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Web Design and SEO - The Three Most Common Mistakes

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Many web designers claim their creations to be ‘SEO-Ready’. But does this buzzword actually have any real meaning and, if so, just how exactly do web design and SEO fit together?

To answer this question, what’s commonly referred to as SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) must first be broken down into its two components

  1. Onsite Optimization
  2. Offsite Promotion

Only with the differences between these two tasks clearly defined, can the answer make sense.

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Web Design and SEO must meet at the Onsite Promotion Stage

  • Onsite Optimisation
    This aspect specifically refers to any work which is carried out on the web site itself. It includes W3C compliance, high-quality unique content, site & link structure, file & folder names and a number of other important factors.

  • Offsite Promotion
    Any promotional task which is separate to web design and site creation falls into this category. Offsite promotion includes link-building, article and ezine marketing, press releases, video campaign, and any other means of ‘spreading the word’ about your site on the Internet.

Once you’ve successfully separated these two distinctly different tasks, you realise that web design and SEO are inextricably linked by the simple fact that the onsite optimization process should actually start the moment your web designer first begins work on your project.

The term ‘SEO-Ready’ then, is simply a techie way of saying: “We’ve carried out all the onsite work we can, and it’s ready to be promoted online.”

In many cases, however, designers fail to take into consideration a few essential onsite optimization components, which almost invariably cause their client a major headache later, when the site in question needs to be rebuilt to compensate for its initial shortcomings.

What are they missing?

Well, for starters, most of them are actually missing the most important step of all, in-depth keyword-research before they even lift a finger on the actual design. But be that's not what this article is about; the three most commonly overlooked elements during the web design process are:

Orderly Website Structure
You would probably be truly surprised to know just how much of a difference an orderly website structure can make to its long-term search engine performance, provided of course, that all other ingredients have also been used in the right proportions during the design process. By site structure, what I’m really talking about are file and folder names. Take this article for instance; it’s about both web design and SEO, but is concerned primarily with the design aspect, so it lives in the web design article section, rather than the web promotion, or SEO category.

A place for every file, and every file in its place.

It helps to think of your website as an orderly filing cabinet, where each different type of document has its own categorized (and sometimes sub-categorized) file-drawer to live in.

Easy, Relevant Navigation
This is another major bugbear, because once you’ve ordered your filing cabinet, you’ll have to name each category (drawer) according to its contents. If you’re selling a range of specialist sausages, then you should probably call the relevant category Sausages, rather than Spiced Meat Products.

Why? Because this orderly, well-named approach actually goes a little way towards helping your website with its search engine rankings, not only because Google likes well-ordered information, but because by calling your category Sausages, you’re already giving your visitors, and Google, an idea of what the section is actually about, long before anyone ever looks at a single web page. Additionally, an intuitively named navigation system makes life so much easier for your human visitors, as they’ll be able to find what they’re looking for just by glancing at the navigation bar, instead of having to hunt high and low for the information they want.

Case in point, the navigation bar above, all neatly ordered, and properly named so you can see what you’re looking at.

The Right Content
It is a fact that the best site design in the world is of little value without an abundance of well-written, informative, and above all unique content, and whilst many designers are able to optimise a web site’s code to the hilt, few can boast the ability to create top-quality editorial content. Indeed, it is within the realm of site content that web design and SEO most frequently part company, simply because not enough attention is paid to the website’s text-quality.

There is simply no getting around the fact that the quality of your site’s content is one most important factors to its long-term promotion on the Internet.

If you have the budget available to you, it would be advisable to delegate the task of content creation to a professional web copywriter, who is able to present the available information to visitors and search engines in the best possible light.

And while this might mean a slightly higher initial cost for to your online business, with the above onsite components in place from the start, you won’t need to pay a Search Engine Optimisation company for their (sometimes extravagantly priced) services later on, which can save you an awful lot of money in the long-run.

This then, is the meeting ground between Web Design and SEO...

or at least it should be.

Since most Optimisation companies will charge a premium for code cleaning services, that is to say having to go in and clean up someone else’s mess before being able to promote a site effectively, it pays to make sure your web developer is able to produce a first-class product.

A professional will ensure that your new website not only meets the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) standards, but Google’s quality guidelines as well.

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And lastly...

Above all else, a competent web designer must be able to mesh the information about your product or service into the needs of both your potential clients, and those of Google. Better still, from your point of view, is taking the time to find a design studio which not only produces great web sites, but can also promote them effectively in the commercial online arena.

Congratulations, you’ve found us.
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