Written by Andrew Scherer on 10 March 2013
As a web designer you have to take into account SEO and how that influences your artistic choices. The actual look, feel and navigability are designed to capture visitors' attention and help them navigate with ease and confidence. Hidden are the design choices that make it easy for the search engines to discover content and purpose and index the site properly. Let's explore some aspects of how SEO affects a web designer's artistic efforts, both for visitors and the search engines.
You can design an attractive site that is also search engine friendly. You want visitors to enjoy their time on your site. An appealing, engaging look, along with ease of navigation is your artistic goals for human visitors. But a search engine cannot "see" a site. Search engines send out their spiders to "crawl" websites and collect content and then store it in their databases. Artistic efforts that benefit SEO take into account both human appeal and search engine requirements.
1. Avoid splash pages
Splash and Flash menus may look pretty, but they tell the search engines nothing about content, because they cannot read the embedded text in Flash or images. Be sure that what your site is about is immediately accessible to the spider bots. They need to know if it is relevant to the searches their users are typing into queries. Instead of a splash page, create a content-rich homepage that will not only facilitate the search engines but also visually engage people.
2. Use relevant anchor text links
Use keywords and variations of LSI keywords for anchor text links. Avoid the use of terms like "click here" or "learn more." Even though those words look like clear and friendly calls to action for visitors, you want the search engines to know what is important about the page and see connections to other pages - on or off site.
3. Friendly URLs
These help both the search engines and visitors to know what the pages are about. Example: domain.com/page-title. Notice the page is not just numbers. Neither human visitors nor spiders will have a clue what a page is about when it is composed of numbers and symbols.
4. Keep post titles to 65 characters or less
Write post titles that are relevant and descriptive but within the 65 character limit, else you risk having the title cut off.
5. Use the image ALT attribute
Search engines can't "see" images. Always fill in the ALT attribute with a relevant description, which can actually help your images to rank. When your visitor rolls over the image, the description pops up for them to see too. An ALT title like "image" or "1364.jpg" makes a site appear incomplete to visitors.
6. Properly employ heading tags
The main topic of the page can be an H1 tag. Subheadings can use H2, H3 and so on as they decrease in importance. Group topics in similar weight under the same tags. Using multiple H1 tags confuses the search engines by watering down the main topic. Several H1 tags on a page may stand out and appear to be attractive design, but they hurt your SEO.
7. Use images intelligently
Images definitely capture your visitors' interest, but high numbers of images do not equal content to the search engines nor do those that don't have relevant alt tags. With the search engines, it is always content, content, content! Find a balance between using enough images to hold your visitors' attention but not allowing them to take the place of content.
8. Consider simplicity
Keep the homepage and additional pages tightly focused. Resist the urge to crowd them with banners, advertisements, lots of colors, fonts, video and audio. Use your artistic skills to know when less is more, so as not to muddle the main topic or the call to action. Simplicity means easier navigation, means longer time spent on a page. Subtract out everything non-essential to a page's focus. Develop a consistent and uncomplicated method of linking, naming and page layout. Some SEO experts say they have seen sites lose ranking when more features were added to pages that were previously performing well.
On the whole, never forget that a site's artistic design is ultimately for people, not the search engines. Engaged visitors spend more time reading a site they enjoy and will come back to it, and link to it. A good grasp of how SEO affects a web designer's artistic efforts yields visitors who click. The SEO practices you implement in site design to keep the search engines happy should be invisible. The visible artistic choices you make are what will wow the person landing at the site and what will keep them there and that is what boosts rank and traffic - the goal of good SEO.
Andrew Scherer - www.seomcompany.com