SEO 101: 5 Things Small Business Owners Should Know About #SEO Friendly Web Design

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What to Know About SEO Friendly Web Design | SEJ

As a small business owner getting ready to build your first website or redesign your existing one, you might wonder what you should be considering in terms of making your web design search engine friendly.

There are lots of things to take into account, but here are the five key things that you should know about SEO friendly web design and how it can benefit your visitors, too!

1. It Needs to be Responsive

For small businesses, especially local ones, having great rankings in mobile search is incredibly important. Why? For starters, 50% of consumers who perform a local search on mobile devices visit a store within a day of their search. What’s even more exciting is that 78% of mobile searches for local business lead to offline purchases.

If you want to do well in mobile search results, you will want to have a mobile-friendly design. Responsive design is the easiest to aim for because it offers a similar user experience to desktop visitors, tablet visitors, and smart phone visitors.

responsive design is the easiest solution for mobile-friendly web design

With responsive design, you don’t have to create multiple pages for different screen sizes. Instead, you create your website pages as you would normally, and the responsive theme or template will make sure it reshapes itself to fit on any screen size.

As far as platform goes, you can choose to run your website with static HTML template files with responsive design or content management systems with responsive themes. WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems that allows you to create a static website, blog, e-commerce store, forum, or anything else you want to run.

WordPress has also been widely respected as the best platform for SEO, as noted by Google’s former representative Matt Cutts. Combined with a responsive theme and an SEO plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast (which SEJ uses), it is a surefire winner for search.

2. The Important Parts Need to be in the Text

While search engines are able to crawl more types of media, text has always been the best option for search optimization. This is why everyone is talking about content marketing – you need written content for every page of your website.

Your goal should be to include text on every page of your website. Even a small amount of text, such as a 150-word product description, is better than none. If you post videos or audio, include a text-based transcription on the same page.

Also, don’t forget the text needed for each page’s SEO title (50 – 60 characters) and meta description (150 – 160 characters). Both of these elements should be unique and should include main keyword phrases the page is to be optimized for.

A common mistake many local businesses make on their website is including important information in images rather than text. Google Webmaster Guidelines specifically states to “Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images.”

This tip is especially important for local businesses that put their address and phone number in header or footer images. Either take them out of the images or include a text version of them elsewhere on your website. In addition to being beneficial for search crawlers, it is helpful to visitors on mobile who want to click-through and call or copy and paste your address for directions.

And last, but not least, get some great text in your URLs. Make sure your website is set to show yourdomain.com/your-page-name-with-keywords versus yourdomain.com/p=?122. This helps boost the keyword optimization for your page and helps visitors know what content is going to be on the page when they see the link without additional reference.

3. You Must Optimize Your Images

When you do use images, you can optimize them with text for better search visibility. This not only allows you to further optimize your product page for a specific keyword phrase, but it gives your photo the chance to appear in Google image search results.

There are a few ways to optimize your images with text. First, you can rename your image’s filename to include specific keywords. For example, instead of uploading a picture on an air conditioning repair service page as IMAGE0001.jpg, change it to phoenix-air-conditioning-repair-services.jpg. This puts your page’s main keywords in the filename of the image.

Next, use all of the attributes HTML has to offer for inserting an image on the page. Continuing with the same example, you would have the following.

HTML attributes fro inserting images

In the above HTML code, you have alt text, which will be shown if the image cannot be loaded on the page or if the visitor is using a screen reader. The title text will be shown when someone hovers over the image.

Optionally, create a caption directly beneath your image that explains what it is. This should be one short phrase or sentence that shows how the image is relevant to the page, such as Bob’s AC & Heating offers affordable air conditioning repair services in Phoenix and surrounding areas.

4. You Need a Clear, Text-Based Navigation Structure

Another rule straight from Google Webmaster Guidelines is to ” Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.”

Think of your website’s organization and plan your link structure accordingly. Depending on the number of pages your website has, this could be as simple as creating a main navigation bar linking to the main five pages on your website. Or it could be as complicated as coming up with categories, subcategories, and the pages within each.

clear navigation structure

For user experience purposes, you should not go more than three levels deep with your links. Take Amazon, for instance. You already see top products when you click into a main category page, with the option to further limit the results by subcategories.

