It’s really surprising to find out that many web designers know nothing about SEO. For those that don’t know, SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” Without it, sites easily get lost in the netherworld of the Net, resulting in few visitors and less business. As a designer, you’re on the front lines of web page creation, so SEO is often your responsibility. You’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with it as much as possible. The question is, do you know your SEO?
If your answer is no, check out the insights and tips below. First, we’ll explore the basics and get a good foundation under our feet. Then we’ll branch out and discover a few important do’s and don’ts. Let’s start with the mechanics.
Simple Search Engine Mechanics
A few different search engines exist, but for purposes of this post, we’ll stick to search engines like Google and Yahoo. These are called web crawler or web spider search engines. Web crawlers are automated robots that spider through the Web collecting specific information about each site.
This data is then sent to an information hub called an index. The index is much like the type you find in most books. It includes the words web crawlers find and where they found them. When someone enters search terms into a search box, the search engine’s job is to match those terms to the information collected in the index.
The best search engines are really good at matching because of the algorithm, or formula they use to weigh the words they find. For example, search engines may assign the greater value to words that occur more often on a site or assign specific values based on whether the words appear in the title, subtitle or metatags. Using the algorithm, search engines then rank the information in its index.
The main objective with SEO is to rank high on the search engine results page. With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few things you should and should not do as a search engine optimizer to achieve this goal.
The Do’s and Don’ts of SEO
Do Make it Easy for the Crawler. Internal linking gets effective listings in the index because it helps web crawlers search your site faster and more efficiently. It’s a good idea to have a page that links to all other pages on your site and to embed text links into the more important ones.
Don’t Be Random. Know that search engines take note of how much or how little words on your site are related, so don’t be random. For instance, creating metatags like “strawberries” with “cream” is better than putting “inkjets” with “hair dye.”
Do Promote Keywords. Keyword density is a term referring to how often a word is found on a page in relation to all other words on the page. Because keywords help readers find the topics you’ve selected, make sure they’re in all the best places, such as the Title Tag, Main Heading, and the body content, but don’t overuse keywords. Some search engines do penalize.
Don’t Disregard Your Audience. We’ve saved the most important bit of advice for last: optimize for your audience. Though search engines do all the work, when it comes to SEO, the audience is still the driving force behind it all. Knowing exactly what your audience cares about can go a long way when selecting keywords and tags, so find out. Conduct a poll or do some research online for keywords that best fit your topics. Let your readers, not the search engines, be your guide.