Eight ways you can use web design to bolster your rankings

small business website

Web design used to be relatively simple - make the pages on a website look nice, arrange the text in an attractive manner, input a few bright call-to-action buttons and Bob was your proverbial uncle. These uncomplicated days are sadly over. Search engine optimization has changed the face of web design forever and if you don't want to get left behind, now is the time to step up.

SEO is a developing science. Reputable search engine optimization companies will tell you that they are constantly learning and altering their strategies to get the very best rankings for their clients' sites. Learning it all in one go is not really possible, but there are a few ground rules that serve as a good introduction. These include:

1. Spend more time on the code than the design. If you are the only person involved in the designing process (i.e. you don't have a team of SEO technicians cleaning up behind you) you will have to learn to spend some quality time with the code. This will make the process of creating the 'look and feel' of the site much easier; plus by using descriptive tags to structure your pages, you will ensure that search engines will have a much easier time reading and understanding your all-important content.

2. Your site is not a Christmas stocking. So don't stuff it! Keywords are extremely important and should of course appear in strategic places throughout your site (e.g. the URL, the title tag, the main heading tags, etc.). Just make sure not to overdo it, if you mention your keywords too many times your content could be penalized for keyword stuffing (which is really, really bad).

3. Don't be a flasher. Using Flash for navigation can be very tempting - what could be easier than whipping out a trendy drop down effect? Search engines however, have difficulty reading and understanding Flash files, which means all those lovely navigation links, will end in cul de sacs.

4. Use alt attributes in image tags. When labeling the images on your site, it has proven helpful to use the alt attribute to describe what it is. That description will normally contain keywords relevant to the topics under discussion (keywords that your target market may type into their web browsers).

5. Name things correctly. Every page on your site should be given a unique title attribute. If every page has the same title, search engines will deduce that every page on your site is about the same thing (which is kind of boring and not bound to get them to warm up to you).

6. Use specific link titles. Links are incredibly important. If you are linking to content similar to that on your site, make a point of including a word in the link description that described the content in question. E.g. if you link to a list of do's and don'ts for car rental, name the link 'learn more about car rental', instead of just 'learn more'.

7. Be consistent in your use of URL. Before you let your site go live, decide if you want to keep the www-prefix of not. Search engines see www.learnSEO.com as one site and learnSEO.com as another. This could lead to duplicate content issues and believe me, you do not want that kind of trouble.

8. Build it and they will come. Link building is one of the most important aspects of Search Engine Optimization. The more quality incoming links you have pointing to your site, the better your SERP position will be. So how do you get people to link to your site? That's the hard part - having unique content will help, as will being generous with your own links, but sometimes you are just going to have to beg.

And there you have it - eight little SEO tricks to add to your bag of tricks. This is of course just the tip of the search engine optimization iceberg but it should send you well on your way to better Google rankings.

About the Author:

Michael Forrester heads up the web design department of a successful SEO firm in Cape Town, South Africa.

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