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Search Engine Friendly Design
Site designers and SEO consultants are often called in at different times to work on a website. Rarely do the two work together, which is unfortunate. Many designers have seen their beautiful work destroyed by an SEO-focused redesign. Many SEO consultants have seen their clients' rankings plummet after a redesign. This doesn't have to happen!
SEO-Related Design Challenges
The major reason for the conflict between designers and SEO consultants is that many designers lack an understanding of SEO. A savvy designer, who knows what search engines are looking for, can design for search engines without compromising the site's appearance and usability. Here are a few examples:
- Search engines read HTML text, but designers often like to use images to allow for more type selection. Understanding how search engines work allows the designer to make intelligent decisions with the client, on when and where to use images instead of text.
- Some site navigation schemes make it impossible for a search engine to crawl a site. There are, of course, solutions to this. It's usually possible to get the same user experience with a crawlable site.
- Flash is the great bane of SEO consultants... but it doesn't have to be a problem. It's possible to mix Flash with HTML to create a search engine friendly page layout, that still allows a rich media experience for users.
- Tables or layers? DHTML or Flash? Many SEO-related design issues can be solved by arranging content in layers instead of tables, and creative use of DHTML to replace plug-in content like Flash.
- Content management systems (and dynamic sites in general) can be great for SEO, or terrible, depending on how they're configured. Understanding these issues enables a designer to take control of them before it's too late.
In our experience, designers who understand the issues are perfectly capable of designing around them, without sacrificing their designs. Our "Search Engine Optimization Fast Start" book provides a great introduction to SEO, and with insight into SEO-friendly site planning as well as page layout. This is a great first step for any designer who wants to produce search engine friendly web sites.
If You Build It, Optimize It!
The easiest way for a site designer to protect the integrity of their work, is to never let an SEO consultant touch it directly. Web developers who offer SEO services as well as design provide a huge added value to their clients.
Some design firms offer a complete array of search engine optimization and marketing services, others pick and choose which to offer themselves, and which to outsource. Anything from keyword research to copywriting to link building campaigns can be outsourced, while you retain control of the project and your client's site.
We offer a broad range of SEO consulting services for designers, and training programs to help you grow this part of your business. If you're thinking about adding search engine friendly design to your service offering, why not contact us to discuss how we can help?