Are Web Design and SEO at Odds?

This week on the Entireweb Newsletter, there’s an article on Web Design and SEO that talks about how these two elements often clash, with business owners having to make tough decisions between usability, aesthetics, and search engine readiness. I appreciate their taking the time to highlight the importance of SEO for business owners (if there are any left out there who truly don’t understand the seriousness of search!), and especially the section on choosing a company that has a mastery of both disciplines. There are plenty of web designers out there who still don’t seem to get what SEO is (and trust me, we’ve worked on these kinds of sites), and developers who place all of the elements for SEO — h1/h2 tags, meta descriptions, alt tags and such — but don’t seem to grasp how to use keywords in these areas for maximum search value. Of course, the corollary is that there are plenty of SEO-only companies out there that know how to stuff keywords into a page of minimal value which provide good traffic numbers but hardly any user conversions. Either approach will leave your site hugely incomplete, and you wondering where your good money went to. At Hall, we have an integrated development/optimization process that I think results in a much more cohesive site. As an internet marketer and content writer, I’m continually in dialogue with the development team, who know as much about SEO as I do. In fact, we’re already thinking about optimized content, heading elements, and key user conversion areas while we sketch out the initial designs. When the site launches, and my job really kicks in, I know that I have a solid foundation to work with. And trust me, you can tell the difference. Of course, knowing how we do things differently doesn’t necessarily help you if you already have a site where the design and SEO clash. Here are my suggestions on what you can do about that:

  • Design: Look at your site as if you were visiting it for the first time. What attracts your eye? What does the site want you to do, and what do you want to do? If lots of people arrive at your web site and then leave immediately, then it’s likely you have too much or too little information.
  • SEO: What keywords are in the titles of your site? On the pages? Do you have a headline that talks about your company, or mentions the key phrases your customers are likely to search for? Even fairly good marketing copy can completely overlook the need to include search phrases in the content.
  • Design: What impression does the site give you? That of a white-collar business environment? A casual “get your hands dirty” kind of company? Down home and personal? Hip and funky? Smart but not too serious? Most pure designers will focus the most on this aspect of site design, and for good reason. Your site’s look and feel will be the first impression for thousands of potential customers.
  • SEO: Get behind the hood. Does your code pass W3C validation? Does you have an XML-compatible sitemap? A robots.txt file? Are your filenames named with a logical, keyword-dense methodology? How about your links — do you use keyword-dense anchor text, a consistent naming structure? Paying attention to the technical details will make search engine spiders feel much more welcome at your site.

Do you have your own SEO/Design questions you’d like answered? Send us an email and I’ll make sure to address it. Also, if you’re looking for some more specific information on what you can do with your website, try our free web site analysis and strategy consultation.