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The Ultimate Guide to SEO, Website Development, and Web Design

Did you know that there are billions of websites out there? From businesses, to e-commerce, to school projects, food blogs, and so much more. So with all that competition, it may seem intimidating, even impossible, to stand out from the rest of the crowd. But it’s not! That’s where good web design, thoughtful web development, and SEO come into play. All these elements together can guarantee that any website will show up where customers search for them.

SEO and Web Development Fundamentals

Every business nowadays needs a website to succeed. If you want individuals to find your website, you need SEO to succeed. Below are some fundamentals that include SEO and web development to make an SEO-friendly website.

 

an seo web developer working on a project

 

Stick with HTTPS

HTTPS, known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is an internet communication code that helps secure the safety of your website and help build your SEO web design. It helps protect user’s confidential data between them and the site. At this point in time, every website should be a secured site with HTTPS. Google Search Console recommends you to adopt HTTPS in order to protect your users’ connections to your website, regardless of the content on the site. This is important because of three reasons: encryption, data integrity, and authentication. The more you strengthen HTTPS by using security certificates, the better and more secure your encryption, data integrity, and authentication will become.

Choosing a domain name

When SEO was first starting out (and really up until 2010), exact match domains (EMD) were all the rage and a recommended best practice to help rank for a keyword. An EMD is when a website domain name includes a keyword within the root domain. Domain names that were structured with exact match keywords used to primarily rank for the keywords they were targeting. However, that’s not the case anymore with algorithm advancements. They allow search engines to better understand semantic terms and natural language processing.

 

From an SEO perspective, choose a domain name that makes sense for your industry and that can be remembered easily by your target audience. There’s not a major need to include a keyword in your domain name as there was before. If you do choose to incorporate an EMD into your website, ensure that it’s high quality. Google announced that they will lower rankings for low-quality EMDs moving forward.

Determine the TLD

TLD stands for ‘top-level domain’. This is located at the end of your URL structure. The most common is .com in the United States, but it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be able to get the domain you want ending in a .com anymore. So there’s a rise of alternative TLDs such as:

 

• .co

• .org

• .net

• .io

 

When making a decision on TLDs for your website, it’s important to know that there are some alternatives that don’t get as much traffic, have been abused, and therefore come off as spammy. The most abused alternative TLDs include:

 

• .surf

• .work

• .ryukyu

• .ga

• .biz

• .info

• .review

• .zip

 

Take a look at the full list here.

 

While .com is a preferred TLD for SEO, we get that it’s not always possible to purchase. It’s common to see .tech or .io TLDs associated with tech businesses. When it comes to TLDs that serve both SEO and web development needs, select one that’s familiar and makes sense in the industry you work in.

Build on an SEO-friendly CMS

Unless there’s a full-time web developer on deck that can fulfill every SEO request as it comes in, a CMS will be extremely helpful for both SEOs and web developers. For those that are unfamiliar with what a CMS is, it stands for ‘content management system’. WordPress is a long-standing favorite among SEO professionals for its user-friendly design and numerous plugin capabilities. However, it’s notorious for inserting JavaScript that contributes to a slower site speed.

 

SEOs and web developers should work together to weigh the pros and cons of the available CMS platforms for a website. Some of the most common and SEO-friendly sites include WordPress, Hubspot, BigCommerce and Shopify for e-commerce sites, and even Wix. Many of these CMS platforms have made significant improvements to their interface and technical functionality over the years.

Subdomains vs subdirectories

As a web developer, you know more than anyone that your website’s structure significantly impacts your organic search performance. Because of this, it’s important to recognize the difference between subdomains and subdirectories and the SEO pros and cons behind each of them. Our recommendation is to keep it under one domain if it’s possible and makes sense to do so. Search engines are getting smarter at attributing the value from subdomains to the root domain. However, it is not recommended to store your blog articles in a subdomain. Utilizing subdomains and subdirectories revolves around each situation and it’s important to know how to use each one in the right scenario.

Properly set up tracking

SEO is an industry that requires a lot of tracking and data to monitor the status of a campaign and prove its worth. So when websites are developed with no tracking installed or tracking that’s installed incorrectly, it can be a frustrating and difficult issue to troubleshoot and resolve. As a web developer, help out your fellow SEO team member and remember to install the following tracking scripts:

 

• Google Tag Manager

 

• Google Analytics

 

• Google Search Console

 

Note: Learn how to set up Google Search Console here!

