SEO For Web Developers: How To Get a Hold Of The SEO Fireball
A website is the core of all the digital marketing efforts of a company. No matter how creative a website looks on the outside, there is always a huge difference between how a developer sees a website and how a search engine sees it. Google considers some guidelines for crawling a website and if these are not built in your website’s structure, then it would be running the marketing race with one plastic leg. Developers are not as savvy as SEO practitioners when it comes to building websites that perform well for SEO,
so SEO for web developers is an interesting topic to raise.
Web Development Skills
Web development requires technical skills but web developers need a whole another set of skills when it comes to designing an SEO-friendly website. SEO for web developers is an entirely different concept. SEO is not an exact science, unlike web development. In web development, changes are visible immediately as soon as you change your code, switch tab to the browser and refresh. But when it comes to the impact of specific SEO practices, they can become visible after days, weeks, months, or maybe never.
If you are a web developer, you might be wondering why should I learn about SEO, it is the responsibility of the Marketing team. So, let me clear the air for you by answering this – SEO cannot be plastered onto an existing website. SEO for web developers is the backbone of any marketing practice.
SEO for Web Developers- Pros and Cons
It is a controversial topic. Some technical decisions taken by developers can impact organic search traffic entirely. But when the SEO team works with development personnel and discuss the opportunities to drive revenue for the site, it’s always a win-win situation. This emphasizes the major role played by developers when it comes to achieving a powerful website and its online reputation. Hence, it is mandatory for web developers to understand the deepest roots of SEO and be aware of SEO for web developer practices that can make a positive change in the entire web design approach.
It is possible to follow Google’s Webmaster guidelines by following a checklist while getting ahead in the competitive SEO arena. This list comprises of things and development tasks from a developer’s perspective for a website to build its search marketing and keep the Google gods on their side.
SEO for Web Developers Practices
Here are a few practices that pretty much sum up the concept of SEO for web developers.
A URL is the first thing search engine crawlers look at. It tells a lot about your site so it should always be as clean as possible.
Let’s understand this clearly by taking an example here. Below are two URLs:
The first one is a great example of a clean URL, which clearly displays the website name, category, and the title. While the second one is loaded with a lot of parameters making it hard to understand what the page is about. Hence, users are less likely to click on this URL.
Duplicate content is among the top 5 SEO issues that websites face. Google’s has a policy for duplicate content that states:
“In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”
The search engine bots spend a limited amount of time on your site. And if your website is full of duplicate content, the bots will waste time crawling those redundant URLs because of which the search engines will find it difficult to identify which pages to rank. There are many ways to resolve duplicate content but each method comes with risks and benefits and choosing an SEO for web developers effective solution needs to be discussed within the teams. A web developer is likely able to tell you what’s causing the duplicate content and hence, the problem can be addressed.
Resolving the Duplicated Content Problem
Here are a few solutions to resolve duplicate content issues:
- Determine preferred URLs.
- Be consistent on your site.
- Apply 301 permanent redirects wherever necessary and possible.
- Implement the rel=”canonical” link element on your pages wherever you can.
301 is defined as a permanent redirect which passes the link juice to the redirected page. rel=”canonical” tag is a part of the HTML head element and contains the URL of the original page. This tag should be added to all duplicate pages as well as the original page. The 301 redirect is of critical importance during migrating content or redesigning a site.
Title Tag is the most important on-page SEO for web developers signal. It gives a strong hint about the topic of your page. The title tags help search engines decide which pages should be displayed for a user’s query. Therefore, the keywords should always be included in the title. Keep the keywords close to the title beginning so that they are not identified as spam. While mentioning the keywords in the title is a good SEO practice, stuffing it with keywords is a big no. The title should always be a readable sequence of keywords.
Meta description: It doesn’t directly affect rankings, but including them is a good SEO for web developers practice. Search engines understand a page’s topic better with the meta description. They combine with title tags to form search snippet – the title, link, and page description which is displayed in search results. Having a good meta description increases your click-through rate (CTR) and decreases the bounce rate.
Each and every image needs an ALT Tag. Let me rephrase that better: Each and every image needs an ‘SEO-friendly’ ALT Tag. ALT Tags should be structured like this:
Detailed, informative and descriptive alt text images help search engines index them properly. When height and width attributes are specified for an image, a web browser can begin to render a page even before images are downloaded.
Structured Data Code
It is a good practice to create a process to manually check Schema.org structured data by using Google’s Schema.org validation tool. Take the following example: You are building a website for restaurants and you need to include restaurant name and location info. After a first pass coding the Schema.org structured data, you see some strange punctuation and contextual errors within the Schema.org data. For instance:
<div itemscope itemtype=”brand”><span name=”organization”>Copyright Company Name, All Rights Reserved</span></div>
<div itemscope itemtype=”brand”> Copyright <span name=”organization”>Company Name </span>, All Rights Reserved</div>
In the first one, the copyright declaration is included within the tags. In the second, the Company Name is understandably placed between the opening and closing span tags, which is the correct way.
This is an example of contextual coding errors which occurs while coding Schema.org microdata. These types of errors will not show up in an automatic tool hence, it is necessary to perform a manual check to look for these errors. A developer can take charge and make sure these issues do not affect the website’s SEO.
Structuring Your Website
Focusing on the website structure is of utmost importance for better engagement with the audience. There is always a particular path which is navigated by a user to get to the information they are searching for. The website should be designed in an organized, sensible manner and navigation should be simplified. This would definitely increase the traffic coming your way.
If you are promoting your content through articles, internal linking helps majorly in structuring your website. You can link to around 2-5 previous posts where possible. It increases the traffic on different pages of your website. Wikipedia is a great example of how to use internal links.
The most popular approach for content is creating a blog and writing unique content that can highlight specific aspects of your business. It is important to understand your audience and use it to choose the content you want to include on your website. The main content of your website should majorly be text-based to make your audience understand it better. Some images or videos can be included to make it interactive, but be sure to clearly talk about what it is that you do so that the search engines can read and understand your business.
SEO For Web Developers: Speed and Security
Google values both speed and security on a website. Web development teams are responsible to bring improvement in these areas. In the case of site speed, here are a few practices that a developer can practice:
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Combine files
- Reduce server response time
- Run a compression audit
For security purposes:
- Keep the software up-to-date
- Enforce a Strong Password Policy
- Encrypt login pages
- Always use a secure host
- Backup data
In the year 2017, Google released its mobile search algorithm which introduced a new ranking signal – “mobile friendliness”. Hence, websites optimized for search engines should give equal importance to mobile layouts of their websites. To create a mobile-friendly design, think of the requirements of a mobile user has. Here are some key factors for creating mobile SEO-friendly websites. This will help you move beyond a simple mobile-friendly responsive design. The mobile version of a site is used by the search engine to review and rank your site. So, work on optimizing user-experience for mobile users. This will help you reap the rewards in terms of traffic and user engagement.
Developing websites is fun but it can also be a challenging affair. These challenges can plague a website’s SEO if you are not careful of the SEO for web developer practices during the development phase. Following these practices will help you get your site to a great place from an SEO perspective. Try not to get intimidated by these checkpoints, remember that search engines aren’t there to get you, no matter how much it might seem that they are. You just have to learn to work along with them rather than against them. At the end of the day, all search engines are just doing their work that is to provide their users with the best possible answers.
Being a web developer, your aim should be to furnish your development knowledge with the key elements of SEO, while creating a website. After all, it is the complete SEO for web developers package that sets the SEO fireball rolling.