As I chat with my SEO and web design comrades around Detroit, every once in a while one of them will ask me: why do both SEO and web design? Isn’t there enough business in one or the other that you shouldn’t have to do both?
The answer is probably Net Profit Marketing’s greatest secret, and it’s one that everyone already knows… but no one really thinks about: web design IS SEO.
Clean code is code the search engines can understand.
If you write sloppy code, you’re going to end up confusing the search engine’s crawlers. They’re not going to understand what your site is supposed to be about, and because of that they’re not going to rank you as highly for the most relevant keywords. Keep your artistic twists and flair in the CSS where it won’t bug the spiders, and keep your HTML as simple and readable as possible.
Your homepage is the single most important part of your website.
Your site’s homepage is the key that unlocks the rest of your site to human visitors and to search engine crawlers alike. It should unambiguously tell both humans and crawlers exactly what to expect at the other end of each of the links, and give humans a reason to want to click them.
Speaking of links…links are more than just blue words — they’re SEO in action.
Every link on your site has profound meaning to a search engine crawler. Particularly with the latest Google update (Penguin, for those of you reading this a few years into the future), Google pays attention not just to who is linking to you, but to whom you are linking as well. Anchor text is one of the most crucial tools for telling the search engines what the page on the other end is about, so you should never link to your own site’s pages with generics like “read more” or “click here” — always be specific about what the surfer should expect on the other end of your links.
Title and Description tags are for search engines as well as people.
Every page on your site needs a title tag that describes that page (preferably while working a keyword in as well). A title tag should also give the searchers a clear reason to click it, because it’s what will appear on the search engine listings. The description tag appears underneath the link, and should explain in precise detail what the searcher can expect by clicking on your link.
In the end, web designers should always design with humans in mind — after all, if a human can easily parse your website and figure out what to do next, it’s pretty likely that Google can figure it out, too. But that’s no excuse for web designers to ignore (or, more accurately, fail to properly abuse) the rules of SEO while they create. Every act of web design is an act of SEO as well — and if it’s not being treated as such, it should be.