Over the years, I’ve heard from more than a few people that “good Search Engine Optimization cannot co-exist with aesthetically appealing design.” In other words, the site that remains after being fully optimized is not as good looking as the originally designed site. Why is this?
I think we can all agree that search engine results are important. In fact, statistics claim that up to 85% of online shoppers use search engine results to find what they will eventually end up purchasing. This means from search bar to search results to click through to purchase, or something like that. Because of this, having a website that will show up in search results is of utmost importance. SEO is the “man behind the curtain” that makes those websites appear in the search results. When we speak about “optimizing” a website, we are speaking specifically about preparing a site to show up as often and as close to the top of the page as possible when a user is conducting an applicable internet search. How is this done?
Allow me to explain…
Keywords and phrases: These are chosen based on the who, what, why and where of your site. What is your site about? What is your product? A keyword best describes what the content of your page is. This is one of the most important pieces of optimizing a site.
There are many types of meta tags, but the most popular of them are the description and keywords meta tags. Meta tags go in the head section of the page. The meta keywords tag should contain a list of the most valuable keywords and phrases used on the page on which it is placed. Each page should have a meta keyword list specific to that page. The meta description tag is a description or summary of the page. In many cases, this description is displayed by the search engine to the person searching for your keywords. It should use your keywords and suggest to the user that this is the page they’re searching for.
Image Alt Tags:
An image Alt attribute is a textual description of an image. It is used by screen readers to describe the image, but also by search engines to determine the image’s relevance. Because “an image is worth a thousand words”, keywords used in alt attributes are heavily weighted. And because computers are not very good at analyzing the content of images, they rely on the text of the alt and title attributes. To fully optimize the graphics and website, it is important to insert a readable keyword phrase within the Img Alt Attribute.
Just about any html element in a web page can have a title attribute. These are like img alt attributes as they are used to describe the element on which they belong, and are also read by search engines. They should contain valuable keywords.
The Title tag of a web page should always contain the most important keyword phrase of the page. This is because it will aid in getting higher search engine ranking results. Titles should also be inviting and descriptive to encourage people to click on them. “mywebsite.com – home” is not inviting or descriptive.
Text plays a key role in determining a website’s page ranking; it is thus of vital significance to optimizing a website. Text for a site should contain plenty of important key words and phrases used in different ways. A generic rule of thumb: keywords and phrases should appear at least three times. but don’t go overboard. Over-using a keyword could look to a search engine like keyword abuse which could lower your page rank, so don’t over-do it.
With that being said, I want to circle back to my original question: why do so many of the properly optimized sites appear so unattractive to look at (IMO). For example, this site comes to straight to the top of the search results for “hot air balloon”, but what it HAS in optimization, I feel it LACKS in design. Ads all over, copy galore, is this even a real site? I do not feel extremely confident about this site. It feels more like a bed for advertising than anything else, which is the exact opposite of what any legitimate site would want their viewers to feel.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, when searching for “dog”, the site below came up in the search results at almost the very top. To me, the site has a better look and feel, is easier on the eyes and I come away feeling a little more trusting in the site itself. It’s still busy, yes, but it is obvious that some thought was given to the user experience and making the site a little easier to navigate. “A” for effort.
What is the solution? I am of the school of thought, as I believe most reputable design agencies are, that SEO is something that should be considered from the get-go. The reason for this is that if left until after the site has been designed and developed, the only real option is to begin adding things to the site. This would mean that although perhaps the original vision for the site was dead on, the afterthoughts being added here and there and everywhere will ultimately cheapen the overall look and feel of the site. If SEO is considered at the onset, the proper keywords, phrases, tags, links, text and so on can be built in, all while maintaining the branding, aesthetic appeal and positive user experience. While some feel that optimizing a site is the LAST thing that is to be done, there are those among us that believe all things work TOGETHER for good.
Conclusion? Let’s do the brand, message and website a favor and think of SEO as part of the big picture, rather than something that is done after the fact. As with anything, there are times that optimizing a site will be the last thing that is done, or maybe due to circumstances, a site isn’t built for SEO at the beginning. With the right team of professionals (ahem, Zoom Creates) having a beautiful site built from the ground up while still being fully optimized for the highest search rankings is not a pipe dream, but in fact, a reality.