That’s actually a trick title, as the two aren’t necessarily related – but people think they are – and in the spirit of “if you keep emailing out the same information over and over again, that’s CONTENT” that I wrote about in How to create a 100 page website without breaking a sweat, here’s the answer.
We receive an email from a design prospect wanting to know what WE were going to do to get them to page 1 of Google, and providing a link to a competitor with high rankings. The prospect also implies that they are considering using the web studio that competitor used for that reason.
No designer has the magical ability to create a website that is, by virtue of its design, catnip to Google. Google has zero taste whatsoever and does not care what your website looks like.
What it DOES care about is what is ON your website – that dreaded word again – content. If your competitor has lots of deep, relative content and you’ve got four thin pages, he wins – regardless of how garish his color scheme is.
Other than creating relevant content, the way a designer can help you with SEO is by creating an architecture that does the following:
- Presents your content in such a way that users can easily navigate through it to find the information they need, which means they stay on your site longer (time on site is a statistic Google tracks)
- Creates an appealing design that helps visitors realize they are in the right place, so they don’t click away immediately due to a lack of trust engendered by an ugly, outdated, slow-loading dinosaur of a website (this reduces bounce rate – the number of people who click your site and then bounce right out).
- Makes it easy for you to update your website yourself, so that you have no barriers to creating and posting more and more relevant content more and more often.
- Contains an inherently search robot-friendly chassis, like WordPress – which basically means that the structure STAYS OUT OF THE WAY and makes it fast and easy for the robot to index the content. Every static HTML website has a different structure, which slows the crawler down. Don’t even get me started about Flash websites, which hide all the content from the robots and provide their hapless owners with an unintended cloak of invisibility.
- Includes SEO fields you can edit for each and every page – the title and description that Google uses are extremely important. Quality frameworks like Thesis and Genesis include these built in – if you’re using a free theme, you may need to add them with a plugin.
- Includes built-in blogging capability, so that you can blog on your professional website and take advantage of the SEO boost this provides. Often your blog posts can end up outranking your static content – but if they lead visitors to the same website, you win.
Easy SEO wins you can get from a redesign:
Convert from a static HTML site to a WordPress-based website. As long as your designer/developer pays attention to making sure old HTML links are redirected to the new links, you can see a long-term boost just due to this change in architecture.
Add the extra content you’ve been wanting to add, but didn’t – because updating a website without a good content management system (CMS) is annoying and risky. If you want your redesign to REALLY pay off, though, keep adding more relevant content.
In the process, pay close attention to your metadata – your previous designer might have let you launch with a silly meta title, which Google still indexes. Ask them to review this for you. Your competitor might be kicking your butt due to this one thing alone.
Ultimately, it all comes down to content. We have a client with a 100 page HTML site who is dominating despite her crazy architecture (no page is structured just like any other page), because – hello – 100 pages of good content? Even she, however, is converting to WordPress, which is like sticking a rocket onto an already fast Thoroughbred.
Confused, overwhelmed, need help?
Go forth and prosper!