We’ve covered some aspects of SEO in a number of previous articles, however people in the design and development world are still pretty hesitant about the whole idea of SEO.
Is it really worth the effort to build a site with some SEO principles in mind? I mean, it will obviously take slightly more time than neglecting it completely, right?
In this post, I’m going to show you 5 reasons why learning basic SEO is essential for a website designer or WordPress developer. And how you (and your clients if you’re a freelancer) can benefit from implementing some optimization to your sites.
1. SEO is the real deal
SEO does not have the best publicity online. There are people who take part in some black hat techniques, spam the search engines, build link farms or submit their sites to existing ones, buy paid links, etc. All for the purpose of getting higher in the search engine results.
All these SEOs make it seem that a new person in the world of SEO is doomed right from the get-go. As a result, people decide to neglect SEO completely.
(And they only get encouraged by those who say that publishing great content is the best SEO … that you will do just fine if you focus all your efforts on content. No. Publishing great content is not the best SEO. At least not by itself.)
In reality, however, SEO is not this exclusive practice that works only for professionals. If you implement some basic SEO principles to the site you’re working on, you are sure to give it a better start in Google.
Let me say that again, on-page SEO optimization always works. There’s no site online that can’t have its rankings improved by working on its on-page SEO.
So I guess the main message here is this: Don’t neglect SEO because it simply works.
2. SEO helps you to create a user-friendly site
This may be counterintuitive, but SEO is not only about being search-engine-friendly.
The thing is that when you’re working on creating an optimized site it will inevitably be more user-friendly as well.
Simply take a look at what some basic SEO tells you to do. For instance:
- Write descriptive page titles containing keywords – remember that keywords are not one of Google’s inventions, keywords are used by real people, so showing keywords in titles will make it easier for them to identify the topic of the page.
- Provide clear navigation with visible links – do I even have to explain why this is valuable for the visitor…?
- Use <H> tags in your content – <H> tags are the most visible pieces of text on an HTML page. If you’re using them, you can divide the sub-sections of your post visually making it a lot easier to follow.
Besides, Google is pretty open about their approach, saying that sites that provide good user experience will get good rankings. Therefore, good user experience = good SEO.
3. Clearer purpose of the site
When you’re working on a new site, discovering its purpose or main goal can be tough. Especially if the site is meant for a customer, not you personally. Keywords can help you a lot here.
SEO always starts with keyword research. The idea is to find keywords that are valuable from an SEO point of view and then to optimize the site with these keywords in mind.
Once you have the set of keywords you want to rank for, the purpose of the site becomes very clear. If, for example, a keyword like “learn guitar chords” has been chosen as the best one for the site you’re working on, then it pretty much sets the whole site to go in a concrete direction. You know that most of the content will be about guitar chords and guitar playing in general.
Some clients, especially first time web design clients, find it hard to identify the main purpose of their sites and the content they will be publishing. If you explain what keywords are, you will surely reach a better understanding and have a smoother time working on the site later on.
In a word: it’s all about focus.
4. Create better structured sites
This is somewhat similar to one of the previous points where we talked about providing good user experience. But the structure of a site is not entirely the same thing.
User experience is about your site looking good on the outside, structure is about looking good on the inside.
For instance, SEO teaches us to build sites that:
- Feature the main content block as high up the structure as possible.
- Don’t include unneeded tags.
- Base the structure on <DIV> elements.
- Use a correct HTML structure in general (error free).
If we take care of all this, we’re making sure that Google can read our site’s contents with no problems.
Additionally, a well-structured site is one that your visitors can access from whatever device they wish. Good HTML simply looks good on every device.
5. You will set yourself for success
The thing is that you never know what will happen with your site in the future. I mean, just because right now you’re not convinced to take care of SEO doesn’t meant that someday you won’t change your opinion. And if you don’t have an SEO-friendly site from the get-go, implementing some optimizations further down the road will be significantly more difficult.
Let me give you another perspective on this. If you’re working on a site for a client, this becomes even more important. Clients like to get effects.
At first, they do pay you for the overall look and feel of the site, but then they expect things to happen … things like people visiting their site, buying their products and such. If none of this happens guess who will be blamed…
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that an SEO-friendly site will be successful by definition, but I am saying that an SEO-friendly site will have a much easier time pursuing high rankings, which can very well result in it being successful.
Actually, there’s no arguing here, as a designer you just have to provide an SEO-optimized site to your client. Doing anything less than that is just bad service.
Basic SEO know-how
I hope that by know you are slightly more convinced about the value of SEO (if you weren’t convinced from the get-go). I’ve been talking a lot about these mysterious “basic SEO” practices in this post, but I haven’t actually given you any concrete advice.
SEO is a big topic so the best advice I can give you is to check out one of the popular SEO blogs, like SEOMoz, for example. Those guys provide high quality SEO tips every day.
Also, when launching a new site (either for yourself or for a client) make sure to work with quality themes (hint! hint!) and plugins that will make your SEO work a lot easier. Creating an SEO-friendly code from the ground up can be tough…
When it comes to plugins you really need just one – WordPress SEO by Yoast. On top of many features and functionalities it also has great default settings that should get you going immediately.
Now it’s your turn to speak. Do you focus on SEO when working on a new WordPress site? What’s your current approach?