While waiting for a client recently, I was approached by a woman I had met before but didn't really know. "Let me ask you something!" she said. "As a copywriter, what do I need to be worried about as far as SEO goes?" I spoke with her about the main areas of concern, and she seemed very appreciative. She said that she had spent some amount of time researching the subject online but had not gotten very far. "There's a lot of information, but there's no where that says, 'This is how to do SEO.'" In that spirit, I would like to spend the next few posts systematically talking about how to do SEO. I plan to speak first to the designer, the developer, the copywriter and finally to the business owner. I will not be able to cover everything, but I do hope to address all of the important pieces of SEO as it exists today.
A Quick Reminder
Before we really dive into this, I want to give a quick reminder that SEO is not about ranking highest in a Google search. SEO is about better serving your clients. There are a lot of factors that do play a role in SEO that cannot be quantified. The look, feel and ease of your site are all factors in the user experience and thus in SEO (and will eventually impact your search result), but that sort of thing can't be a check box on a list. It is extremely important, but it cannot simply be itemized.
Let's Get Started
Though the on going work of SEO should not fall on the designer, there is a lot of upfront work that can be done to get a website optimized. Many of these things are done behind the scenes, but this week will talk about what people can actually see. Varying degrees of these services are offered at varying prices, but a designer concerned with SEO should have the following ideas in view.
It's the designer's job to provide the best site for the client. The best site needs to be one that is alive, dynamic and easily updated. As we will discuss later, frequent updates are very important for the life of SEO. Perhaps the best way to do this is through a blog. The blog doesn't have to be called a blog; you can call it "News" or "Updates" or "Case Studies" or "Education" something like that. But, the optimizing of a site is never complete unless the designer creates a blog that is part of site.
Because of its importance, it deserves a prominent link. By "prominent link" I mean that you need to link to it from somewhere on the home page. It should probably go in the main navigation. It is the most important piece of optimization, so don't bury it!
Once a blog is created, it needs to be very easy to follow the steady flow information that will come through it. For this there are several options, all of which need to be made available to better optimize a site. You may very well turn your nose up at this, but hear me out. You should set up an RSS feed and an Email Subscription. I don't follow people that way, and you probably don't either. But, thank goodness the world isn't full of designers. There are plenty of folks out there who use them, and even if there are not, for now search engines care about them all the same.
Odds are that you are like me and follow most of your blogs through social media. Social networks are a for transmitting and receiving information. So, make it easy to share these blog posts through social media. I know that it's already pretty easy to copy and paste a URL, but you need to make it foolproof. Create sharing buttons for the microwave generation of instant gratification seekers out there. One click; it's done!
In addition to sharing website posts on their own feeds, the users need to be able to easily follow the company's feed as well. You should have social network icons (and/or names) prominently linked. As an added bonus, you will be surprised how many people think this is an enormous and difficult task that will cost them a pretty penny. Clients are often thrilled to learn that this is an easy fix!
Having a lead generating form on your website is very important to search engines. Is it important to clients? Well, yes ... if you do it right. Here on my site, you can send a message to me or to Kristen. That's about it because that's about all we need. (Interestingly enough, Kristen gets a lot more messages than I do. I don't have analytics on if that's because she's not the "the boss" or if it's because she's better looking than I am.)
Offices in more professional fields have very different needs though. Allow your users a chance to be specific, discrete and operate on their time frame. Consider the Request an Appointment form on AlbanyUrologyClinic.com as an example.
Last (but certainly not least) we have the ever-growing mobile aspect of websites. We can (and have) spend many posts talking about mobile sites. But let me lay out the basics.
- Don't have separate pages for mobile.
- If you must, have separate CSS for mobile.
- If you can, have responsive CSS for mobile.
Mobile is growing, but technically it's not huge yet. Really the best thing to take from the mobile boom is that few (if any) are looking at your website from only one size screen. Your site needs to be flexible and consistent regardless of the device or browser size.
Tune in Next Time
That about does it for the "design" aspect. Next we'll take a look at the "development" end (AKA: what people can't actually see.) For now, remember that as a designer, you want to maximize the user's experience by making it easy for the company to post, the users to share and the search engines to see content.