 

These are just the core tools that are used daily that require tracking scripts to be placed on the backend of a website. However, there can be more in the future like VWO or HotJar, and two conversion rate optimization tools.

 

It’s a best practice to first install Google Tag Manager and to then configure all the other codes and scripts through it rather than directly inserting it into the backend. This is helpful for multiple reasons: it makes it easier to manage scripts and identify issues, it’s easier to troubleshoot and resolve code errors, and it can help reduce third-party scripts on a site that slow down site speed.

 

Google Search Console dashboard

Create and submit an XML sitemap

When building a website with SEO in mind, it’s essential that a sitemap or user flow be created to map out which pages will be developed, where they will live in the navigation, and how they will link to one another. This step is not a one-man job. It requires teamwork between the SEO, web developer, and web designer to communicate and map it out effectively together. It will make the development process run smoother and avoid numerous issues in the long-run for the SEO campaign.

 

Once you have developed the website, remember to create an XML sitemap. If you’re using a CMS platform, it’s usually very easy to generate one through the platform itself. The XML sitemap is a file that basically serves as a blueprint of your website. It helps search engines read and better understand your website while prioritizing the most valuable pages first.

 

When you’ve generated your XML sitemap, submit it into Search Console (this is where installing the tracking code first comes in handy) so search engines can start registering and crawling your website.

Create an SEO-friendly robots.txt file

Search engines rely on proper robots.txt files when crawling your website. These files help give crawlers a ‘map’ as to what should and should not be crawled on your site. It is the very first location where a search engine will visit. An SEO web developer should know the stress and importance of having an SEO-friendly robots.txt file implemented.

 

SEO website development within a robots.txt file includes multiple factors. One factor includes reducing the crawl budget and index blog. Another factor is giving you more control over what will show up in SERPs and what should be ignored or inaccessible by organic traffic. Lastly, they help ensure the right pages are being followed or indexed. Optimizing your crawl budget makes it more likely for pages that matter most to be crawled or indexed. Make sure building SEO for your website includes creating an SEO-friendly robots.txt file.

Develop a mobile-responsive website

Since 2018, Google has considered mobile-friendly websites as mandatory. In fact, websites that don’t have a mobile-responsive version will not show up high in the search results, even for desktop. Because of the Mobile First Index, that means the Google crawlers will index a mobile site first before the desktop version. Even if a desktop website gets more traffic. This means it should look good from a mobile device and should load quickly and function well on a phone, iPad, or computer screen. Incorporating all these elements already helps you build your website with SEO in mind.

Optimize for site speed

Another thing that SEO and web developers need to keep at the forefront of their minds is site speed optimization. Site speed is crucial and developing sites need to meet the Core Web Vital standards to be successful. Page speed directly affects SEO rankings and is a crucial exponent of positive user experience. There are multiple factors to help optimize and improve site speed. Some of these factors that are important to avoid are:

 

 

• Excessive third-party scripts

 

• Large files and content blocks

 

• Unused / dead JavaScript or CSS

 

Other factors that reduce site speed can include shared hosting. When your site doesn’t load fast enough, users will find another place to get their information faster.

 

Lazy loading can also help you to improve your Pagespeed. This means that certain larger elements of a web page like a video or an image don’t load until someone starts to scroll down the page. These large elements take time to load, so if you have a lot of them on a page, it can slow it down. So ask your web developer to introduce lazy loading if you find that page speed is slow for your website. You can learn more about your site speed through the Google tool.

Fix broken links

Everyone knows how annoying it is to click on a link on a website and have it take you somewhere unrelated, or worse, to a page that’s not even relevant or gives you a 404 error. Broken links make for a terrible user experience, that you can get knocked for with the new Google Page Experience Update.

 

If you find you have broken links, it’s important to fix them immediately. Even if the web page is no longer valid, you shouldn’t just delete them because that could cause other problems if those pages are linked elsewhere on the web. Instead, they need to be redirected to the next best page pertaining to what the searcher may be looking for. Have your web developer implement 301 redirects quickly so that broken pages don’t just sit around. The longer the broken link stays around, the worse it is for SEO and user experience.

