Website development and SEO are sometimes seen as separate disciplines. But this is really an outdated way of looking at things.
When website development and SEO are aligned you can look forward to:
● Better search performance
● Higher conversion rates
● Fewer lost sales
● More revenue and better profitability
Search engines aren’t what they used to be (or, at least, what they were often assumed to be). In recent years they’ve become more focused on user experience. So the key to improving search performance often lies in the technicalities of how your site is built and the experience it offers to visitors.
SEO and web development need to work in harmony to produce the best results for your business.
If your pages load quickly, your site works well on mobile devices and you’ve optimised your user journeys you’ll be rewarded with better search rankings. Your site users will also be happy because they are having an effortless experience.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an over-simplification. There are still many technical aspects of SEO that must be in place on a high-performing website. You also need to be targeting well researched keywords. By this we mean searches with healthy volumes that reflect the intent of a visitor who is more likely to make a purchase or an enquiry.
What most people traditionally think of as SEO is still incredibly important. SEO experts will ensure your pages are structured correctly and use the right keywords in the right places. They’ll also make sure that technical features such as schema markup, robots.txt files and sitemaps are executed correctly.
These are the fundamentals of good SEO practice that a surprising number of e-commerce and lead gen websites still lack. This is what tends to happen when web designers and developers see SEO as ‘somebody else’s problem.’
Without these basic elements in place the battle for better search rankings will always be an uphill struggle.
As Google’s ranking algorithms have evolved, they've become much more concerned with what an average site visitor experiences. Sites that work well on mobile devices (which is where about two thirds of searches happen these days) are preferred. Sites that keep users waiting for ages while images, fonts or scripts load get penalised.
Ponderous and frustrating experiences aren’t what Google wants to serve up to its customers. They aren’t what your potential customers want either.
How Integrated should SEO be with Web Design & Development?
Very. At Fingo, our approach to website projects is so inclusive of SEO that we don’t even begin design work until a full consideration and content analysis is performed and considered.
SEO and development teams work holistically as part of the wireframe process in consultation with the design team, ensuring blocks of copy required for Search strategies are reflected in the early design prototypes.
And we go a step further, we require both SEO and Dev teams to sign off wireframes to ensure the elements will be read favorably by Google's bots.
Eight Steps to Better Website Performance
Saying that you need to improve website performance to boost search rankings is all well and good. What does it mean in practice? Here’s a summary of some of the techniques we use at Fingo to help sites perform better for search engines and visitors.
Some of these make files smaller so that they download faster. Others are about how browsers download and use files and assets to make visitors feel that pages are loading quickly.
So here are eight important steps to better site performance and search rankings:
- Compress image files. Once images have been sized correctly they need to be compressed so they download faster. Using the WebP format can make each image up to 70% smaller than JPEG. Your users won’t see any difference in image quality.
- Remove redundant code. As site features are improved or added, developers sometimes forget to clean up behind them. They forget to remove code that’s no longer useful as it just adds to the ‘weight’ of the site and serves no purpose.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). The main host server location might be a long way away from some of your visitors. CDN’s use a network of local points of presence to cache website assets such as images and scripts. With a CDN such as Cloud Flare (which is what we use at Fingo) not everything has to make the long journey from the main server to the client.
- Reduce external scripts to the absolute essentials. Some developers like to throw the kitchen sink at their sites and add maps, chat bots, tracking and other scripts that may or may not be useful. Fingo uses data and statistics to identify which scripts add value to the user experience and what can safely go in the bin.
- Use efficient caching policies across all assets. When a browser requests a resource the host server can tell it whether to cache that resource locally and how long to retain it. The next time that user opens your site many resources won’t have to be fetched from the host server.
- Set website properties to use system fonts under certain conditions. These fonts are pre-loaded into the browser and don’t need to be downloaded with the web page. Custom fonts look great but should be used sparingly if you want to improve page loading speeds and search performance.
The Fingo Approach
Fingo developers deploy all of the techniques mentioned above. We also use some more general principles to improve performance and business value.
We use a mobile-first approach to design and ensure that the core of your site is built around the needs of mobile users. We make the mobile experience as fast and polished as possible.
This reflects the reality that most site visits come from mobile devices and that Google employs a mobile-first approach to page rankings.
On a large website some pages will be more important than others. We use analytics and customer journey mapping to identify the business-critical pages that are essential to the conversion process. We then apply the enhancements we talked about earlier to make these pages lightning fast and easy to navigate.
It isn’t just the entry page that matters. We aim to provide the smoothest possible flow from product listings to product details and through to checkout, for example.
A high speed train on outdated track doesn’t go any faster than clapped-out, obsolete rolling stock. Infrastructure is important if you want maximum performance. Here are some of the basics that we focus on:
● Fast and reliable servers.
● An up-to-date CMS ideally with CDN capabilities.
● Efficient coding practices at the front and back ends.
As you can see, there are many factors that affect website performance and search rankings. So maybe the simplest advice is to find the right partner. Contact Fingo if you’d like to implement a systematic approach to better business performance.