Let’s start by assuming you’re doing a damn good job at designing and implementing websites for your customers. And not only that you’re quick and you use table-less code, but the layouts look awesome and work the same in all browsers. That was enough before, but is it enough nowadays?
As in getting married in the real life, the first cool thing is the honeymoon period. When you launch a new website and it’s being indexed by Google, your website has a “honeymoon period”. Accordingly to Google that means a new site will appear in the first results pages for a limited period of time. Google offers new websites more exposure to visitors this way, but in the following period of time that website will decline to its natural position on the search results. The good part is that you don’t have to do anything else than get indexed by Google when you launch a new website. The bad part is not to act during this period and after your website reaches its natural position. I told you, just like in the real life.
So why should you care about SEO, you’re just the web designer right?
I’ll answer that by telling you what the customer will ask as soon as the site is online and past the honeymoon period: “why isn’t my site appearing on the first page of Google where all the competition is?” Well, it needs some SEO, and for that there are companies that provide consultancy and services.
So when you create a new website for your customer you’ll need to rank it good in Google; there are a bunch of factors that determine the position in Google searches. You’re not and shouldn’t be a SEO expert but let me explain the very basic things every web designer should know.
The first step to any serious SEO activity is to evaluate the position of the website in the search results. And in order to do so you need specific software like Google Analytics. You can get insights of your traffic and analyze the data, learn how to target and convert more visitors. It’s very easy to install – more information can be found at the Google Analytics website.
One of the downsides of using Google Analytics is that it does not provide real time feedback. A live tracker could help you keep an eye on your visitors and what they are doing almost live: how they interact with your website, what they click, why they left. Statcounter for example is an invisible real time tracker for websites that has powerful tools like “visitors path” that shows on which links a visitor clicked during a visit, “magnify user” which offers a detailed report about the selected user like the country of the user, their PC system info and the referral link from which they landed into your website. Another cool feature is Keyword Analysis which allows you to identify which keywords are working for your website and which are the ones that don’t. Installation is very easy – just need to copy a JS script in the <body> of the site.
Google Webmasters tools offer an insight of your indexing status. You can check why your website is not indexed and if there are any errors you should fix. You can view your website ranking for the keywords you selected. One of the features lets you view the incoming links to your website and also check if your website has any dead links. Another feature is that you can check if your website was infected by malware and see the crawler stats. One cool feature is the HTML suggestion which helps you with the meta and title tags. . You can find more at the official website.
Every day there are new websites launched and every day websites with better SEO rank higher. So what are the minimum SEO techniques every Web designer should know and easily implement in their work?
Choose a title that is relevant to the page’s content. Avoid using “Untitled” or duplicate title tags for your pages. And make sure your title doesn’t have too many unnecessary keywords. The limit in character number for a title tag is 60 characters. Try to use an accurate title tag for every page.
Create a good description meta tag for your pages because Google might use it for snippets. You can read more about snippets here. Avoid using generic description for your pages, or keyword stuffing. Even duplicate content from your page inside the description tag is not recommended.
You’re probably not creating the texts for the sites, but if you do, try to have unique and relevant content for the targeted readers; it would be a very good practice to advice the customer on how to write content. You can use Google keyword tool to find variations for the keywords and the latest trends in searches for specific keywords. By offering unique content to the readers, the site will achieve higher positions in Google search results.
Another way to appear on the first page is to pay for it. By using Google Adwords you can have the first position on search results for different regions. Still, the cost of adWords is directly linked to the quality score of your site. So to optimize the paid positioning you’re getting back to using proper SEO techniques. Keep in mind this is a paid solution, so every month you have to pay, or you will be charged by every click.
If your website has the same content as other websites that are older, then your website will be penalized by Google for having duplicate content. Not to mention the legal copyright issues that might arrive. Having duplicate content between your own pages is bad as well and you might not even know it. This can easily be checked with Google Webmasters Tools.
Using black hat techniques might improve the positioning of the site on the short term, but it might get the site banned completely. If you are not sure what is accepted and what is not, check the Google Webmaster guidelines.