On our web design page we list the factors we go through when designing a page/site for clients. Those factors affect the “look and feel” of the site, but but those there are also things to think about for search engine optimization.
The very first step in SEO for websites is choosing what keywords you want the site to rank for, as this affects the URLs that will be built out for the content. So we come up with a short list, for example, for a florist here in Barrie we’d have something like “barrie flower shop”, “wedding flowers barrie”, “barrie florist”, etc…What we are looking for here is the largest volume keyword that also has some indication of intent of the searcher. This is key, as a term like “barrie flowers” most likely has a greater search volume than any of the ones we chose, but you don’t know what they are looking for. They may be after a list of local wildflowers.
Once keywords are chosen we set up the site architecture – a silo, as the term is know. This just means breaking up the site into its respective categories – wedding flowers, sympathy flowers, custom arrangements, etc… And each category page will have sub-categories under it. On those pages the keyword has to be present in certain locations – the title, meta description, h1 and so on. This is just letting the search engines know without a shadow of a doubt that this term is what this page is about. It might seem obvious, but this step gets skipped/messed up a shocking amount of times. It’s actually incredible.
Next comes thing that most people don’t think about. The first one is site performance, which basically means how fast a site loads. Google has a test for this: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ where you can test the homepage of your site, which is the most important. They will give you ways help improve the load time, but it basically comes down to 2 things; compressing your data (which you control) and server response time (which you don’t control). For example, for this site we have a server response time of about 1.1-1.5 seconds depending on the day, which is kind of slow. But to upgrade the server account we have to spend about 20x the amount we are now, so that’ll just have to wait.
Next comes mobile-friendliness. This means having either a fully responsive site or a mobile version of the site, as the majority of the traffic out there these days is mobile. This was covered in the previous blog post, so if you can read about it there if interested. The bottom line is sites have to be mobile friendly these days; it’s not an add-on anymore.
Next comes security. Sites get hacked all the time, and this can have a variety of consequences. Sometimes it’s just a link to another site, but other times it can be more serious. Whatever the case, it is the responsibility of the webmaster to make sure the sites they administer are secure.
After these considerations comes design, though the process isn’t linear. A final note on client input into site design. many times the people that are involved in making a site or really anything come from such a fundamentally different perspective than someone who has never seen it before that they are blind to the shortcomings. Navigating around a site you’ve been on a hundred times over the last 2 months as it evolves seems simple to you, but may not be so easy to you average visitor. And of they can’t/don’t figure it out quickly they are gone. For an example, if you have a Paypal account, go in and try to change your business name. It’s easy – once you know how, but poking around on your own quickly gets frustrating. This is why we place conversion/layout factors ahead of personal tastes, because in the end, every good site is about the visitors; not the owner.