In other words, don’t be the website that makes visitors go from the home page to a category page, then a subcategory, and then another subcategory before getting to what they want.

In addition to clear navigation for your users, you should create simple text links in the footer of your website for the main pages on your website. This ensures that search crawlers (and visitors) can’t miss them.

text links in the footer of a website

5. Don’t Forget to Redirect

If you are redesigning a new version of your website, make sure you don’t lose any of your old pages. For example, you might have a page on your old website with the URL yourdomain.com/your-page, and the new page ended up with the URL of yourdomain.com/your-new-page.

Once you delete the old page, people who visit that page will receive a 404 error, telling them the page no longer exists. If the old page ranked well in search for a keyword, and search crawlers find the page no longer exists, the old page will ultimately be removed from search results. Hence, any referral or organic search traffic you were receiving to that page will be lost, unless you redirect the old page to the new one.

Use 301 redirects to tell search engines that the old page URL (yourdomain.com/your-page) is now the new page URL (yourdomain.com/your-new-page). This will ensure you keep the traffic and SEO value for your page. Any links to your old pages will count towards your new pages when you use 301 redirects, which will help you maintain the domain authority you have built through your SEO efforts.

If you use WordPress, you can use a simple plugin called Redirection to create these redirects within your WordPress dashboard. Otherwise, you may need to contact your web hosting company or web designer to have them create a .htaccess file on your web server. The format would look like this:

redirect 301 /your-page /your-new-page

To make sure you have redirected the pages you get traffic to from the old URL to the new one, set your website up on Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools). It will tell you in the Crawl Errors report which links on your website result in a Not Found (404) error. These should be redirected to new links with similar content.

The same thing goes for updating the permalinks on your website. If you started with ugly permalinks (yourdomain.com/p=?122) and you want to update to keyword optimized ones (yourdomain.com/your-page-name-with-keywords), then you will need to redirect all of the old URLs to the new ones.

Another thing you can do as a backup for any links you may forget to redirect is a customized 404 page. WordPress users can use the 404page plugin to create a customized page that visitors to their website will go to if a page on their website is not found or redirected properly.

This page should apologize to visitors for the content they were looking for not being found, and then direct them to the top alternative pages on the website instead. For example, you could include links to your homepage, main product page, main service page, contact information page, about page, support page, or blog.

In Conclusion

As you can see, SEO friendly web design isn’t just about search engines. Making your website search engine friendly will also make it visitor friendly, from the design to the functionality. Be sure to look at the various ways you can update your small business website in order to make it friendly for everyone, search engines and visitors alike.

 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Rawpixel/Shutterstock.com
In-post Photo #1: MPFphotography/Shutterstock.com
In-post Photo #2: Bloomua/Shutterstock.com
All screenshots by Aleh Barysevich. Taken September 2015.

Aleh Barysevich

Aleh Barysevich

CMO and Co-Founder at Link-Assistant.Com
Aleh Barysevich is CMO and Co-Founder at Link-Assistant.Com, the company that makes SEO PowerSuite (website promotion toolkit) and BuzzBundle (social media software) for bloggers, webmasters and online marketers.
Aleh Barysevich
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  • Bill Lowden

    Thanks for the SEO tips. I like using your keywords in your image file name. I never considered this, but it makes a lot of sense.

    • Aleh Barysevich

      Thank you for stopping by. You definitely should go after keywords in your image file names. However, as R.Rogerson says in the comment below, you should be careful with associating your business names with totally irrelevant images (check out the ‘fluffy bunny’ example below).

  • R.Rogerson

    Hmmmmm.

    I’d have mentioned Load Speed.
    To often designers/templates load 4+CSS files, 1+ JS libraries, 4+ JS files and 3+ large images. Instead, the CSS should be combined, the libraries could be loaded from public CDNs (with a local default), the JS could be combined and should be loaded last (from /body, or use a JS loader, or Asynch/Defer option). Images should be optimised/compressed.
    You can save your users tons of time with those simple changes.

    The image/alt attribute bit could mention that you should Only include text that the image is relevant to. If it’s a picture of a fluffy bunny, you should Not be cramming in your business name (unless your business name is “fluffy bunny”). Far to often people still abuse the alt attribute.

