While finding the perfect on-brand colour scheme and clever memes for your website may seem like a top priority, the aesthetics of your site will only get you so far.
By now, most website owners (even new ones) know having an SEO-friendly site is essential to their bottom line. Making your web design search-engine-friendly is the best way to rank in the SERPs, receive more traffic, and get more conversions.
So, how can you build an SEO-friendly website that gets more traffic than LA gridlock? We’re glad you asked.
Directives and sitemaps
Think of directives and sitemaps as your one-two punch for search engine robots and users*.
*We don’t recommend actually punching your users. Your conversions may slip.
- Use a robots.txt file to tell search engine robots which pages and directories to crawl and which ones to ignore. This will ensure important pages are indexed and not-so-important pages and folders aren’t.
Bamboozled? You can learn more about how to check your robots.txt file in this comprehensive guide.
- Create and submit sitemaps to help search engine robots and users find their way around your website easily. Sitemaps make for more efficient crawlers and a better user experience for potential consumers. That’s a win-win, my friend.
Internal linking and URL structure
A well-structured site is nothing without good internal linking; we’re talking vertically and horizontally.
Well-linked pages allow search engine robots to sufficiently crawl the important stuff. They also allow users to easily find what they need through the natural course of navigation. Because no one likes getting lost down the rabbit hole of a crappy website.
Be sure to pay attention to main navigation; all your key pages should be accessible via the main navigation. This makes for good user experience, which has a direct impact on your SEO.
As for your URLs, these guys need to be well-structured to reflect the path that a user has navigated to get to where they are.
Here’s an example of a good URL structure for a site with categories and sub-categories:
As opposed to:
It’s important to make your URLs human-readable and easy to interpret correctly. Try this:
Instead of this:
As for sub-domains: forget ‘em. A folder is preferred over a sub-domain for each section.
For example, a blog is better placed in example.com/blog/ folder as opposed to blog.example.com. This is because search engines treat a sub-domain as a site entirely separate from the main site, so having valuable content on a sub-domain doesn’t add value to the main website in terms of SEO and ranking.
There are a few key tricks to this one. Here are the important steps:
- Conduct keyword research to build a list of target keywords and use it as a foundation for on-site optimisation including meta data (e.g. page titles and meta descriptions). Include keywords in your meta data, and be sure to stick to the basic rules of developing meta data.
- Optimise images by ensuring they all include alt tags that are topically relevant to the rest of the content on the pages.
- Implement canonical tags to inform search engines what pages on the site you would prefer to be indexed. This is particularly important when you have multiple pages with similar content as it helps eliminate the issue of content duplication.
Site performance and user experience
There’s nothing quite like a poorly performing website to chase users away. Keep these things in mind to ensure your site is easy and enjoyable to user.
Keep site speed in mind
Site speed is a big one because it directly affects user experience. The slower the page, the more likely users will exit and move to your competitor’s site.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great tool for gaining insights into potential issues that could be slowing your site down. It also provides recommendations on how to address these issues. Because no one likes getting a problem without a solution.
Make sure your site is responsive across all devices
Especially mobile. It’s more important than ever to have a mobile-compatible site due to the upcoming roll-out of mobile-first indexing. With more and more users conducting transactions and interacting with one another through mobile phones, Google has decided to push for mobile-first experience, and this requires website owners to specifically keep mobile responsiveness and usability in mind when building a website.
Read more about how to make sure your site is ready for a mobile-first experience.