6 Web Development Strategies for Highly-Optimized Websites

From search engine optimization (SEO) to conversion rate optimization (CRO), the initial stages of web development lay the groundwork for success. Unfortunately, many vital SEO and CRO elements of web development go overlooked. As a result, businesses scramble to clean-up code, optimize meta data, implement Schema, and address important components that should have been taken care of pre-launch.

Web Development Strategies

Whether your optimizing an existing website or building anew, below we underscore several key web development strategies that set the tone of high performing websites.

1. Schema Markup

When it comes optimizing your site’s content in a way that better communicates to search engines, Schema is sure-fire way to gain a competitive edge. Schema is a set of HTML tags that are designed specifically to help communicate aspects of your site’s content to search engines. In turn, Google, Bing, and other engines will better interpret your site and position your rankings accordingly (often better without it.)

Because only 36% actually have Schema, it’s one of the easiest ways to get an SEO edge on your competitors. For those with limited technical capabilities or access to the site’s HTML, implementing Schema may require the aid of web developer. But in the long-run, it’s one of the most powerful ways to boost your search engine performance almost instantly.

2. Optimized Media

For media-rich websites that contain a lot of images, videos, or animations, optimizing these media files is important for SEO as well as user experience. These elements of dictate how fast a website is in terms of load speed. A slow loading website not only hinders usability and how visitors engage with sites content, but it’s also a search engine ranking factor that can diminish it’s placement. web development strategy

There are a couple ways to in which media can be “optimized.” First and foremost, never use Flash media. This clunky medium cannot be crawled nor indexed, and will dramatically diminish a site’s SEO.

Now that we’ve got that important aspect out of the way, the first way to optimize media is to minimize its file size. For instance, if you’re uploading images that are 5,000 x 4,000 in size, obviously those are massive images that do not need to be that large for website. Shorten large images down to about 1,200 x 1,000 or less to make them smaller and quicker to load.

The second way to optimize media is to implement SEO techniques to the file’s properties. Prior to uploading an image or video to the website, open up the file’s properties and populate the details fields. This will include the file’s title, sub-title, tags, comments, etc. Here you can use your target keywords to establish greater relevancy for SEO. Not only will this help improve the ranking potential of the give page hosting the media, but this strategy can also help each image or video rank in Google itself (i.e. Google Image search or YouTube).

3. Internal Linking

Another variable the influences both user experience and search engine optimization is internal linking, aslo known as cross linking. These are the links found in the copy of your page’s content, as well as breadcrumb links, sitemap links, or any other form of internal linking between to pages.

Internal linking can help guide users to the types of content or pages they’re seeking, namely the contact page. Additionally, these links can connect to related pages. When the anchor text is keyword relevant, these types of cross links can help improve SEO by establishing greater keyword relevancy. In some rare cases, they can also facilitate a “double stack” listing in the organic search results (or both pages appearing, resulting in double the search visibility.)

4. Layout, CTA’s, & Conversion Rate Optimization

Other aspects of web development, which cross over into areas of web design, are the general layout, calls-to-action (CTA’s), and other forms of conversion rate optimization. These strategies are very important to making the most of your visiting traffic. And a lot of ideas can be cultivated from defining a the site’s conversion goals.

Define what action you want visitors to take and help this objective instruction the layout, CTA’s, and overall CRO strategy. Take for instance the simple design of the Traverse Web site you’re currently on. Because we’re encouraging users to submit a contact form for a free consultation, we’ve made the CTA and form clearn and obvious on the right side column of the page.

5. Canonicalization

Canonicalization is important to ensure similar pages are not stepping on each other and diminishing SEO value of the site. The ever powerful Moz does the best job at defining canonicalization:

“A canonical tag (aka ‘rel canonical’) is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents problems caused by identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs. Practically speaking, the canonical tag tells search engines which version of a URL you want to appear in search results.”

In the WordPress sites that we develop here at Traverse Web, we use the Yoast SEO plugin which has a canonical tag feature built in. This makes it easy to define the proper URL you want showing in the search results, and it’s especially important for multi-location or franchise SEO.

6. Google Integrations

There are a few important Google integrations that must be properly in place for a website to be well optimized. One that’s particularly important for local SEO and Google Maps marketing is properly embedding the Google Map snippet of the business’s location. This Google Maps embed should not only include the address of the business (or its given location in the case of multi-location businesses), but should also include the Google verified name of the business, along with contact information. In short, the Google Maps embed should be specific to the given business’s location.

Another one that’s often overlooked by even the most savvy search engine optimization professionals is a KML file. KML files are tools to better communicate your business’s geographic information in manner that’s easily understood by applications like Google Maps and Google Earth. Leveraging KML files is a simple way for Google to verify your business listing and its location.

Other important Google integrations include setting-up Google Search Console (or Webmaster Tools) as well as Google Analytics. Whether from the perspective a web developer or digital marketer, these key integrations are essential to track and monitor the performance of a site, both from a technical and front-end standpoint.

