We all know they won’t come just because you built the site – the site has to place well in the search engines to pull the traffic. Of course, placement can be bought through Pay Per Click advertising, but there is nothing as satisfying to a web designer as a top position in the free results.
How do you get there? In a word: keywords. Design your web site for the search engines from the very get go and that means start with your keyword research. Once you have those terms in hand, use them to plan your site and content.
What’s in a Name?
If you haven’t purchased a domain name yet, then think about ways to incorporate at least one of your keywords. Hyphens are fine, but if you can get bluewidgets.com, go for it. Or www.companynamewidgets.com … you can rank well without it, but every little bit helps.
Site Content – Give ‘Em What They Want
If you plan your content based on your keyword research, you give searchers what they are looking for. Sometimes you have to get creative, of course. For example, if you sell red widgets but your research tells you people search far more often for blue widgets, then you might want to create and optimize a page “red Widgets Vs. Blue Widgets.” Sounds silly, but you get the idea. And it not only brings the searcher for red widgets to your page, it converts them to a blue widget buyer.
Create at least one page for each keyword variation and on that page use your phrase:
- In an h1 tag once
- In an h2 or h3 tag once
- In the first paragraph
- In bold somewhere in the content
- In the anchor text of a link to an authority site.
- In the anchor text of a link to another page on the site
Site Design Architecture and SEO
Your keywords will also figure heavily in the website’s structure – especially if it’s a large site. Where there are natural divisions, create subdirectories with keyword rich names: www.yourdomain/blue-widgets/ for example.
It can also be a powerful move to use your keywords in file names – your HTML and graphic file names. Assume for a moment you sell widgets of all different colors and they are seached terms … you would have pages named:
- www.yourdomain/white-widgets.html and so on.
Use those keywords in the graphic files names as well. Take your home page, for example. Your logo should be called widgets-logo.gif.
Other On Site SEO Design Elements
Be sure to use Alt Tags for images and title attributes for links. Don’t stuff the alt tags with keywords, but describe the images accurately and do it with the visitor in mind, too. Here’s why: we know the search engines do use the text from alt tags to help index a site, but did you know that Google sometimes uses the alt tag text as the description in the SERPs! It’s rare, but it happens. I’ve seen it on my own site.
The jury’s out on whether this last technique is really effective, but many SEO Web Designers now use the title attribute on links. If you look at the code for the link to my site – or put your mouse over the link, you will see what I mean.
Off Site SEO – Link Building
Wait a minute, link building isn’t part of design is it? Yes, it is! You used to be able to build link popularity through reciprocal link programs, but that is no longer an effective gambit. To get links you need to create the sort of content that makes other webmasters link to your site. It might be a forum, a blog with constantly updated information, or a tool that people need. Build your content to attract links as well as visitors.
Incorporate these suggestions into your web site and you will begin to see how SEO and Web Design can be synonymous!
Article by M.-J. Taylor of Cyber Key, Inc.