Websites are like cars. Sometimes they may look fast; they may have all the bells and whistles—but they still get left in the dust at the starting line. When it comes to performance, what you have under the hood is as important, if not more important, than the framework surrounding it.
A well-designed website with expertly crafted SEO will outperform a site that has the looks of a Ferrari but the functionality of a go-cart every time. Here are some tips to ensure that your website races laps around the competition—and looks good doing it.
Hire the Right Experts
If you want a website that delivers both an excellent look and great SEO rankings, you need to find a web design firm that understands the importance of both. After all, you wouldn’t go to a body shop to get your transmission replaced, right? So take the time to find an agency that specializes in the task at hand.
Too many developers take a purely design-driven approach to creating a new website, resulting in what is essentially a digital brochure. This is why 99% of new websites fail to achieve any meaningful, organic search engine visibility. Without proper SEO to glue the code, design, and content all together, that beautiful new digital brochure is headed straight for the search engine abyss.
To be clear, I’m not trying to say that design is not important; it is. If a car looks like a dud on the showroom floor, you can bet you won’t be seeing it out on the roads. The same goes for websites. To attract and entice customers, you need something that looks good and feels right for the consumer. But if you want to make the sale, you need the test drive to go well: the engine better be tuned and ready.
Start With the (Search) Engine
Of course, it’s understandable that business owners and developers alike tend to skip SEO and jump straight into the look and feel of a web design project. After all, that’s the fun part! And too many entrepreneurs know very little about SEO or where their website should fit in the overall marketing puzzle, so they leave it as an afterthought to be addressed later. I call this “falling into the design trap.”
As tempting as it may be to choose the web developer with the coolest designs and dive right into fonts, colors, and layout, smart entrepreneurs should take the opposite approach. In order to maximize your ROI on your new website, make SEO the core foundation of your project. When interviewing a new web design partner, don’t just focus on graphic design and website features. Instead, start by discussing SEO, marketing goals, and ROI at length.
Stay in the Driver’s Seat
If you’ve ever been involved in the building of a website before, you may have noticed that website developers can sometimes have an unexpected amount of influence over the process. Business owners too often come in with less than adequate information, leading them to “trust the expert” over and over again, regardless of whether they actually should. Next thing you know, your corporate identity and messaging can be much more the product of a designer’s whims and personal tastes than any actual, data-based strategy.
What’s worse, a fair number of web designers learn only enough code to launch websites on their own or in small teams. This can mean that the critical ingredients for online success — best-practices coding, search engine optimization, and marketing strategy — are left out of the website in favor of what the web developer already knew how to do.
To combat this, your only choice is to stay in the driver’s seat throughout the development of your website. This is the time to not to hand over the reigns and “trust the experts” with little oversight, but to dig in and learn as much as you can about how your website will function.
Ask about SEO and the role of the site within your larger marketing strategy not only as you’re interviewing potential developers, but also as part of each and every decision during the development process. This more hands-on approach is certainly more time-consuming, and it may mean that your site takes longer to build. But wouldn’t you prefer a delayed timetable now over a website that doesn’t meet your marketing goals?
Why SEO Trumps Design Every Time
Much like a car’s engine, SEO is a complex mechanism with many moving parts that requires consistent maintenance to run smoothly. By approaching the entire build of your website with care, you will have not only a good looking site, but also one that is search engine optimized to go head to head with your competitors. Remember, build the engine first, then make it pretty!
Images via DepositPhotos.