This article is a guest contribution by Tyler Tafelsky, Senior SEO Specialist of Captivate Local. Specializing in local SEO and Google Maps marketing, Captivate Local emphasizes a search-first approach to website development, content marketing, social media, and other digital marketing channels. Connect with Tyler on LinkedInGoogle+Facebook, and Twitter.

SEO-friendly Web Design: 5 Elements Where Most Sites Drop The Ball

SEO friendly web design ball dropped

Whether it’s a brand new site or a re-design project, SEO is all too often secondary to web design. And it’s an unfortunate situation when traffic plummets as a result of making a site look pretty.

But smart web designers know that performance should never be sacrificed as a result of aesthetics. These professionals are also adept to employ the right SEO-friendly web design techniques to ensure the ball doesn’t get dropped. Below are five areas of web design and development that can either make or break a site’s SEO.

1. Site Load Speed

Site load speed is one of the most underrated yet influential search engine ranking factors. Google equates slow loading websites with poor usability. And with Google emphasizing user experience as one of the most critical webmaster guidelines, sites that take more than a few seconds to load will face in an uphill battle with SEO.

Load speed is often correlated with how a site’s backend is structured. Dense HTML coding structures, Flash media, large image and media files are all common culprits of slow loading websites. But all these elements can be fixed with the SEO-friendly touch of knowledgeable web developer.

Get a gauge for how fast (or slow) your website loads by visiting Pingdom Tools. Not only will this tool provide good insights on your site’s load time, but it will also provide specific issues why your site may be underperforming.

2. Duplicate Content & Canonicalization

Duplicate content is one of the most common technical SEO issues, especially with very deeper site. Search engines are sophisticated and can detect pages with thin or duplicate content. In turn, such pages can have diluted value and lower rankings as a result.

This has coined the term canonicalization, or the occurrence when two or more duplicate pages render on different URLs. For larger websites like ecommerce stores, this is very common and can be exacerbated with certain Content Management Systems. For example, a site might have a main version of a page, but also a print-friendly version. But internal canonicalization is just one piece of the pie.

Duplicate content can also be an issue when dealing with multiple websites. This can confuse search engines as to which version of this content they should rank. The solution to this conundrum is to use the Canonical URL Tag. We simply use the Canonical URL Tag within a page that hosts duplicate content, indicating the master URL that you want to rank for. This tag can also be used across different websites.

3. Mobile Friendliness

With a majority of all search engine activity taking place on mobile devices, ensuring your web design is responsive (or friendly on smartphones, tablets, etc.) is vital. But beyond usability, having a mobile-friendly website will help it rank better in Google (when users on a mobile device.) Additionally, responsive design can also aid in other forms of search marketing, such as SEO for Google Maps and ecommerce SEO.

It’s true, Google has made responsive design a ranking factor in Google mobile search. To see where you’re site stands through the eye’s of Google bots, try using the mobile-friendly testing tool developed by Google.

4. Indexable Content

To perform better in Google’s search engine results, it’s crucial that most of your site’s content is in HTML text format. Despite advancements in search engine technology, Flash media files, Java applets, images, and other forms of non-text content can be devalued or completely ignored by search engines. For SEO, it’s best to ensure most of content on a page is indexable text.

However for those who require greater visuals and display formatting, Moz provides a punchlist of techniques to make visual content more SEO-friendly.

1. Supplement Flash or Java plug-ins with text on the page.
2. Supplement search boxes with navigation and crawlable links.
3. Provide alt text for images. Assign images in gif, jpg, or png format “alt attributes” in HTML to give search engines a text description of the visual content.
4. Provide a transcript for video and audio content if the words and phrases used are meant to be indexed by the engines.

5. Rich Snippets & Structured Data Markup

Chances are good that you’ve seen a search engine listing with expanded description copy, additional links, or 5-star review rating. Otherwise known as “rich snippets,” these instances occur when search engines interpret information on a page from embedded structured data markup. That’s a technical term for special HTML tags that are used to mark up specific pieces of content to better communicate to search engines.

By using structured data to markup the content on your pages, search engines can identify what type of content it is more efficiently. Visit Schema.org to view examples of how structured data can be implemented. While the application of structured data markup is not essential for SEO-friendly web design, many users experience a competitive edge when they properly employ it.

Unlike users who can view and engage with a page’s content, search engines are limited in how they crawl and interpret content on a page. In other words, a page doesn’t always appear the same to users as it does to search engines. As a result, understanding some of the basic elements of SEO-friendly web design is vital for success.

This article is a guest contribution by Tyler Tafelsky, Senior SEO Specialist of Captivate Search Marketing. As one of Atlanta’s most premier Internet marketing agencies, Captivate Search Marketing emphasizes a search-first approach to website development, content marketing, social media, and other digital marketing channels. Connect with Tyler on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

Image by Manuel Alende Maceira.

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