How combining SEO and web design can boost your marketing efforts

Your brand should have an attractive website, but don't forget to make the search engines happy.

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Credit: Magdalena Petrova

When a business kicks off a new website, careful consideration usually goes into its design. Attractiveness, professionalism, and usability are top concerns, all geared toward providing visitors easy access to the information they’re seeking. But all of that hard work is wasted if customers never see a business’s website in the first place.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been the foundation of every business’s content marketing strategy. With the right text on a page, it features prominently in search results, beating out competitors for customer attention. But good SEO design starts with the layout of a website and grows. Whether your business is currently designing your website or not, it’s important to ensure it’s getting the best search results possible.

“A professional web designer keeps up with the latest search algorithm changes,” says Abby Olson, director of SEO for Snap Agency, a Minneapolis web design firm. “Even a few small changes can push a business up in search results, reaching customers who wouldn’t have ever learned about that business otherwise.”

Here are a few things businesses can do to ensure their sites are search engine ready.

Image SEO

The first step toward optimizing your images for search algorithms is through alt-tagging each picture on your site. This will provide additional content to the search engines as they search your site for text. But image SEO goes beyond tagging. If your image size is too large, it slows down your page load times, which negatively affects rankings, so it’s important to scale your images down where necessary. You should also keep SEO in mind when naming your images, choosing keywords that match the terms your customers are likely to use when searching for the type of products or services you offer.

Remove content blocks

You may have the best intentions, but that wall you put in place to block access to content could be hurting your rankings. This includes sections you lock down to members only, forms you require be filled out before content can be viewed, and “pay walls” that provide content only after someone has paid to access it. If you do need to block sections of your site, make sure you have several sections open to the public and optimized, especially your landing page.

Regularly update

Google’s goal is to remain useful to the customers that use its services every day. For this reason, up-to-date, current information is prioritized over pages that have remained stagnant year after year. Set up a section of your most important pages that you can regularly update with the latest news or images of your newest products. You should also have a blog and assign someone to create new content for it on a regular basis. This will bring yet another opportunity to incorporate keywords that speak to search algorithms.

Optimize your URLs

Another opportunity for SEO comes in the domain name you choose. Even if you already have a URL in place, you can change your search results by choosing search-friendly page names. A URL like www.yoursite.com/salon-services will satisfy requests from customers looking for salon services, for instance. You can also incorporate geographic information into your URLs to help with location-based searches.

Make it mobile

An increasing number of customers now conduct searches using their mobile devices. Google realizes this and penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Good optimization means choosing responsive web design as a foundational step. Additionally, though, you should ensure your site setup addresses the way customers are likely to look for your site, including ensuring your content answers questions asked through voice recognition. Experts recommend incorporating a FAQ section on your site to satisfy today’s question-based voice searches.

Speed it up

Even the most attractive, usable site won’t perform well if your page load times are too slow. Google penalizes slow-loading sites but even if customers do find your page, they’re likely to grow impatient if they can’t access the information they need in a timely manner. In addition to server-level issues, elements built into your page could be slowing things down, including plugins, JavaScript, and social sharing buttons.

Your website’s layout and design could make a big difference in whether or not customers can find you. It’s important to conduct regular audits to ensure your page’s design isn’t hurting your company’s marketing efforts.

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