What Do Web Designers Really Need to Know about SEO?

Updated November 24, 2014
What web designers have to know about Search engine optimization. Quick tips

What Do Web Designers Really Need to Know about SEO?

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, and strategic marketer focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses and construction companies.

To be found on the internet these days sites need to be set up to allow search index them easily, and set up so that their attractive net of content continues to grow, so more and more articles or pieces of content on the site can bring visitors in. The art of SEO may not be a central focus for every web designer, but necessarily in this day and age, they need to know some key pieces.

While scouring and indexing the pages of sites on the internet, search engines use metrics such as popularity to help get searching people to where they likely want to go. Using these sorting algorithms, they sort and serve up results based on search engine ranking factors.

Google is essentially the main one (sending about 90% of search traffic world-wide) to watch out for and they themselves suggest making the site for users not for search engines.

  • Make a site clear and everything reachable from one text link.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe the content.
  • Make sure your title elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Use keywords to create descriptive, human friendly URLs, and always use 301 redirects or the rel=”canonical” tag to address duplicate content.

Bing says:

  • Don’t bury primary content inside flash, javascript, and ajax only.
  • Produce fresh content regularly.
  • Don’t put the text you want indexed inside images. Perhaps you have a logo with the companies name, but it better be in a main title tag as well if you want Bing to know what the site is for. *Rolls eyes at thinking anyone really cares about Bing. Here’s a video of someone who didn’t get enthusiastic about Bing getting fired. Enjoy.


The truth is that you shouldn’t take what Bing and Google say as absolute truth, because they have an interest in making you think this is exactly what they do, whether they do or not. They put out press releases, and SEO marketers soak it up because they think they must be telling the truth, but the real test is experimenting for yourself and seeing what works. Are you convinced blackhat tactics don’t work because Google announced they were getting strict on shady backlinks? Or have you tested this theory for yourself on a website that wasn’t crucial for you. Always experiment.

But for the most part, Search engines have supported the efforts of SEO Marketers and tried to enable them to play well with their search engines.

The crucial piece in doing SEO is understanding the target market for a particular website and doing your best to direct your messaging, and experience to those people. This is one reason at least the concepting and high-level work of SEO can never be truly outsourced, (unless, of course your outsourcing to highly savvy people.)

A couple notes; top 3 search results get clicked on, and others not so much. SEO is about marketing; you have to promote and share your content other than expecting it to get found. If you do this, search engines use that popularity metric as a way to gauge relevancy as well. Technical SEO on it’s own doesn’t do much. But as web designers, we do need to some practical things to work for when we’re making websites:

Things to remember for web designers making SEO friendly websites.

  1. The most crucial piece is that you have to have shareable content. Don’t think you can really make a dent in search results or agree to make a site Search engine effective without ensuring you or your client has a strategy to create attractive, readable, and shareable content.
  2. Images should all have “alt” tags so that people with visual impairments and search engines can know what’s in the image.
  3. Navigation should be clear, and be set up in a way that Search engines can know how the website is set up. You can easily see how a search how a search engine sees your site by disabling css styles. You can do that with this plugin: Web Developer tools for browsers
  4. Video and audio content should always be transcripted so that the content will be available to be indexed and searched; increasing your ability to be found for the content within these types of media.
  5. If you’re still building websites in flash, stop. Just stop. Also for search engine optimization purposes, you should not be using javascript to link to pages, as it’s hard for them to read those type of links.
  6. One of the best ways to “optimize” a page’s rankings is to ensure that keywords are prominently used in titles, text, and meta data. The best practice is to use your keywords naturally and strategically.
    • In the title tag towards the beginning , keeping the title tag to about 65-75 characters total, use the brand at the end of the title tag, and try to make the title tag cohesive and compelling. (A lot to balance!)
    • Once towards the top of the page
    • 2-3 times in variations in the body text, not necessary to have more.
    • Once in the alt tag of at least one image
    • Once in the meta description to attract clicks. Think of meta descriptions as primarily for humans, and not as much for search algorithms.
  7. Make your url structure empathetic for the people visiting, shorter is better, and reserved keyword use can help. Make sure your site is set up so that there are not question marks in the URL, and only use hyphens to separate words not underscores or plus signs. These can confuse some search engine crawlers.
  8. Make sure to 301 Redirect any duplicate content throughout your site, or use a canonical tag to indicate where the original content lives so the content doesn’t get pushed down in the ratings due to algorithm confusion from trying to decide which piece is the right one.

Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, please tweet this so others can check it out too.

Tweet this!

What web designers have to know about Search engine optimization. Quick tips


Related Posts

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, and strategic marketer focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses and construction companies.

Free Marketing Audiobook

Leave a Reply

6 Comments on "What Do Web Designers Really Need to Know about SEO?"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

Ready to get started?

Get a free consultation now