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SEO for Web Designers: Best Practices

As web designers, are we diametrically opposed to search engine optimization? We know that, at its center, web design is about elevating bland information on a screen into something aesthetically delightful and intuitively recognizable. It’s also about communicating an idea with other humans. Cave men had cave paintings, Ancient Egyptians had hieroglyphs, modern man has web design. Yes, it’s just that important.

So, what happens when the message you’re trying to communicate to other humans must first pass through the unrelenting eye of an emotionally crippled robot? That robot cannot compute the value of aesthetics. On the contrary, it can only operate off of its limited algorithm.

This is precisely why many designers have given up trying to please the robot called SEO.

No matter what Hollywood tells us, robots aren’t the enemy. Just like us, robots are on a mission to contribute value to web users.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the strategy of developing and improving your website so that it ranks highly on search engine result pages, preferably on the first page of results. We know that at least 75% of searchers never scroll past page 1 on Google. This means that we must make it to the first page in order to be considered by the vast majority of searchers.

Why is SEO Important to Web Designers?

The quick answer? Because it’s important to your clients.

The longer answer? According to this research, over 571 websites are created every second. Every second. With all of those websites, your own website has the high probability of being lost forever in the abyss known as “Beyond Page 1 of Google”

Top 9 Best Practices

Let’s take a look at the top 9 best SEO practices for web designers.

1. Site Structure

When it comes to SEO, the structure of your website is one of the most important factors. Site structure is all about how your web pages link together. Search engine crawlers judge your site’s value based on the way it’s set up. File hierarchy and site maps play crucial roles in whether or not you get a high ranking page.

If you want to be found by the majority of visitors searching for your associated keyword, nothing will get you there and keep you there faster than a logical layout that’s easy to crawl. Remember, if the robots are happy, everyone’s happy.

As a basic practice, don’t allow radical, rebel, isolated pages on your site with no links in or out. As a healthy website, all of your pages should be connected and functional. It should also flow logically and efficiently.

2. Easy Navigation

Along with logical flow, navigation must be a top priority for any web designer who’s interested in search engine optimization.

For navigation, shallow is better. With a shallow architecture, users are able to access any page in as few links as possible. This also refers back to site architecture.

There’s good news for JavaScript aficionados: Googlebot can now process JavaScript. However, that’s not an invitation to go crazy with JavaScript menus, because the crawlers are still very limited, and may give up when they encounter complicated language.

When it comes to navigation, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Make it simple, make it short (eight options or less), and make it usable.

3. Meta Description

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’re definitely aware of what it is. A meta description is the little snippet on the search page that provides an overview for what your page is about. Each page on your website will have a meta description. These descriptions are 160 characters or less.

The meta description is your perfect opportunity to entice visitors to click your link. It’s also a way to get noticed for your keyword, because Google scans and highlights user-searched keywords in your meta description.