How To: SEO Web Design
We take on a lot of SEO design projects where we help clients design sites from the ground up in a way that will be conducive to search engine spidering and eventually competitive rankings. You’ll often hear how search engine optimization shouldn’t be an afterthought in site design, but what does that actually mean? For us, the SEO Design process looks something like this
Step 1: Select Keywords
If you tell your design/search engine optimization company that you’re looking to create a new site and they don’t immediately ask you what your keywords are, run! I’m not kidding. If they try to build you an SEO-friendly Web site without first finding out your key terms, they’re clearly not in the right mindset and you shouldn’t be working with them. Knowing what keywords you’ll be targeting is essential so that you can start brainstorming what topics you’ll need to cover, how many pages you’ll need, who your competitors are, etc. This information is going to lay the framework for your new Web site. If you don’t know what words you’re going to be putting on the page, how will you be able to intelligently make any of these decisions and avoid placing things out of sequence?
Step 2: Define Architectural Structure
Step 3: Create Content
You’re not going to get too far into the SEO design process without having something to put on the page. After step one you should know what pages and site sections are going to be important in helping you reach your ranking goals. You should be working on creating optimized content and thinking about potential link magnets. As you’re writing content, make sure that your keywords are being used properly throughout your pages and site. This means including them in the heading (h1, h2, h3) tags, throughout the body, and as anchor text for internal linking. You can check out our Copywriting 101 or How to Use Keywords for some more information about.
Step 4: Wireframe Review
You know your keywords, how things are going to be structured and you’re working on getting the content pieces together. Now it’s time for the wireframe review so that everyone on the team can take a look and agree that things are moving in the right direction. Wireframes are a stripped down version of your site, very similar to a blueprint for a house, and help ensure that you’ve created a solid foundation for your overall site themes. You don’t want to launch only to realize that you’ve forgotten to connect the roof to the top of the house. This is also a good time to really look at the site from a usability perspective. And when your SEO provides you with a wireframe, don’t just tack it on the wall. Make notes and give it back to their team. Comment on how you want things to be displayed, what headings you think should be on each page, and other SEO-related decisions. You can find some good examples of wireframe templates at StrangeSystems.
Step 5: Façade
Once all the technical stuff has been taken care of, it’s time to consider design. You have your content, but how are you going to display it in a way that appeals to visitors? Consider what’s going to be above the fold, what kind of calls to action will be on the page, how your navigation will look, how you’ll visually represent your brand, whether you’ll include graphics or video, if your pages will be printer-friendly etc. You don’t want to invest all that time creating your structure and making sure you’re following SEO-friendly design methodology, only to develop the ugliest site on the planet. Sure, your information is what users are after, but if it’s not presented to them in a way that is easily understood and visually appealing, they may not even take the time to appreciate the information you’re offering. It’s an MTV world, my friend.
Step 6: Implementation
If you’ve made it this far (and, um, hopefully you have), it’s time to launch your brand new SEO-friendly Web site. There may still be content to write and minor tweaks to make, but the foundation and the site structure that is going to be conducive to being spidered by the search engines are all in place. When you launch, make sure you have some hefty analytics in place so that you can stay abreast of how your visitors are interacting with your new site. If you find that they’re getting stuck on certain pages or abandoning the conversion path at a particular point, go back into your site and remove these obstacles.