April_08_2013

Design vs SEO

There are still too many designers and SEO’s who believe that beautiful design and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) are mutually exclusive. Too many refuse to believe that a search engine friendly website cannot be aesthetic. The conflict between web designers and SEOs goes on. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To make a really successful website SEO and design really have to work together. When web designers join forces with an SEO from the first step in design both jobs are made easier. A beautiful website is much more likely to attract links naturally because we love to share what we like and who doesn’t like good design? And if a website is designed with search in mind there will be no need for clunky changes once the SEO is finally invited to get involved.

Words

Before you get going on designing the wireframe and folder structure of the site a bit of good old-fashioned keyword research is in order. A detailed understanding of the language your customers use in search is essential before you can decide on how all the content on your site will be best organised.

Architecture

Getting the navigation right is important both for design and search engine friendliness. After all no one likes to link to a frustrating website that’s complicated and annoying to navigate. An SEO can be a big help in advising a designer on what makes a navigation structure friendly to people and search engines.

Speed

Is all the beautiful, engaging content on your website also going to slow down your site? Page-load time is a ranking factor for search engines and Internet users are getting less and less patient. We used to be able to sit tight and wait as images loaded line by line, now a few seconds load time is enough for a visitor to hit the back button. The content needs to load fast. If It doesn’t the decision to either cut the slow content or invest in better technology or hosting has to be made.

Rich media

Flash and other rich media platforms are a major sticking point between designers and SEOs. Designers love Flash because it’s a great, user-friendly tool that brings rich media to a site. SEOs hate Flash because it hides content from search engines; all the crawlers see is empty space. But SEOs should think twice before they write Flash and other rich media tools off. Rich media is a great way to bring fantastic, desirable content to a website and a site that looks amazing is major link bait. In this case the onus should be on the SEO to help to designer make Flash content visible. There are several ways to make media, including images, video and animations visible to search engines. The simplest way is to make sure that every image has a relevant file name, and alt text assigned to it. Make sure the alt text concisely describes the meaning of the image making it clear why it’s been included on the page, rather than just describing it. This improves the value of an image in search because it means that keywords that are really relevant to the content on the page can be used.

Conclusions

A website can be both beautiful and search engine friendly as long as the web designer and search engine optimiser communicate from the very beginning of the design process. After all, every web designer surely wants their beautiful website to be seen and enjoyed rather than languishing at the bottom of page three in the search rankings. A website that has been designed to be search engine friendly will hit the ground running on launch day when the ongoing optimisation works gets going after the launch. Getting the SEO in at the beginning also avoids any costly redesigns that an SEO hired after the event might insist upon.


Written by Ellie Sans. Ellie works for Bristol based digital marketing company Bespoke Digital.

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