How Web Design Can Affect Search Engine Rankings

Uniquely built web sites can create unique issues when being promoted on the search engines. From a basic 3 page brochure site to a corporate site with hundreds of dynamically generated pages, every web site needs to have certain design aspects in order to achieve the full effects of an SEO campaign. Below are a few points to take into consideration when building or updating your web site.

1. Size Matters.

The size of a web site can have a huge impact on search engine rankings. Search engines love content, so if you have only a few pages to your site and your competitors have dozens, it’s difficult to see a top page ranking for your site. In some cases it may be difficult to present several pages of information about your business or products, so you may need to think about adding free resources for visitors. It will help in broadening the scope of your web site (which search engines like) as well as keep visitors on your site longer, possibly resulting in more sales.

2. Graphics-Based Web Sites.

While web sites that offer the visitor a more esthetically-pleasing experience may seem like the best choice for someone searching for your product, they are the most difficult to optimize. Since search engine robots cannot read text within graphics or animation, what they see may be just a small amount of text. And if we learned anything from point #1, small amounts of content will not result in top rankings. If you really must offer the visitor a graphics-heavy or Flash* web site, consider creating an HTML-based side of your site that is also available to visitors. This site will be much easier to promote on the search engines and your new found visitors will also have the option to jump over to the nicer looking part of your site.

* Author update – As of July 2008 Google has updated their algorithm to take advantage of Adobe’s searchable SWF library, enabling the indexing of Flash content for the first time.

3. Dynamic Web Pages.

If most of your web site is generated by a large database (such as a large book dealer with stock that is changing by the minute) you may find that some of your pages do not get indexed by major search engines. If you look at the URL of these pages they can be extremely long and have characters such as ?, #, &, %, or = along with huge amounts of seemingly random numbers or letters. Since these pages are automatically generated by the database as needed, the search engines have a tough time keeping them up to date and relevant for search engine users.

One way to combat this problem is to offer a search engine friendly site map listing all your static pages just to let them know that you do have permanent content on your site. If search engines see links going to and from these dynamic pages within a good internal linking system, this may also lead to the pages getting indexed. The link popularity of your site may carry more weight in this case as well, so if you can’t offer as much static content as your competition, make sure you have an aggressive link campaign on the go.

4. Proper Use of HTML.

There is quite a bit of sub-par web design software out there. Word processors usually have a way to create HTML documents which can be easily uploaded to a site via ftp. However, in many cases the code that the search engine robots see is mostly lines and lines of font and position formatting, not relevant content. The more efficiently written web sites usually achieve higher rankings. Our choice for web design software is Adobe Dreamweaver, as it is an industry standard. It also makes using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) a breeze, which can drastically cut down on the amount of text formatting in HTML code. Hand-coding HTML to design sites is also a good method if you are proficient enough.

There are some no-brainers too: Web sites with abnormal amounts of hyperlinks, bold or italicized text, improper use of heading, alt, or comment tags can also expect to see low rankings.

5. Choosing a Domain Name.

The golden rule to web development of any kind is to keep your visitors in mind above all else – even search engine optimization. When choosing a domain name, one should pick either your business name (if you have a high-profile business name such as Chapters or Coca-Cola) or a brief description of your products. Domain names can always help with search engine optimization, as it is another area of your web site that important keywords can appear. Forget about long-winded domains such as http://www.number-one-best-rare-used-books-on-earth.com as no one will ever remember it and it will be hard to print on business cards or in ads.

If you need to change your domain name for any reason you obviously don’t want to lose existing rankings. An easy way to do this, and one that is currently supported by most search engines, is the 301 redirect. It allows you to keep your existing rankings for your old domain name, while forwarding visitors to your new web site instantly.

6. Using Frames.

Don’t use frames. Frames are a thing of the 90’s (and in the Internet world that is eons ago) and are not even supported by some search engines. The search engines that are able to index your site through frames will most likely frown upon them. Whatever you are trying to accomplish by using frames can usually be done with the help of PHP includes or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Some browsers are not frames-compatible, so there is the danger of some visitors not being able to see your site at all. Bookmarking of individual pages within a frame becomes difficult without lengthy scripts being written.

7. Update Your Information.

Not only does stale information look poorly on your organization when it is read by a visitor, you could also be missing out on some good rankings by not having content include new trends in your field. Web sites that continuously update and grow their web sites usually experience higher rankings than stagnant sites when dealing with an industry that experiences a high rate of growth or change. While the age of a web page is looked at as part of a search engine algorithm, it has no bearing on searches for items recently in the news. Consider creating a section of your site devoted to news within your organization, or have a constantly updated blog.

