Building a modern website these days almost always requires you to keep an eye on search engine optimization. So many elements of a site’s content and functionality play a role in SEO that it’s absolutely critical that you take a ground-up view of the process. That means you should be worried about everything from your choice of hosting to the grammar of each sentence. Here are a several items to pay attention to as you think about how to best design a SEO-friendly website.
In the old days, the simple solution to the navigation problem was to post a site map and link to it at the bottom of the home page. This allowed search bots to readily find everything. The search engines now place a much greater emphasis on clear navigational structures. If you’ve ever seen a search result for a site that showed four or more main topic pages from the same site below the initial result, you have a good idea of the benefits that can accrue from good navigational design. Google rewards sites that feature clear top-level topics in their navigational structures by giving them more real estate at the top of search engine results pages.
How do you achieve this goal? You want your home page to clearly feature a handful of topic links. For example, a photographer’s home page might feature links to portfolios for wedding photos, portraits and kids photos. Google will then pick up on this structure and apply it to the SERPs.
Page speed matters in SEO. There are a lot of little tricks to boost load times for your pages, but the simplest approach is to have a good web host. If you expect to ever grow your audience, you need to start with at least VPS hosting. Google wants anyone who clicks on a result to get what they expect within a couple seconds. While you may need an even bigger option if you attract a huge audience, VPS hosting provides a baseline for starters who need responsiveness at the lowest possible price.
Mobile-friendly websites are now being clearly favored in SERPs, and that means you need to deploy your site using mobile-friendly methods. There are multiple solutions to this problem, but you should only consider one unless there’s a compelling technical reason to explore other options. The one-stop answer to your SEO needs when it comes to being mobile-friendly is responsive design.
Responsive design is the theory that a website should be configured to use a single resource to serve pages to a wide range of different displays. A responsive site should automatically reformat its appearance to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses of the display being used by the visitor. A visitor to http://example.com should see one version of the website when using a desktop computer and another when using their phone. The site should provide both versions without redirecting the visitor or asking them to click elsewhere for a different version. In other words, it should responsively handle the request without in any way making itself a burden to the end user. Likewise, the formatting should look good whether the visitor is checking out the site on a four-inch phone screen or a 9-inch tablet screen.
Content and Grammar
The search engines place a bigger emphasis these days not only on content itself, but on the quality of the content in question. There was a time when SEO work meant simply stuffing keywords on a page. Even after keyword stuffing was killed, sites could get away with a lot. Today your goal should be to provide natural content that reads well and is free of typos and grammar issues.
Why does Google do this? A quality signal is a quality signal, even if it doesn’t seem like something an end user will notice. If you go into a fine dining establishment, most of what you experience is a signal of quality. Google’s bots see your web pages the same way. If your site is littered with grammar and spelling errors, it’s reasonable to assume that you’re not providing the high-quality content that searchers desire.
In the late 1990s, the default approach to a link-building campaign was to have hundreds of other sites link to yours and leave it at that. This led to huge link-sharing networks that all but mooted the value of inbound links. Sites looking to build links today have to be smarter.
There are three levels at which you have to build links. Inbound links still matter, but they’re not a huge part of the design process. Internal linking is increasingly important. Many sites now use plugins that automatically highlight words used in articles to build internal links. It’s important to remember that the modern search bots love internal structure. You also want to be aware of your outbound links. Every page should have a few, and the focus should be on linking out to high-quality articles in a natural way.
On-page SEO elements were once a big deal in the industry. Having good meta tags in place still has some value, especially in terms of how your site is displayed on SERPs, but on-page coding has also been done to death by SEO workers. As might be expected, Google has responded to this and de-emphasized much of the search value assigned to on-page SEO. Meta tags are nice, but not the end in itself. Title lengths are more important than they once were, and you should especially focus on creating titles that drive clicks from search users. There are a number of optimization tools available to check your titles, and you can also find tools that will scan your on-page SEO elements.
Time Spent On Page
The amount of time users spend on a page matters more these days. One of the reasons you see so many sites incorporating videos on their pages is that videos encourage users to stay longer. By a variety of means, Google tracks this data. You want to make sure your pages keep users around for more than ten seconds, otherwise Google will figure out that they’re not staying very long and lower your SERP rankings.
Building a website is more complicated than it once was, and doing good SEO work demands a lot more than simply accumulating a pile of inbound links. The speed of your site matters now, and producing quality content is always a good choice. With these ideas in mind, you can design a SEO-friendly website that satisfies the search bots and attracts your target audience.