Custom Website Design and SEO:
What Design-Only Companies Often Don't Tell You
Content defines your website. But your potential client is not the only visitor who is reading your content. Your site's content should also be focused on its non-human visitors: search engine robots.
That’s because approximately 6 in 10 adults use a search engine every single day (2011 PEW Internet Study). Today there are nearly 6 billion searches per day on Google. Search engines drive more traffic to content sites than any other source, beating social media more than 3 times over (Outbrain, 2011).
Every single day, millions of potential customers are searching the web, using search engines like Google to purchase products and services…including yours. 61 percent of online shoppers use a search engine to find what they’re looking for.
In short, if you want to have an online presence, your web site must be search-engine friendly, and the only way to have a search-engine friendly website is to have it designed by a company that also know a thing or two about search engines.
You shouldn’t have your house built by a contractor who only knew how to lay concrete. And you shouldn’t have your website built by a firm that only does design. Here’s why.
Reason #1: Keywords
Search engines—such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing—send “crawlers” (also known as “bots” or “spiders”) throughout the web to index content. The crawlers file the pages that they index through a complex process of assigning keywords and storing that data in mega datacenters. Instead of storing billions of web pages in a single database, search engines have millions and millions of smaller databases for particular keyword terms or phrases.
So, when a web user comes to a search engine and types in a phrase, the search engine knows exactly which web page best matches that phrase.
If you want to sell your products or services on the web—let’s say, “non-latex balloons” or “industrial machine repair, Cleveland, Ohio”—the search engines should think that your website best matches that phrase. Only a firm that knows how to design a site and how to optimize a site can do that.
Do you know what key phrases your potential customers are using to find your products or services? Do you know which phrases offer the greatest return on investment? If you’d like to bring traffic from a dozen key phrases, do you have a specific page for each of those phrases?
Do the content, Title Tag, and META description tag of your web page include the specific phrase “non-latex balloons”? Are there numerous, quality internal and external links that point to your website with that phrase? Web-design-only companies just don’t ask those questions.
Reason #2: Index-able Content
Are search engines finding the content, images (.gif, .jpg, .png, etc), videos, audio content, or Java plug-ins on your website?
On a web page, what you see is not necessarily what the search engine sees. Though your website may look perfect to you—well-organized, a beautiful design, scrolling pictures in the header that captivate the eye—the search engine’s crawlers see the page in a more basic form.
(A helpful tool to see the world as Google sees it is to view the “Cached” version of your web page, typically on the search engine results page.)
There’s a whole list of things that search engine crawlers can’t see and will, therefore, ignore. For example, one of the easiest ways to make sure that the content a site displays to its visitors is visible to search engines is to put it in the HTML text on the page—not off the page. This is a simple issue, but you wouldn’t believe how many design-only firms miss it.
Reason #3: Site Structure
Is your site setup in such a way that a search engine can navigate it? Can the Google Spiders easily browse the pathways of your website? If your site’s structure prevents search engines from accessing information on your site, you’re probably losing more than just visitors. You’re losing money.
Think of your website like a department or grocery store. Nowhere in the world does a properly run superstore put the fresh fruit in the toy section or the New-Release DVDs in the frozen foods section. If there is no rhyme or reason to how the store is laid out, customers will be frustrated and will probably not come back. In many ways, it doesn’t matter if a store has the lowest prices or if it has the widest inventory of goods.
In a grocery store, there are bright signs hanging from the ceiling with clear signposts (Aisle 3: pasta, bread, and spaghetti sauce) and employees whose sole job is to direct traffic to help customers navigate through the layout of the store (“May I help you with anything?”). Even cashiers are trained to ask customers if they “found everything okay.” In fact, there’s a whole science behind the layout of department stores. (Have you ever noticed that fresh flowers and fruits are in the front of the store and the restrooms are in the back?)
What many website design only companies do not understand is an improperly structured site—similar to an improperly laid-out grocery store—prevents search engines from accessing entire portions of the site…and there is almost no reason to invest time and energy and money into a website that search engines can’t access.
Your site’s structure enables search engines to understand the topic of your site. It decides how easily search engines will find and index content relevant to your site’s topic.
Are the names of your site’s sections and pages key-word optimized? Do they clearly reflect what those sections are actually about? Are any of the categories redundant? Is the hierarchy of pages logical, balanced, and organized?
In the end…
So, how important is it to have your company’s web site created by a custom website design company that is also fluent in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
The short answer is, well, very.
Websites cost time, energy, and money. Don’t leave it to chance.
The simple truth about the Internet is that a non-optimized site is a terrible investment, for it misses out on almost all that the web has to offer. Going with the guys who only know how to design websites is a waste of time, energy, and money.