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Why isn’t a website on the first page of Google and should a Web designer care?

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?

The website honeymoon period

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.

  • the first thing will happen when the customer will go to a SEO company is that he’s going to receive a report how bad the site is. Which basically means that the customer “finds out that his brand new site is bad and to blame is the … Web designer that built it in the first place”. And that’s unlikely to help you get good references from that customer later.
  • there might be some changes that the SEO company would like to do on its own (yes, overwriting your code and work). And that means the future work on the site might go directly to the SEO company instead of going your way.
  • customers don’t just need a web page, they need a marketing tool. If the tool “doesn’t work” as expected, attract visitors and convert them into buyers it doesn’t serve its purpose. And that’s unlikely to get you more design work from the customer.

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.

how to get on the first page of google

Basic SEO techniques the Web designers should implement in their work

1. Implement Google analytics

google analytics

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.

2. Use a real time tracker (optional)

google analytics

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.

3. Take advantage of the Google Webmasters tools

google analytics

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.

4. Implement basic SEO in the 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?

    The basics of SEO:

  • Use a correct HTML <title> tag
  • 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.

  • Use proper HTML description meta tag
  • 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.

  • Content makes the difference
  • 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.

5. The non-SEO way of appearing on the first page of Google

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.

No-no in SEO that every Web designer should know

1. Duplicate content

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.

2. Spam behavior

Your website might be penalized by Google for a spam like behavior, meaning that you used too much keywords in your pages or you didn’t use unique and relevant content inside the pages. Your website can be penalized by linking to malware sites or containing too many links, in this case your website will be considered a link farm and it will be penalized. Your website can be penalized by having a javascript code that Google considers to be harmful to the user. If you find yourself in one of this situations you must know what to do. Accordingly to Google, Sandbox is a filter to block spam website or MFA websites (made for Adsense) to appear in the first results page. Meaning that your website is considered a spam website so any boost in performance, optimization or SEO will be blocked until your website is out of the sandbox period. Keep in mind this can be from 3 months up to 12 months. So be careful when playing with SEO and keywords, or else you might be penalized for it. Here is a sandbox-checker for your website.

3. Using black hat SEO techniques

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.

4. Building the website only for SEO purposes and not for the user experience

Creating code that is only visible to search engines and don’t improve the user experience is a no-no. Avoid hidden text or hidden links. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.

Further reading

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3 Responses to “Why isn’t a website on the first page of Google and should a Web designer care?”

  1. [...] Why isn’t a website on the first page of Google and should a Web designer care? [...]

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  3. [...] Designer is more than just “doing PSD” and I said that nowadays a Web Designer should know a bit of SEO, understand how to influence the conversion rates of a site and have at least a basic idea about [...]

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