    Redirects should actually be avoided!
    If you don’t have to change your URLs, then Don’t. Only change them as a last resort.
    Redirects cause a slight loss of value, approx. 15% (almost a 6th) (the same applies for using the Canonical Link Element).
    Many platforms permit custom URLs/internal rewrites. Use them if you can to create the same URLs (that includes directories/folders as well as “pages”).
    If you do have to use Redirects – make sure you are consistent and direct. All links should point to new URLs (no link should result in a redirect). All redirects should go straight to destination, not to another URL that redirects (redirect chains compound the loss, and delay crawls).

    Navigation is vital.
    A seriously under-played area of on-site optimisation is proper internal linking.
    Yes, you should have your manin navigation that allows visitors to browse through the site.
    But you should also have secondary navigation features, such as links to sibling/child pages. These are often placed at the bottom of the page, and are a natural follow-up for some user choices.
    These links are there to encourage further page visits, and if done right, and walk the visitor through the conversion funnel (from information to choice, from choice to conversion).

    Then there’s all the negatives.
    Making sure you don’t block bots, that you don’t accidentally apply NoIndex/NoFollow, ensuring that you don’t have infinite URL sources (non-terminating pagers, every-date active calenders etc.).
    Then the joys of Canonical issues – such as having the same product showing under 12 different categories, and each product listing pointing to a different URL with the category in it. 1 set of content to 1 URL please. All links should point to the URL. Ensure the Canonical Link Element is deployed (products/articles, categories/tags etc.).
    Then of course Search pages – G doesn’t really want to list your search results in their search results. That doesn’t mean you block the search pages – you can let G crawl them (PR flow, additional relevance etc.) – but set them as NoIndex!

    I don’t think this line is quite right;
    “… This is why everyone is talking about content marketing – you need written content for every page of your website. …”
    Content Marketing is a method, an approach, a way of marketing/promoting. It’s not the type/format of content – and it is applied to Slides, Videos, Podcasts, Infographics etc. as well as text-based content.

    • Aleh Barysevich

      Hi and thank you for your thorough comment.

      Your addition with regards to the load speed and ways to optimize and compress images is very helpful indeed.

      Great observation regarding the pitfalls of associating one’s business name with irrelevant images.
      When it comes to redirects, I’d keep to my point of view, though I appreciate your warnings on the importance of being consistent with them and understanding how they may be harmful.

      Thanks for mentioning the internal linking. It’s crucial for user-friendly navigation and encouraging further visits. It may be obvious and simple, but in reality it requires consistent work and understanding user mindset to provide them helpful links before they can even feel like browsing your site for further information.

      >>I don’t think this line is quite right;
      >>“… This is why everyone is talking about content marketing – you need written content for every page >>of your website. …”
      >>Content Marketing is a method, an approach, a way of marketing/promoting. It’s not the type/format >>of content – and it is applied to Slides, Videos, Podcasts, Infographics etc. as well as text-based >>content.

      I explain that further in the post. My idea is that even for videos, audios and other non-text forms of content, it’s worth providing a text-based transcription.

      • R.Rogerson

        I missed the further explanation of the CM needing text, sorry for that.
        That said, CM itself isn’t text based – but – to gain even more SE benefit from CM efforts, you are 100% correct, text, text and more text 😀
        (Actually, I think any video that doesn’t have a transcript should be ranked lower automatically :D)

        And thank you for the detailed response – much appreciated 😀

  • Awais Mughal

    Hi Aleh, your post is very informative, as we did minor mistakes because we don’t know it’s important. i wana ask you something, may we use nulled or cracked theme for our website while they are doing fill all the aspects you mention.
    And also tell me website like http://themevertex.com/ offering nulled theme, how can we judge the given theme is nulled or not??
    Regards,

    • Aleh Barysevich

      I wouldn’t recommend using nulled or cracked theme because it violates copyright law.

  • http://semperplugins.com Tony Zeoli

    Alex,

    Always good reminders for small business owners to pay attention to the details you have listed in this post. While these may seem complex to some small business owners, each point you make is instantly achievable, but some prep work has to be done.