Assign meta titles and descriptions

It’s really helpful to have meta titles and descriptions assigned on a website right from the start. Rather than letting Google auto-populate what they will if it’s left empty. Sometimes SEO specialists don’t get a chance to visit this for a month or more because of other high priority items needing to be addressed first. When developers build websites with SEO in mind, please remember to assign meta titles and descriptions. Certain tools, like Yoast, let you establish fields that will generate a title for you based on the title of the page or other additional factors.

 

Best practices for title tags include:

 

• Incorporating the focus keyword of the page

 

• Keywords should be at the beginning of the title if possible

 

• Don’t exceed 60 characters if you can avoid it

 

• Use dividers like a – or a | to separate the title and the brand

 

• Add in brackets or numbers that can capture a searcher’s attention and increase CTR

 

• Be consistent across pages

Follow a proper header hierarchy

When adding styling elements to the different headers of a website, remember that SEO professionals use headers in a different manner. Most of the best SEO practices advise websites to follow a proper header hierarchy. And while search engines aren’t as strict about this as they once were, it’s still a technical SEO aspect that’s good to follow.

 

The hierarchy of proper headers starts off with an H1, then to a H2, H3, H4, etc. For H1 tags, this is considered your title. It should be the largest header on the site page and there should only be one. From there your H2s should be the main topics you want to highlight or talk about. Your H3s should go into the details of what you’re highlighting in your H2s.

 

header hierarchy for SEO

 

While making the page organized with headers helps your SEO, it also makes it look visually appealing on your site.

SEO and Web Design Fundamentals

SEO and web design are two elements that can work together to create even more value for a website. Keeping your website SEO friendly is no easy task, but never impossible. Here are a few SEO and web design fundamentals for you to start with.

Design a mobile-responsive website

So what makes up a mobile friendly or mobile responsive site? It means that it’s just as user friendly for someone to visit from their phone versus a computer screen. When designing a website, you need to design with mobile in mind. Google punishes websites that are not mobile friendly. SEO and web design go hand in hand because a web designer is designing a good experience that a web developer executes on.

 

A web designer needs to design things to look good for a smart phone screen, a tablet screen, and a desktop. When the Google algorithm detects a mobile-friendly version of a website with elements that don’t overlap, good font size, and more, it will consider that site to be mobile responsive. Web developers should also make sure all photos or elements do not overlap or get cut off. It impacts factors such as your text, which should have a minimum font size of 16 px. Anything smaller than that and it becomes hard to read. The web design should also avoid clickable elements like links for forms that are too close together.

Clean and intuitive navigation

The navigation of a website is one of the most important elements of any website in general. This goes for any menu items at the top of a website, in a hamburger menu, or in the footer. The design needs to take several elements into consideration to make up a successful navigation. That includes simplicity and easy to understand elements. It needs to be intuitive with current best practices. Hamburger menus are not considered best practices right now for desktop navigation, but are considered great practice for mobile and tablet size screens.

 

Another great SEO and web design practice is to include keywords in your navigation. Like ‘Local SEO Services’ is a keyword that Boostability works for. As a result, we have a page dedicated to it that sits in our website navigation. Keywords in a navigation that lead to a page that also includes that keyword as an H1 tag is great SEO practice.

 

If you have a website with a lot of pages, it’s also a good idea to implement a mega menu. So if you hover over a main navigation item, more options show up below it! This really helps improve the user experience and allows you to design more helpful pages for a user. There’s also things called Orphan pages. These are just web pages that exist on a website, but don’t exist in the footer or main navigation of the website. Orphan pages are not SEO best practice, so make sure to incorporate every web page for a site into your navigation. This does not include articles or blogs which are considered a different kind of page.

Create an SEO and web design-friendly URL

Having an SEO and web design-friendly URL is easier than meets the eye. There are certain aspects to a URL that need to be considered. One of those factors includes the length of the URL. You want to keep it concise while also making it descriptive. Another factor includes avoiding weird symbols and numbers in the URL. It makes sense for directory sites to do this (most profiles are assigned a numerical ID), but it doesn’t make sense for the average site to use them. Another factor is being intuitive and matching your URL with the content. Doing this gives an introduction to the user about what they are about to read or gain access to. Lastly, using and adding keywords is very additive to your SEO if you’re able to add them into the URL. Utilizing these tips will help make URLs less frustrating for you and your SEO and web design.

