Website designer designing a website

The hard truth is that most sites on the internet are improperly designed and developed for optimum search engine visibility and decent ranking.

This is actually good news for you. If you take action on the points we're about to go over in this post, you'll not only improve your website's search engine indexability and positioning but also significantly increase your amount of targeted traffic, which will eventually lead to more sales.

Why Are Most Websites Poorly Designed for Search Engines?

Well — and we're going to be very blunt here — YOU are usually the problem! Most entrepreneurs and businesses are too centered on their corporate or personal images, products, services, and preferences that they neglect to design with search engines in mind.

And in many cases, business owners reject modern user interface/user experience (UI/UX) standards because they refuse to let go of their preferences and biases.

Now we're not saying that you shouldn't have input on how you want your site to look and what content should be published on it. What we are saying is that you should not be so attached to how you think (or what you think your customers think) your site should be laid out or designed.

If your plan is to generate lots of "free" traffic from search engines, which is higher converting than paid traffic, then you should make sure your website is built upon modern, solid fundamental search engine optimization principles.

What Do Search Engines Want to See on a Website?

Search engines vary in the way they rank your website in a search query. Some search engines place primary emphasis on the text within your title tags. Other search engines place emphasis on the main ideas presented in all of your text on a single web page. Also, some search engines place a high emphasis on the text you submitted in their "Description" field. How and where you place your text, both in the copy your visitors see and within the HTML tags your visitors do not see, will affect your ranking.

And here's a pro tip — if you're going to design your website to a particular search engine's requirements and standards, we highly recommend that you start with Google. Not only is this currently the top search engine (and most highly trafficked site) on the Internet, but if you rank high in Google, chances are that you will rank well in alternative search engines. This is because Google has the most complex and advanced ranking algorithm. If your website is properly optimized for Google, then you most likely have met all the preferences and requirements for indexing and optimal placement on other search engines.

We will cover the following areas that are critical in the design and development of your website for better search engine ranking:

  • Site infrastructure
  • Keyword research and selection
  • Keyword placement
  • Keyword frequency
  • Links & navigation architecture
  • Site statistics

Build a Solid Site Infrastructure

To set yourself up for the best possible success, you'll want to make sure that your website is built upon solid ground, not sand.

What do we mean by that?

Your site MUST have the following:

  • Clean, optimized code
  • Responsive design based on mobile-first principles
  • An SSL certificate
  • Trust factors: privacy policy, terms and conditions, etc.
  • An HTML and XML sitemap
  • Fast loading times with optimized images and visual stability

It's best that a qualified developer or development team take care of the aforementioned technical SEO points. Any missteps here can mean the difference in being indexed by search engines or penalized.

Most businesses will try to go the cheap route and pay a freelancer or family member anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars to create a website. Usually, the developer does not have the skill set to satisfactorily resolve many of the technical SEO issues, especially when it comes to site speed.

We recommend refraining from skimping in this area, especially if you want your website to do its intended job of bringing in qualified leads and sales for your business.

One last thing — many so-called SEO companies will try to sell you on off-page SEO tactics like link building, or start with on-page activities like content optimization. Don't fall for it. Technical SEO should ALWAYS be the first step. Make sure your website's foundation is solid first before moving on to on-page and off-page SEO tactics.

Proper Keyword Research and Selection

It's super important to select the best, most relevant keywords for your industry, as well as keywords you believe your potential customers will use to find you. Guess what? This requires careful research.

So where do you start? We recommend starting with your company's printed materials. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the words or terms that you use over and over?
  • When you speak to new and current customers on the phone or interact with via email, what questions do they frequently ask and what words do they use? Also, ask your customers how they would find you on the Internet.
  • What keywords or phrases do you see recurring on your close competitors' websites?

With your list of keywords and phrases, go to Google and type in those keywords one by one. Look at the top results and see how your competitors rank for that particular search query. Click through the top results, especially those of your direct competitors, and study the content. This will give you clues on how you need to structure your content in order to outrank your competition.