    For example, let’s take Redirection. It’s best that the small business site owner register their website in Google Search Console and add and verify and XML sitemap. This sitemap gives Google a good indication of what it’s bots will find when they visit your site. As you are probably aware, registering an XML sitemap with Google Search Console will not result in improved page rank, but it will give Google a perfect map to follow of all your pages and posts. Additionally, once you register for Google Search Console, the system will spit back all the pages it cannot find or have problems with. That report helps the small business owner know what URLs are broken and how they should plan to redirect them to working URLs, even if they are do not have a one to one relationship. For example, if a page or post does’t make it from an old site to a new site in a web redesign, you’ll want to redirect the old URL to, for example, your homepage, if you don’t have an exact copy on the new URL.

    To create an XML sitemap, there are a number of plugins out there that can help, but All in One SEO Pack is a good option, because it has an XML sitemap generator, allows you to connect your site with Google, Bing, and Pinterest, and has SEO tools to optimize site titles and descriptions, which you mention are very important to ensure that your page is correctly optimized.

    To register for a Google Analytics account or a Google Search Console account is fairly easy. It does take some knowledge of both services admin screens and the All in One SEO admin screen to add your site to Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Once both are added, under the Admin screen in Google Analytics, you can link your Google Search Console account to your GA account. This is beneficial, as some GSC information is passed into GA.

    • Aleh Barysevich

      Hi Tony, thank you for stopping by and covering some setup aspects for implementing the tips. Cheers!

      • http://semperplugins.com Tony Zeoli

        Happy to help! Thanks for getting the conversation going!

  • http://datascribedigitalmarketing.com sreeni

    Thanks for the valuable information , earlier i used to ignore keywords for images now i will follow that rule . as per the latest update of google css update i have changed the robots.txt format and now im allowing admin also , is it compulsory for us to allow admin ?
    about redirection from http to https we should allow host providers to redirect or anything like 301 redirection we need to enter in .htacess file .

    Once again thanks for sharing the knowledge it meant a lot for upcoming marketers like us

    • http://semperplugins.com Tony Zeoli

      I would think you would disallow wp-admin, because you don’t want Google indexing your admin area. Remember, /wp-admin is its own directory in your WordPress install, so blocking admin from being crawled might be a good thing.

  • http://www.robertbroley.com Robert

    Some excellent advice. I agree that a website must be responsive. There are many frameworks available now that make this process a breeze. Also original content is important, which is on point.

  • http://www.stevesdesigns.co.uk Steve

    There are some excellent points made here but nothing new. Anyone who hasn’t already became aware of these fundamental tips for web design should probably employ someone to build their site. I’m not being funny by saying this, just that it can take such a long time to learn what all this means.

    • Aleh Barysevich

      Hi Steve, it surely can take a lot of time to understand even the basics. However, even if you employ someone to build your website, which most of us probably do, it’s worth understanding the basic set of rules and the trends.

  • http://sitesprint.com/ Salini

    Nice tips Aleh, and the most important one is the mobile responsive themes.

    Recently Google rolls out an update on Mobile Algorithm. Because they have to do something because many of their searches were not satisfying their mobile users.

    My site analytics shows that more than half of my visitors are viewing my site on mobile devices.

    • Aleh Barysevich

      Hi Salini and thank you for your feedback. It’s nice you’re tracking your analytics so thoroughly to get to know the particular share of mobile users. As I’ve alredy mentioned in my article, applying responsive design is perhaps the easiest way to have a mobile-friendly website.

  • David

    I was got our newsletter email with this article, and wanted to comment on it, but the link in the newsletter took me to the wrong article – “How to identify your best social media influencers”…
    Perhaps you should add a #6 to this list – “Check and RE-CHECK your links before publishing content, or sending mass emails, or risk looking like a noob”.
    🙂

    • http://www.moxiedot.com Kelsey Jones

      So sorry about that David! How embarrassing. The long-form newsletters are long, and apparently we still have some work to do. I apologize and will make sure this doesn’t happen again.

  • http://webdesignportfolio.us Don Peterson

    Great article! It covers all of the important SEO for small business owners.

    • Aleh Barysevich

      Thanks!

  • Daniel Brown

    Good info. For more WordPress tips,plugins,themes and free resource visit my blog blog.templatetoaster