March 22, 2022 - Shannon
SEO is an essential part of developing any website. Without proper implementation of SEO practices, the website and its content will not be findable on search engines. Without showing in search engines or in search queries – what was the point in developing the website?
If you want the website to be seen and used by the target audience, then you should be considering SEO from the very start of the project. Web developers often view SEO as an item that the digital marketing team will work on after development has been completed – but there are a few key SEO considerations web developers should keep in mind as they develop the website.
Here are the top six SEO considerations for web developers and web development teams to keep in mind DURING the website development process.
This should come as no surprise, Google prioritizes Mobile First Indexing. This means that the Googlebot scans the mobile version of a website before it scans the desktop version for search engine indexing. Furthermore, the mobile version of a website is used in Google’s search ranking calculation rather than the desktop version of a website. Prioritizing mobile-first development best practices will help the website rank once it has gone live.
Site speed and page speed are two top Google ranking factors. Google especially prioritizes mobile site speed, as Google indexes mobile websites first.
Page speed is not only crucial for user experience but impacts a crawler’s ability to navigate your site. Slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages. Resulting in a negative effect on website page indexing.
Page speed has a large impact on user experience. The longer pages take to load the higher the bounce rate and the lower the average time on the page will be. Long load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions. Conversion rates drop about 4% for each additional second of page load time over 5 seconds. 70% of users polled said that slow page load times affect their willingness to complete a purchase on a website.
Website structure is an important area to consider when optimizing for SEO. Website structure is how both users and crawlers will understand your website and its content. In the sense of its categorization, hierarchy, and logical flow of information – these items are crucial to plan out in the development process of the website in order to avoid major structural problems post-site-launch.
Page URLs are more than just the address you use to reach a page. It establishes your website structure. A clear site structure helps both search engines & crawlers understand your website from a high level.
In particular, it identifies how users travel around the website and the content hierarchy. Because Google is moving towards automation a well-crafted URL should provide both humans and search engines with an easy-to-understand indication of what to expect at the page destination. Additionally, URLs carry some weight as a ranking factor. Google uses URLs to determine a page’s relevance to a search query.
Planning out URL structure during the development process creates clarity to the website structure, and helps to avoid URL changes after the website launch which may create 404 errors or require additional 301 redirects.
Website navigation should be a clear path of links to access the website pages. From how URLs are broken out into categories to how you link those URLs into pages and menus. This should be intuitive. Neither users nor crawlers should not have to work very hard to find out what they are looking for.
A search bot’s ability to crawl a website is the first step to being indexed and subsequently ranking – bots get their crawling rules from the Robots.txt file.
If you are not seeing a website show up in search results this could be due to several crawler related issues:
Crawling and indexing are the fundamental steps that take place while a robot is processing a website. It is important to know what these two processes are and what the difference is between them.
Crawling is when search engines scour the Internet for content. They are looking over the code/content for each URL they find. Indexing is when search engines store and organize the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it’s in the running to be displayed as a result to relevant queries.
Robots.txt files are located in the root directory of websites ( ex. yourdomain.com/robots.txt ). It tells crawlers which part of your site search engines should and shouldn’t crawl. As well as, the speed at which they crawl your site.
Web development teams should be aware of different crawl errors and how to resolve them. These errors are either 400 or 500-level HTTP status errors. These are errors that make pages entirely inaccessible to site visitors.
Redirects include permanent ( 301 redirects ), temporary (302 redirects & 307 redirects ), and redirect chains. Setting up proper and appropriate redirects is essential. They impact user experience and crawlability.
There are 3 main types of redirects, permanent, temporary and redirect chains. They all have different uses.
301 redirects are the optimal choice in SEO. Without the redirect, the authority from the previous URL is not passed on to the new page. Which helps Google find and index the new version of the page. Additionally, this redirect ensures users find the page they’re looking for or something similar to it.
The presence of 404 errors on your site does not harm search performance. However, it does impact the user experience. Allowing your visitors to click on “dead” links will take them to error pages instead of a page with what they were looking for or something similar, which can be frustrating.
On-page or on-site SEO is the practice of optimizing web page content for both search engines & users. These are the types of things that can improve search volume and rankings.
On-page SEO is key to gaining and improving SERP rankings and visibility. On-page SEO tells search engines about the content on your page and the value it provides to visitors.
Creating and publishing content is not enough. You must add value by optimizing for search engines and human experience. On-page SEO helps search engines find the most relevant search results for a query.
Simply put, just because you built a website does not mean people will see it. Nor does it mean it will just show up in relevant search results. Take the time to work with an SEO early on in the website development process. Working with an SEO or with the guidelines we worked through will ensure each page on your site has proper SEO structure and markup.
If you are responsible for building a website you are also responsible for making sure it has the ability to rank. Many site ranking factors come into play early on in the development process. Such as site navigation, mobile development, URL structure, etc. If you are in the habit of circling in an SEO at the end of the project or solely assigning SEO tasks after the site is built, you are creating problems that do not need to exist.
Furthermore, site maintenance involves ongoing SEO practices. Things such as crawl errors, redirects, etc. Understanding the best practices and how to accurately address them without harming site visibility is an essential part of working with SEO as a website developer.