SEO Web Design is in my opinion the art of balancing search engine optimization and effective design in order to produce truly valuable websites.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is basically a set of rules one follows when developing a website. Rules that when followed properly produce optimal conditions for a website to be found on a search engine results page under the desired search queries.

Web Design requires a broad skill set that crosses over into several technical areas. On the one hand web design requires skills in markup languages such as HTML and CSS. Skills in developmental languages such as PHP, ASP, PERL and JavaScript can be necessary as well. On the other hand web design also, quite obviously, demands skills in traditional design and knowledge of design theory such as color coordination, principals of effective layout, content organization, fonts, and website usability. Other realms of mention would also be accessibility (for the deaf and blind) and mobil display.

My guess would be that out of the bazillion web pages on the internet very few (by percentage) address all of the above aspects effectively.

Many people making websites tend to have an area of expertise in either web design or SEO. Great looking sites that don’t show up in the search engines and crappy looking sites that rank well. I come from the school of make a good looking site and let the client worry about the search engines.

I used to have a “real job” but the company I worked for went belly up. It was a small company which grew REALLY fast then died, a fairly common scenario in this industry. Fortunately I was able to keep in touch with many of our clients after the fall, many of whom had previously relied on me to keep their sites updated. Even though I was able to continue to earn a living as a freelance web designer and web master I saw many of these websites and companies die in a similar manner and it made me realize that something important was missing. TRAFFIC. Without traffic it really doesn’t matter how good a website looks because no one is going to see it. This frustrated me to no end and was the catalyst to my search for how to get it.

Who needs SEO Web Design

I am by no means an SEO expert or a guru but I have definitely picked up a few things along the way. I didn’t go to design school either, however I have built over 300 websites from the ground up for clients that span a very wide range of internet needs and from what I have experienced, most people either just don’t care or they don’t make the connection of how important SEO really is to their business.

There is a meticulous focus on design, “move that one pixel to the left”, “change that color from 246-57-102 to 247-56-102”. After the site is all pretty and tweaking is complete the site is posted and the press releases are sent. Meanwhile the page title, description and keyword meta tags are BLANK (I do this a lot in order to remind myself to ask the client about it later). Recently I tried doing some research myself and when the client got the invoice and saw that I spent an hour doing keyword research they threatened to not pay for it… “the site is about hedge funds, just put that in the title and the keywords thingy, and for the description just put something like expertly managed hedge funds”. ouch…

Bumps on the Road to Effective SEO Web Design

After overhearing a conversation or reading some related article many people discover the concept of keywords and SEO. Then without further research they go about filling in the page title, description, and keyword meta tags. I have seen this hundreds of times; the title is either the URL or the name of the company, the description is a nicely thought out, concise two or three sentences that describe the product or service, and the keywords are precise. Then they proceed to put these on every page, the same exact title, description and keywords on every page. Sometimes they will put a dash in the title and complete the URL such as companyname-about, companyname-contact, etc… Plus the keywords they choose have no relation to what people are actually searching for at the search engines. This is not the best way to go about SEO.

The keywords research tools available to non-programmers today are 1000% better than what was available even three years ago. Still, no one can deny what an immense ocean of words the internet is, so to think that your site will be found because you put one specific word in the keywords meta tag is fairly ridiculous.

No matter how pretty a site design is, you’ve got to work the right keywords or no one will ever see it.

A keyword is what someone types into the box when they are at a search engine such as Google.

SEO is for “robots”, programs (not people) that look at your pages and determine what they are about. They record the content then process it through huge algorithms that determine where it will show up in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

First Steps to Effective SEO Web Design

Use the free Adwords Keyword Tool (Google It) to search for the words that are getting good amounts of monthly search traffic.

  • Find your sites main keyword.
  • Find relevant, supporting, keywords to your business and location
  • Place page keywords in page title, the description and keywords meta tags, the page header, and at least twice in the page content.

SEO no no’s

  • Don’t dilute the relevant keywords by putting non-relevant keywords into the page title, description, and keywords meta tags.
  • Don’t use the same meta description and page title on every page.
  • Don’t stuff keywords into the content for the sake of repatition, this could actually do damage to your search engine ranking.

On-Site and Off-Site Optimization

On-site SEO will optimize your site to be indexed under the correct search terms.

Off-site SEO is what will beat up your competition and move your site to page one on Google for your main if not all you targeted keywords.

Focus on the on-site SEO first. Here are the rules……

  • Focus on one keyword per page. Toss in supporting, related keywords.
  • Use the keyword in the HTML page title tag.
  • Use the keyword in the page header. Using the <h1> or <h2> tag is best practice but not really necessary.
  • Use the keyword in the file name… keyword.html
  • Put the keyword in the content of the page. No need to mention a keyword more than once as was once believed.

That’s all there really is to it.

The big pay off is in off-site SEO and link building.

SEO web design may seem like two separate diciplines however in my humble opinion you really can’t have one without the other.