigation, etc. – is just as important (if not more) as SEO.
Create a synergy of SEO tactic, and a positive user experience
There's no point in driving people to your site if they get there and they can’t find anything, or they’re unimpressed by your visual web design – this will just drive them away.
A poor web design not only results in people clicking out of your site, but it also impacts Google's view of you.
Google takes note when people ‘click out’, so if your overall web design is poor then you’ll actually lose the SEO you worked for in the first place.
So, we’ll leave you with this:
It is not SEO that makes a great website, and it is not an engaging design that makes a great website – it is a synergy of the two that leads to success!
SEO doesn't have to stop there, the next step towards success is marketing your website.