Avoid huge blocks of text

It’s a common SEO myth that long-form content ranks better on SERPs (search engine results pages). What they have found is that the long-form content that is ranking high in SERPs generally has more quality backlinks. This makes sense because you can incorporate a lot of valuable information, data, and visual assets into a piece that’s 1,000 words versus one that’s 250.

 

So from an SEO perspective, long-form content does have a role to play in a campaign. But from a web design perspective, it’s not ideal. In order to meet the best practices for both SEO and web design, huge blocks of text are a no-go. What should you do instead?

 

Use headers! Use images! Use videos! Use anything that would enhance the user experience without removing valuable text that’s needed for spiders to crawl and index. It’s a simple yet effective way to boost the user experience of a page, make it easier for people to read and digest the information, and improve user engagement.

Incorporate anchor links into content

We’ve mentioned several times throughout this guide about the importance of user experience. To the point where you don’t just want to make sure your website visitors have a good experience. If you don’t design a good experience, Google will actually dock you in the rankings. User experience is an important SEO ranking factor now more than ever.

 

In your content, sites that give answers to questions immediately, or as quickly as possible, are rewarded with higher rankings. More and more sites are using TLDR summaries (too-long-didn’t-read), table of contents, and anchor links for users to click on a link to be taken to their section of interest immediately and find their answers faster. And such sites are among those that are winning in the latest series of algorithm updates.

Optimize images for site speed

Site speed is a very important factor for SEO and optimizing your images can help improve your site speed. Here are a few tips when it comes to optimizing your images for better site speed:

 

• Don’t use overly large file sizes for your images. It slows down your site speed and you and your users don’t want that.

 

• Avoid generic naming that’s automatically assigned. Name the file sizes something that’s descriptive to what the image is and add keywords if possible.

 

• Use plugins like WPSmush to further compress image files to an optimized size. This results in better site speed.

 

These tips will help not only improve the images on your site, but a variety of other SEO factors as well.

Assign image alt text

SEO and web design can work together easily and effectively when it comes to images. When web designers are creating visual assets or finding stock photos to be used on a website, it can be easy for them to just assign an image alt text to the photo so it’s not published without one.

 

Alt Text example image

 

If possible, add keywords into the image alt text to fulfill an SEO need as well. However, always lean on the side of being natural and describing what the image is. Image alt text primarily serves as an aid for the visually impaired, and to help Google understand the visual elements of a page. Essentially, alt text is a description of an image so the visually impaired can understand it.  Websites need to have image alt text in order to remain ADA compliant. If not, they can face penalties and lawsuits.

Keep your tags and categories organized

Tags and categories, also known as taxonomies, are an excellent way to organize your content and make it easy for your site visitors to find the information they need as quickly as possible. Map out how you plan to organize your content (this is common with blog articles). It’s recommended not to create excessive tags or categories because that can have an opposite effect on your user experience and it can become overwhelming to manage.

 

Therefore, keep it simple. Keep it to a minimum. And make it intuitive. There’s no magic number to how many categories and tags you should use. That will depend on what you can manage effectively and efficiently. You’ll see some sites that have five tags and others that have ten. Just remember that the main goal of SEO and web design working together is to create the best user experience possible.

Is SEO for web developers and web designers impossible?

We’ve gone through a lot of pieces in this guide. In order to be fully successful in SEO, you need to keep a lot of things in mind, including the elements we’ve had in this list, and many more. There are a lot of moving parts to SEO and it can quickly become overwhelming for web developers and web designers, especially if they’re running their own businesses and agencies. There’s a lot of value that SEO can provide and even complement their primary service, but to do it well, things can come with high cost and risk.

 

At Boostability, we offer an SEO Partner Marketing Program that helps your customers find your business online. We know SEO can be overwhelming, let us lend a helping hand and get your business recognized with SEO. As a white label SEO provider, we can help you organize all the SEO moving parts needed to succeed. Not only does SEO provide value, it also becomes a very desirable product to offer. Learn more today about our white label SEO services and how we can have you ready to sell in less than a week.

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