Almost everyone has a website these days. In an age where brands rule the world, the emergence of every kind of website seems to be inevitable. It doesn’t matter if you simply intend to be known in the professional circle as someone who has something to say, or you want to be a big brand that people from everywhere rely on. With the power of the Web, you can do both, plus everything in between. Sounds exciting, huh?
It sure is an almost-perfect scenario. The only problem is everyone wants to be noticed and heard. Everyone wants to be a brand. The result? Users need to claw through a noisy Webosphere where bad websites intermingle with the good ones. It’s an admirable thing that search engines like Google have set up specific algorithms to weed out the bad sites and keep the good ones on top. This has effectively minimized the number of black hatters on the Web who only play for click baits.
Now that the game is one notch higher, there are many factors that need to be met and satisfied before a website gets that hard-earned success. Sometimes, this makes it all the more difficult for individuals and companies to know where to begin. Among the many variables that determine a website’s success are two constants: SEO and web design. These two principles, when applied properly, can make any website visually attractive, relevant, search-friendly, and useful—everything a good website should be. If you only have a vague idea of how these two work, you’ll learn their key roles along the way if you read on.
SEO and Web Development: The Basics
For you to understand what drives traffic and conversions, you need to know first what SEO and web development are separate.
SEO or search engine optimization is mostly concerned with your website’s ranking in search engines. Specialists of this trade use plenty of techniques to make every element of the website fall into place. Keywords, tags, and links are an SEO specialist’s best tools. Contrary to popular belief, SEO should not be a mere afterthought that is only incorporated late in the process of web design. The fundamentals of SEO are not hard to understand, but the entire industry itself is difficult to master because search engines are always changing the game. This is why a lot of companies choose to employ experts for their SEO services instead of doing it themselves. One wrong move in optimizing your website will put everything you’ve worked hard for to waste.
Unlike SEO, web development focuses more on making the website readable to both search engines and users. It adheres to different Web standards to ensure that everything works across all platforms. To put it simply, it is the job of a web developer to make sure that search engines can correctly assess whether the website matches the user’s request. Your website’s structure will determine whether a search engine can crawl through it or not.
Why You Need the Best of Both Worlds
Now that you have an idea what SEO and web development are, it’s time to answer the question, “Why do web development and SEO need to work hand in hand?”
Justin Taylor from Moz mulled over the same question and gave a ready answer. He said, “The problem is simple. Websites that look amazing typically offer little opportunity for on-page optimization. And conversely, pages that are well optimized will often compromise the design and user experience. This creates a chicken and egg scenario. What is the point in having a website that looks great if it can’t be found? And is there any point of being easy to find if the website isn’t engaging?”
An open dialog between an SEO specialist and a web developer is therefore necessary to create a website that works. The two need to work hand in hand for a website to be more relevant and searchable at the same time.
The Perks of Taking SEO and Web Design Together
If you place SEO and web design side by side, you can expect an improvement in the development process and the execution stage.
No need to trace back your steps
Many people make the mistake of treating SEO as an add-on. Some companies focus their attention too much on web design that they often sidetrack the principles of SEO. As a result, both SEO specialists and developers are forced to trace their steps to make sure that the website is searchable enough.
- Expect faster page load times
Google announced in 2010 that site speed would be among the many factors in page ranking. Indeed, even if Google didn’t set that parameter, the loading time of a website can still create negative effects to user engagement and conversions. This is simply because people are too impatient to wait a long time for a website to load. Longer load times can affect not only your back end but also your front end. Before you know it, your bounce rate is already too high while your conversion rate is still not showing any signs of improvement. If you apply the right SEO and web design techniques, you’ll be able to implement a faster load time for your website.
SEO Web Design: The New Ruler
Now that the relationship between SEO and web development is apparent, the need for the term “SEO web design” becomes more obvious. While it’s true that SEO and web development are two different specialties, they should have a combined version that effectively advocates for the proliferation of well-designed websites that keep the best SEO practices in mind. There are already plenty of web designers out there who understand the nuts and bolts of SEO, so SEO web design as a new field will not be too difficult to establish. People just need to understand its significance, and it will blossom on its own.
How SEO Can Complement Web Design
Now that you know the whats and whys, it’s time to consider the hows. How exactly can you reconcile your SEO and web development teams? For the SEO specialist’s part, it’s really simple.
- Show the developers the fruits of their labor
An SEO specialist’s role in web development is that of an advisor. Assuming that you are the SEO specialist in your company, you most likely have all the data that can tell whether a website is doing good or not. Share that data with the developers so they will know exactly how their work impacts the company. When they see how important their role is to the company’s success, they will do their job better.
- Give the developers a taste of SEO
Since many people these days have their own websites, chances are your web developers have one, too. Teach the developers the basics of SEO and ask them to apply these practices to their own websites. When they understand how SEO drives traffic and conversion, they will be more willing to learn and apply it to make your website better.
- Let the developers do their job
Remember, as an SEO specialist, your only role is to guide the developers to make the website more search-friendly. You are in no position to dictate what they should do unless you are yourself a developer. Developers only need to know why they have to keep in mind the principles of SEO. Let them figure out how to do it.
How Web Design Can Complement SEO
Now, imagine that you’re the web developer in the company. Here are some of the things you can do to make your website SEO-friendly.
- Write good URLs
A website’s URL is what search engines see first, so make sure that your website’s address can easily be read and understood by search engines.
- Create effective meta tags
Some say web developers speak in codes. That’s fine, as long as the codes they speak can be understood by search engines. Bad coding can take a toll on your page rank and conversion rates because search engines don’t normally index what they can’t make out. Sometimes, meta tags are out of the jurisdiction of a web developer, but it’s still good for one to understand this basic SEO principle because it can help him/her create codes that search engines understand.
- Beware of site navigation
The way a website is structured can play a big part in its SEO authority. Typically, the safest navigation schemes for an SEO-friendly website are CSS and XHTML. These two are among the easiest to “crawl” and index, since search engine spiders can read them better than other navigation structures.
It All Boils Down to One Thing
When all’s said and done, SEO and web development need only to focus on one thing: the user. When applying SEO practices, the user’s convenience should always be kept in mind. When designing the website for visual appeal, the user’s needs and preferences should be the main concern. Ultimately, it is the user, not the search engines, who will determine whether your website is useful or not. The user determines your success. Unless you optimize and design for the user, you will lose the game.
As a final note, keep in mind the words of Bing’s Duane Forrester. He said, “If you want to wow the search engines, you have to wow your customers. Build a site that they want and can use.” Create something that people actually want to take part in. Boost your SEO. Strengthen your web design. Take these two together and build a brand that people actually recognize and appreciate.