Many shortfalls of web sites can easily be attributed to designers who just don’t keep the user or search engines in mind. Search engine algorithms are quickly improving to try and list the most user-friendly sites higher, given that the content and link popularity are there to back it up. So first and foremost, know your target market and make your web site work for them before focusing on search engine optimization. If you build it (properly), they will come.

Why Outsourcing Your Website Development Project Is a Good Idea

People who operate small businesses are often faced with a difficult problem. They may only have a limited number of employees that must complete all of the day to day operations that keep a company in business. As all companies become more dependent on technology in general and information technology specifically, the decision of whether to outsource or not is becoming more difficult to make. Here are some facts that may make it easier for you to make that decision for your company.

The advantages of outsourcing website development

There are many advantages to outsourcing website development. The same advantages also pertain to website maintenance as well. The first advantage is cost. Although it may seem expensive to hire an outsourcer to perform these tasks for you, the fact is that in the long run it may end up saving you quite a bit of money. Unless your company is one that is operating in the information technology sector it may have little need to have an IT expert on staff. The cost of having an IT expert on staff full time may be very prohibitive to some companies especially those that have a very tight bottom line.

Another advantage is that you will save a lot of time by outsourcing your website development and maintenance needs. Instead of dealing with companies that offer mass produced templates and poor quality websites or spending the time and energy needed to build a custom website yourself you may find that handing the project to a qualified and trustworthy company can save you quite a bit of time indeed. Experts have proven that by concentrating on the core tasks that a company needs to concern themselves with and outsourcing the remaining work a company can end up being much more profitable in the long run.

You can be sure that the site will be functional and easy to locate. A professional website developer has had experience working with different technologies and can mesh them together into a site that functions the way it is supposed to. A website that is not fully functional can end up driving customers away which leads to lost revenues.

The disadvantages of outsourcing website development

There are few disadvantages of outsourcing your website development and maintenance. Perhaps the biggest one is that you may be placing your trust in a company which does not understand what the goal of your business may be. This may be especially true of charitable organizations or foundations that may have specific goals or mandates.

If you do get an unsuitable website design you may find that a certain amount of time will be necessary in order to bring the project back to a state that you feel comfortable with. However, even though this will take some time, it will usually take much less time than it would be if you were building a site on your own.

In the end, there are many more advantages to working with a professional website design company rather than building a site yourself. If you look at a web development company’s portfolio and choose one that has the style and skills you are looking for you can outsource your site development and still end up with a great site in the end.

SEO and Web Design: What Does One Have to Do With the Other?

For beginning web designers, this is a common question. Many still think of search engine optimization (SEO) and web design as two exclusive issues. They don’t see them as two separate jobs, rather than one being a part of the other. The reality is, every web designer needs to know at least the very basics of SEO before they design a website today.

What is SEO?

SEO is the art of communicating with the search engines. Websites that want real people to actually find their website and visit need to work with the search engines, since those engines are used by millions of people every single day to find websites of value. If the top search engines like Google and Yahoo do not see value in a website, then it is doomed. No exaggeration.

So, you need to communicate with the search engines if you want your website to do well. How do you do that? You do it through SEO strategies like picking the right keywords and having them woven into your website and designing every element of the site to say something about your content.

You can’t just pick up the phone and tell Google all about your great new website. The website has to do the talking on its own behalf. That’s why SEO is so crucial today.

What Does SEO Have to Do with Web Design?

SEO has a lot to do with web design because some of the most important elements of speaking to the search engines involve basic design elements. For instance, did you know that you need your primary keyword in the URL of your site? You do! This means some SEO needs to take place before you even have the web designer register your domain name.

SEO starts before the design process in most cases, and there’s a reason for that!

A designer needs to know a lot more than how you want your website to look. They need a good idea of what this site needs to do in a functional capacity. They need to know what keywords you are trying to rank highly on with the search engines. They can then use the right words for your URL and in other elements of the design.

Finding a Web Designer Who Knows SEO

Basic web design doesn’t incorporate a ton of SEO, but you can find web design services that are also pros on SEO. This is the best type of service to use because they can be hired to design the site with SEO in mind. This sets your site up for success with the search engines right from its birth.

You may pay more for these services, especially if you are hiring them for extensive optimization involving your content as well as elements of design. It is well worth it in the end!

At the very least, learn about SEO and do some keyword research before you even hand your website project off to the designer. Make sure you know what your primary keywords are going to be and then make sure your chosen URL name reflects at least one major keyword for your site.

Of course, that URL name should have something of interest in there for the humans as well, since they are the ones choosing to click or not from the search results pages.