7 Ways to be a better designer: SEOs and clients will thank you

Categories Articles, Web Design

Search engine optimizers (SEOs) and web designers don’t always get along. To SEOs, web designers can sometimes be a little too concerned with looks, missing important elements that may help create more conversions for a site; to web designers, SEOs can make changes that ruin the overall aesthetic of the site; however, SEOs and web designers don’t have to work against each other, and these 7 things will help you be a better designer while keeping your SEO happy.

1. Calls to Action

A call to action is anything that gets a site visitor to do something, and may lead to things such as having visitors contact the business, answer a questionnaire, or join a mailing list. Calls to action need to be direct. Putting “Send” on a contact form is weak; “Contact us for a free consultation”, on the other hand, entices users, both because it asks them to do something and has a no-risk, free offering. From an aesthetic web design perspective, calls to action can work well with a theme, so long as the call to action button is prominent and draws the eye. Orange is typically considered the most eye-catching color, but whatever stands out for your color scheme is fine. SEOs love calls to action because they lead to more conversions, and that, ultimately, is what their clients are looking for.

2. Foundational 301 Redirects

301s can make or break a website redesign. If old pages aren’t properly directed to pages on the new site, tons of SEO strength can be lost. If you’re fixing up a site, proper 301s can help create clean URLs and avoid duplicate content issues with search engines.

The following code can be added to .htaccess files on an Apache server in order to redirect (Choose only one of the following):

Option #1 – Redirect Non-WWW site to WWW (e.g. yoursite.com will automatically go to www.yoursite.com):

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yoursite.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yousite.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

Option #2 – Redirect WWW to Non-WWW (e.g. www.yoursite.com will automatically go to yoursite.com):

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.example.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://example.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

Personally, I prefer non-www sites at this point, so Option #2 would be my choice. It’s shorter to print non-www sites on business cards and easier to say.

Note: From an SEO perspective, all links to a site should match the site’s URL structure, whether it be www or non-www.

3. Goal Conversions

SEOs talk about keywords, traffic, and keyword rankings, but in the end our job comes down to one thing: making money for our clients. In order to account for our work, we need measurable goals, or conversions. A conversion can be a form fill out or a contact, or a phone call if dynamic phone numbers are being used, which deliver different numbers to visitors based on how they got to the site (e.g. a pay-per-click visitor sees a different phone number than a visitor who came to the site from an organic click). The easiest way for SEOs to track conversions is through thank you pages, which customers can be sent to after taking some form of action, and only by taking that action. Thank you pages should include the following META code in the head section, so they are not indexed and false conversions are avoided:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow“>

In WordPress, the SEO by Yoast plugin, in my mind the most valuable SEO plugin available, allows you to choose this option in “Advanced” features on individual pages.

Note: Many Ecommerce CMSs have conversion tracking features built in, and allow for easy linking to Google Analytics for tracking purposes.

4. Mobile Friendliness

Please, please, please do not design a site that isn’t mobile friendly. At this point, it is irresponsible and can have significant SEO repercussions. Because Google recently started marking sites as “Mobile Friendly”, it’s become apparent that this is something they’re definitely paying attention to.

5. Schema

By this point, most SEOs have at least heard of Schema.org markup, as have many web designers, but there are still relatively few designers incorporating Schema into websites. Incorporating a plan to utilize Schema from the development phases of a site will help your SEO down the line, and will put you at the forefront of next generation design techniques, especially for Ecommerce sites. If you don’t know what Schema is, it’s definitely worth checking out.

6. HTTPS

Whether you’re redesigning a site or creating a new one, security should be one of your primary concerns. In August of 2014, Google said outright that it is using https as a ranking signal. While https takes a little longer to establish, it’s worth the additional effort, and in an age of rampant website hacking, it isn’t really a tough sell. HTTPS certificates are dirt cheap, and with an HTTPS website, everyone wins.

7. Speed

Aside from the fact that 40% of visitors leave sites if they don’t load in 3 seconds or less, site speed is another ranking factor for SEO. When developing sites, consider resizing images, using caches, using CDNs, and keeping plugins to a minimum.

Here are some more ways to improve site speed.

If you’re building a house, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. need to work together in order to create an amazing finished product. Websites are no different. The foundation built by web designers should easily allow SEOs to make the changes they’ll need to help your client succeed.

Feature image curtsey of Jason Smith

Geoff Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Baltimore-based internet marketing firm focused on a quality over quantity approach. He believes that ethical internet marketing practices and online success are one and the same.