2013 steamed up much heated discussion between artistic web designers and dedicated search engine optimizers, but who won the debate still remains a question. The reason is pretty simple!! Whilst designers struggle to make their clients happy with their aesthetic web layouts that focus on minimal text visual appeal, search engine optimizers complain that website is lacking key-worded content and is not at all fit for on page and off page optimization.
The arguments put forth by most of the designers include “What is the use of a website that looks like a piece created in 1990’s??”, “Do you really think customers will engage on a site that looks ugly??”.
Search Engine Optimizers also contradict fairly by saying “Do you think visitors can even find you, forget about engagement!!”. Well, this is indeed a chicken and egg scenario wherein who comes first is not easy to predict. But this is for sure that web designers can’t just ignore the SEO part only to discover that they need to completely revamp their design and come up with a solution that looks amazing without compromising on SEO performance. Now the question comes, how can one build aesthetically appealing websites that are good from the SEO-lens as well?? The answer to this question lies in adopting the best design practices and draining some bad tactics that designers tend to follow for achieving targets and meeting deadlines. So let’s resolve to keep in mind the below mentioned do’s and don’ts this new year to make everyone happy!!
a) Say a big “NO” to flash Animations and Navigations
Yes, we do agree that Flash stuff is good-looking and they just keep your eyes wide-open with their visual appeal. But, think of a customer who is looking for some product urgently or a client who is visiting your site with a perception of getting the first-hand information quickly and just because you focused on flash animated navigations, you will certainly end up frustrating him/her. Ask yourself, can you really afford to loose business and brand credibility this way?? Probably not, no one does!! So it’s high time you take a resolution not to use Flash while developing websites because:
- Search Engines including Google can’t crawl the text present on images and animated media.
- Apple has already denied supporting Flash elements on all its devices.
- Flash based websites don’t deliver well on Blackberry and other smartphones as well.
b) Get rid of Frames
Frames are a big trouble to search engine spiders since they don’t just let them read the content present on your website. Plus they create a good amount of mess in “Indexation” as well. This is because a normal website uses 1 HTML file on one page while frames use more than 2 or 3 HTML files on the same webpage and thus they tend to confuse the Search Engines horribly.
c) Put all your Scripts in External Files
d) Use Breadcrumbs to Enhance Navigation
Navigational system is the main backbone of On-page-SEO and building internal links. The bestest way to achieve enhanced user experience is to make it easy for people to navigate through all the pages of your website. At times, it does happen that there are pages inside pages (nested pages) and users may have to bang their heads finding a way out. This is where Breadcrumbs come to your rescue. Not only, they create a good internal link matrix but they prove to be a boon for search engines since they make it easy for them to find the hierarchical navigational structure of your website.
e) Never ever use pop ups
Pop ups are not only annoying to visitors but they seem to frustrate search engines as well. No search engine indexes pop-ups as a part of website and instead they block them completely. Plus your site is at the risk of going to spam.
f) Make your Websites Responsive
Yes, you guessed that right!! Google recommends optimizing your website and making it responsive to cater to multi-sized screens. Responsive web designs have the ability to render on all the devices and browsers with exactly same URLs thus eliminating redundancy in the HTML documents .Not just this, a good responsive design will load the site faster since there are no re-direction scripts and will also help crawlers index all your WebPages only once thus saving on search engine resources.
g) Make a Good Habit of Using Unique Metadata and Search Engine Friendly URLs on All your Webpages
By this we mean to say that the text of your Page titles, Page descriptions, and keywords should all be unique. Some of the tips are shared below:
- Analyze the keywords people tend to use in their search queries and try to optimize your keywords accordingly. For eg – “how to make a pizza”,”buy shirts online” etc. You can also use keyword suggestion tools to make this task even more easier.
- Create unique titles for every webpage and include a unique description in the meta tag as well.
- Using a proper naming structure would save a hell lot of work for SEO people. Name all your webpages using relevant keywords that describe what the page is all about. For ex, Instead of “1.html” use meaningful names like “web-designing.html”.
g) Pay heed to Website Load Times
It is critical to design a website that loads fast, even if you need to compromise and drop some design elements. The reason as to why it is important is that the average time that a normal user spends on a website is between 5-6 minutes. And you just have these couple of minutes to leave a good impression on your visitors. So, here we go with some of the best recommendations to let you improve your website performance.
- Optimize your style sheets (CSS files) by eliminating the inline styles and wrapping up everything to include it in the external css file.
- Avoid using very high resolution images that tend to load slow. Use tools like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Fireworks to reduce the size of your image files.
- Use image sprites instead of hundreds of smaller images on your site.
h) Include Crystal Clear Call to Actions (CTAs) if you really mean Business
The journey to convert a passive user into an active customer is not that easy but this is what the goal of a website is. What’s the meaning to create a website if it doesn’t fetch you enough business. To encourage your visitors to take desired actions, you must make it a habit to include “Call to Actions” in your web designs.
For designers who don’t have an idea what CTA is, let me briefly elaborate the concept. Call to action is basically a group of eye-catching stuff (Banners, Buttons etc) clubbed with small text phrases that seem compelling enough to the audience that they can’t resist engaging on the site and keep on exploring every other webpage that comes their way, thereby increasing a good amount of inbound traffic plus making your website click-worthy. Now let’s have a look at a step-by-step guide to come up with an effective CTA for your website.
Step-1: Craft a Killer CTA bundled with short and crispy Taglines
The first focus is on looks and the text that you are presenting in front of your customers. Shared below are some good examples of a few text phrases that might help you in the long run.
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Step-2: Blend it right with your Web Design Theme
This part is often overlooked by most of the designers. It’s very critical to match the Graphic Appeal of your “Call to action” with the Design Theme so that it doesn’t look like deliberately stuffed into the content of your website.
Step-3: Find a good place for your CTA
Finding a good place for embedding your Call to Action Stuff is very important. Don’t just clutter everything on your Homepage. Instead try to place multiple sections on Homepage and some particular sections on specific WebPages. Remember to keep your CTA stuff “above the fold” so that the users don’t have to scroll through to find it.
Step-4: Make it worth clicking on Finger-friendly devices
By Finger friendly devices, I mean everything from small sized mobiles to king size tablets. You have to enhance the User Experience if you really want it easy for customers to click on it. Most of the designers are often careless on this part and they make their CTA graphics too short to be clicked or sometimes, even the text embedded on them is not readable. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, at least design your stuff in “44 X 44 px” to make it clickable.
Step-5: Analyse the effectiveness of your CTA stuff monthly by using a conversion rate formula that should calculate the no. of clicks over the times your CTA is seen.
Step-6: Use A/B Testing procedures to test the effectiveness of your CTA using a bunch of graphics and select the one with the highest success rate.
With 2014 already in, don’t just change your calendars but commit to strategize a solid plan that will facilitate your web designs enhance SEO performance and thus achieve all the Digital Marketing Goals this fiscal year. Don’t forget to keep in mind the key recommendations and best practices mentioned above.
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