Web designers are often in a separate department to the SEO consultants. It is the designers job to make an attractive, user friendly website and the SEO consultants job to prepare the site for the search engines.
Often good web design means a good user experience, which is what the likes of Google wants. However the SEO guys are often left wishing some things had been done differently, so as to please the likes of Google. Below are a few things to keep in mind when creating a new website so that it has the best chance of ranking in Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Use a platform which can easily be customised and edited
There are many platforms for creating sites including Joomla, Drupal, Magento etc… The one which stands out as being the easiest to edit is WordPress. This platform works brilliantly for most types of websites from magazine or news sites to blogs to ecommerce stores.
The reason is because WordPress is so popular. The sheer number of developers creating excellent themes and plugins means that the answer to a functionality question is usually just a quick search away. WordPress is relatively easy for website owners to learn, even if it is just to create the occasional blog post. The cost of excellent themes to use a a base design is around $50, so WordPress can save a lot on design costs too.
Use a design with a responsive theme or a have a mobile version
It is absolutely essential to have a website which looks good on mobile devices. People do not want to have to pinch the screen to enlarge text when visiting a website on their phone. For most sites a responsive design is the way to go. This will automatically re-size the text and other elements on a page depending on the visitor’s screen size. Most new WordPress themes are responsive.
For websites with certain elements such as customised booking forms, responsive design may not be suitable. In these situations you should create a mobile version of the website. You then add a little code telling web browsers when to show the full version and when to show the mobile version of a site. Having a mobile or responsive version may increase rankings for mobile searchers.
Make sure that your website loads as fast as possible
One major ranking factor is page load speed time. This is especially important for people with slow internet connections such as mobile users on the go. Images should be compressed and you should also use a caching plugin (if using WordPress). Upgrading from a shared hosting account to a VPS or dedicated hosting will also help to speed things up. There are web page speed checking websites like Pingdom to help with this.
Allow for meta information to be edited
The basics of on-page SEO is to ensure your keywords feature in the page text and headings on the page. This can be aided by editing the meta tags. It is essential to enable this functionality, which can be done with a plugin like SEO Yoast for WordPress. A good plugin like this will also have other options such as creating sitemaps which can help with indexing in the search engines. It is also important to allow image alt tags to be edited as this can help with SEO too.
Other SEO advice to keep in mind
First and foremost you want a website which is easy to use for visitors. This means a clear menu structure which is easy to understand and navigate. Pages shouldn’t link out to every other page on a website. Instead it is better to group similar pages together under one menu item. This also helps to retain pagerank on the more important pages.
When you do want to highlight a certain page to Google it can be linked to from within another pages’ text. By using a keyword for that page you may also help improve it’s rankings in the search engines. For example if you wanted to rank for SEO Cheshire you could include a link with that phrase like so: SEO Cheshire. This may just help people find the linked page when searching for an SEO consultant in Cheshire.
When SEO-ing a page you can use the Google Keyword planner to find the most searched for and relevant phrases. You can then take these phrases and include them in your copy and meta tags. This should be done in a way which does not hamper the user experience i.e. don’t over do it. The idea is simply to highlight what a page is about so that Google knows what phrases to rank it for.