Sure, you’d like your keywords to rank on page one in a Google search, but there’s not enough real estate there for everyone. Gone are the days when only a handful of businesses were optimizing their sites, and companies had almost no competition. No longer can you to fool the search engines with old-school tactics like keyword stuffing, anchor links, paid link networks, numerous microsites, etc. The top internet browsers, namely Google, are much more sophisticated, so forget the web design tricks and focus on your customers.
Search engines want their users to easily find what they’re looking for and have a positive experience on the sites they visit. If you understand your customers’ wants and desires and create an exceptional experience, your website will be a winner. With that in mind, these are important factors to consider for website design, development and maintenance:
Mobile Responsive Web Design
If we need to explain what that means, then you’re already behind. Again, think about your site visitor. More than 50% of internet activity happens on mobile devices, so make sure your web design offers easy navigation and resizing of images and text for mobile, tablet and desktop. It’s no longer a matter of search engines rewarding mobile responsive websites with higher rankings; they’ve come to expect it.
Modern Web Design
If you have a website that’s two or three years old, chances are it’s already looking old and tired. Sites now feature large, vibrant images; dynamic grid layouts; and card-style architecture. Headlines are big and bold, and text is broken into digestible bits. We’ll continue to see more web designs with animation and video as these tools become easier to create, and scalable vector graphics (SVGs) will replace jpegs and png images for a cleaner look and greater flexibility.
For a while, SEO drove content, but fortunately, that’s all changing. Going back to Marketing 101, be true to your brand. Brand-driven content lets your website visitors know what your company is all about – what you do or sell, what makes your business special, and how you can make their lives better. Know your audience, understand their needs, then spend some time crafting your messages. Once you settle on your brand content, you’re not done. Share your expertise through regular blogging, and experiment with different calls-to-action. Keeping your content “alive” and evolving is a way of life on the web. (Read these helpful tips: 6 Elements of a Great Blog Post)
Features and Functionality
Don’t introduce a widget or a gadget just because, but if you can offer a tool that adds value to your customers’ experience, then it’s worth doing. At the simplest level, you might provide an online appointment request form or the means to submit a job application. Perhaps your site visitors would want to do a live chat, search a database, or map your multiple locations. More sophisticated functionality might come in the form of a product configuration tool or pricing calculator. Some cool bells and whistles can give life to your site and enhance the user experience. Be strategic and customer-focused when deciding what tools to include.
Websites are exposed to any number of security risks these days, so do your due diligence to safeguard your site and ensure its safety for your customers. First and foremost, keep your software up to date. Developers often issue new versions for the very purpose of closing security gaps. Also, talk to your web host to find out what security features they provide to proactively guard against hacking and remove malware should your site be compromised. And finally, Google is moving toward an SSL requirement for more and more sites; it’s especially important if your website captures passwords, online payments or other private information. Websites without SSL certificates will be designated as non-secure in Google Chrome.
Did we mention user experience? All of the above contributes to the end goals: to delight your customers when they come to your site, keep them there so they can get to know you better, and make them excited about the prospect of coming back. This is not to say that “back-end SEO” is no longer important. It is. But if your website does these tasks well, Google will look favorably upon you.