How to Strategically Place Keywords on Your Web Pages

Another area of equal importance is keyword placement. The text in your title tag is one of the most important elements for ranking well in search engines. The text in your titles should be descriptive, using the words and terms related to your industry, and should accurately reflect the content of each web page.

For optimum search engine positions, your keywords need to appear at the top of your web pages. But, before you start designing a particular web page, ask yourself if you have strategically placed your keywords within your title tags, meta-tags, headings, graphic images alt tags, and the first paragraph within your body tag. If not, you definitely need to go back to the drawing board.

Use Optimal Keyword Frequency for Better Ranking

Keyword frequency and keyword prominence are important to most search engines. Designing and coding your site with keywords in the right locations and the right frequency is an art form. Get it right and you will reap the rewards of higher volumes of targeted organic traffic. Get it wrong and you'll have a ghost town of a website.

Take caution! Although keywords need to appear frequently on your web pages, if they appear too frequently, your site will be penalized for keyword stuffing (also known as "spamming the index") and could be removed permanently from the search index.

Also, some search engines ignore meta-tags. Thus, if you have included your keywords in your meta-tags but have not placed them elsewhere in the body of your page content, you won't rank at all for the keyword. In fact, you may get penalized for doing so.

Only a select few websites can get in the top 10 search result slots of all the major search engines for a particular keyword or keyword phrase. We cannot emphasize this enough: if you hire anyone (a submission service, an individual, an online promotion service, etc.) to do the services we've described above, they need to have strong HTML/CSS/JavaScript experience, online marketing, and excellent copywriting skills. You definitely do not want your website to be permanently banned from a search engine or directory due to ignorance or lack of experience.

Furthermore, submission services usually do just that: submit. Many do not perform keyword research, the HTML coding, and copywriting necessary to get a site optimally placed within the search engines. Don't get scammed! Ask a lot of questions before handing over any money.

Carefully Plan Your Links and Site Architecture

Placing keywords throughout your web pages is useless as a search engine marketing strategy if the search engine spiders are unable to crawl the text on your web pages. Therefore, always have a link architecture (commonly known as a sitemap) on your site that the search engine spiders can follow.

You need two forms of sitemaps on your site:

  1. An HTML formatted sitemap, which is useful for your regular site visitors, and
  2. An XML sitemap, which is preferred by most search engine spiders

Frequently Review Your Site Statistics and Analytics

For the first few months after you have your website submitted to the major search engines, you may not see much traffic. This is because indexing takes time, especially with Google. It may take 3-6 months (yes, SEO is a marathon rather than a sprint)

If you look at your site reports with your visitor statistics, which should do frequently, you will see when the search engines spider and index your site. We highly recommend connecting Google Analytics and Google Search Console to your site. These Google services are free.

Hopefully, because you have been thoughtful enough to give potential customers a reason to return to your site again and again, people will bookmark your site, and your web statistics will show an increase in a "No Referrer" category under referral URLs. Your site reports should show you where your potential customers are coming from (i.e. which search engine or site they used to find you) and which keywords they used to find you.

After your site has been listed in the search engines and directories for a few to several months, review your site statistics and determine where the majority of your traffic comes from. Then focus your advertising efforts on those directories, sites, and search engines. You get better sales from targeted marketing than from spreading your net too wide.

Closing Thoughts

Lastly, the saying "Content is King" still rings true. You can increase traffic to your website, but if (1) people do not like what they see, (2) you do not offer potential customers what they want to buy, or (3) you do not give customers incentive to stay and/or bookmark your site, they will click off of your website as quickly as they clicked on to it.

As a business owner, your time is better spent working on and growing your business. Getting deep into the grunt work of developing your website AND making sure it is attractive to both customers and search engines is a daunting task best left to professionals.

While you can do it on your own, and in some cases it might make sense to do so, why not save the time and headache of learning the intricacies of development and SEO — many of which take considerable time to master — and hire a team of professionals that can get your site in top shape and making sales sooner rather than later?

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