When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, practices range from legitimate methods playing to the nuances of search engine sensibilities to those of black-hat operators searching for short-cuts through the results ether — no matter the methodology employed the goal remains identical: to achieve top rankings among result leaders in a game of musical chairs in which the music rarely stops. It’s a scrap with your competition and a beast unto itself. The key to your conquering this beast is to arm yourself with knowledge and most importantly: the right developer and optimization strategy.
As with many things, it begins with a first impression.
Once a website is built and launched, optimizing that website for search is undeniably valuable. With SEO the adage of better late than never is always apt. Still, developing the website from the ground up with it’s Search Engine Optimization Strategy in mind is ideal. Think of it as putting your best foot forward. We all know that in business or life making a good first impression is a strong step towards a successful relationship. Making a quality first impression with search crawlers can be an equally important step towards a successful SEO strategy.
Of course, all that is done wrong in the beginning can be undone later but at a cost. You can avoid spending additional time, money and resources on your Search Engine Optimization by ensuring that you and your developer follow a few key steps when developing your new website.
Involve a Developer Who Understands SEO
If you don’t understand the game and it’s rules, then how will you play?
There is no denying that SEO is a sort of digital alchemy where novice to expert Developers mix science with educated guesses, seeking ever higher rankings. Indeed, not every web design or development studio has extensive experience in Search Engine Optimization which is why the key is to commission a developer that can demonstrate success in the field. Request an example or two where your developer has, or has helped their client to, climb to the first page of Google and Bing.
You need not hire a SEO-centric developer but your developer should be familiar with the intricacies and nuances of SEO. Ask your developer what their own key search terms are (excluding the words used in their own URL as those are the easiest to rank for), then search those terms yourself. Have they achieved a first-page ranking for their own search terms?
Search Optimized, by Design
Any developer worth their salt will consider the optimization of your website throughout the design process.
As your designer works their way through their creative process it is important that they consider how each element of your website will interact with search engines. Some of the key features or methods your designer should implement when appropriate are:
- Machine-readable Navigation (CSS, XHTML, etc.) and Graphic Content (Cufon – a function that replaces traditional web text with smooth machine-readable graphical text).
- Well-Structured Architecture (For example: Cars > Sports Cars > Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin).
- Heading Design (H1, H2, H3).
- Cufon Content Pieces Containing Key Words That You Would Like to Rank For.
- Image Search Optimization
- Avoid Overly Repetitive Content.
- Where Appropriate (such as in Blogs) Feature Date and Time Stamps.
- Consider Using an SEO-Friendly Platform (WordPress).
Your website design should be user-friendly to more than your users, it should be friendly to search engine crawlers, allowing it to be easily indexed.
Functional Search Engine Optimization (fSEO)
Take advantage of the content you already create.
Now that your website has been conceptualized with it’s search optimization in mind it is time to consider how you might further impress upon search engines that your website is not only relevant but regularly updated. Work with your developer to identify processes within your day-to-day that already or can potentially produce date-stamped content for your website.
For example, do you publish news or events to your website? Do you add products to your store regularly, or utilize social media to spread awareness for your brand or products? Do your day-to-day activities produce photos, videos or other visuals? Do you use a ticket system, email or a growing FAQ for customer support? Talk to your developer about how your business operates and identify processes that already do, or could easily, create valuable content.
Your Developer, if properly versed in Functional Search Engine Optimization (fSEO), can help you to take advantage of these existing processes of content creation to automate your website in such a way that search engines will identify you as an active and regularly updated resource without adding to your workload.
Traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A game of musical chairs in which the music rarely stops.
Search Engine Crawlers are automated pieces of functionality that crawl the web on behalf of Search Operators identifying quality, timely, and authoritative content on websites using a number of tools and variables. These variables are as varied as they are plentiful which is to say they are very varying and plenty plentiful. Some key traditional elements of Search Engine Optimization include:
- Your Domain Name (When your website address includes some or all of your search terms you have a head start on your competition who are not so fortunate).
- Link Building (Linking to well ranked websites, having websites link to you).
- Content Creation (Creating unique content relevant to, and including, your key search terms).
- Your Social Media Presence.
- Search Engine Submissions (Website, Location/Map, etc).
While not all sites are blessed with Top-level Domain (TLD) names, link building and content creation are two key areas your web developer can provide you with suggestions as to optimizing your new website for search ranking.
Beware of Shortcuts
Black-hat operators promise the moon but more often than not leave you banned from Google, Bing and others with a tedious path back to relevance which you will walk alone.
Both fSEO and traditional SEO take time to succeed. Search Engine operators want to provide their viewers with the most appropriate results and as such they look for a track record of reliability from your website. The key advantage in fSEO is that it is efficient. It saves you time and money by taking advantage of processes you already have. Consider the costs and benefits of each, discuss this with your developer then if at all possible: be prepared to execute before your website launches.
If you’ve been following the links in this article you may have noticed that iDreamDigital ranks on the first page of Google for our own key search terms, including Web Design in Victoria as well as Web Development in Victoria and many variations of the two (Victoria web design and development, Victoria web design, Victoria website design, etc). We’ve accomplished this using a combination of the methods above.
Unless it is a natural authority your website will require an on-going SEO or fSEO strategy consisting of some or all of the above. Discuss your expectations with your developer — help them to understand what your goals are. Once a strategy is settled-upon, be prepared for a fight. It’s been said that picking key words is picking a fight and when it comes to your business: you should never pick a fight that you are not prepared to win.
If you’ve followed these key steps and engaged a developer who understands SEO, fSEO, your business and your customers you will find that in time you will conqueror the ranks and that ultimately to the victor go the spoils.
UPDATE: Google’s Panda update was a real game-changer. Search string domain names are no longer the factor they once were, and landing pages have been heavily marginalized. As with any game, staying on top of changing rules is key to your success!
Stay tuned to the iDreamDigital blog for future updates on the topic of SEO and more!
iDreamDigital is a fun but focused team of web design & development professionals based out of Victoria, on the gorgeous pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada. For more than ten years we have been providing a full range of web design and development services to our partners and patrons across North America.