Sunday, 4 May 2008

How does Web Design differ from SEO?

Modern web design tools, like Microsoft Expression Web or Dreamweaver, make the process of designing a website relatively easy. Using a template, a simple, presentable website can easily be written and posted online. However, getting a website found by people searching online involves more than just making the website look nice. Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short, is the activity of making a website rank well in searches on engines like Google and Yahoo.

In some ways making a website look good is of secondary importance: everyone's idea of what looks good is different and nowadays people are used to a reading a range of websites with varying degrees of artistic accomplishment or graphical design standard. What matters most is getting found in the first place and then having content that holds the visitor's interest.

A good web designer will perform both activities – making a good-looking site and making sure the site is well-optimised.

Most website designers will show you their portfolio of websites when you ask them to quote for your website. Good website designers should offer an SEO service too. Ask for examples of how well their client’s sites perform in searches.

If a designer doesn’t offer an SEO service, think twice about using their services – SEO isn’t something that can easily be performed after a website has been written and the pages are online. Ideally, a website needs to be constructed from the beginning with SEO in mind. The choice of URLs, domain names and linking strategy between pages all affect the site’s optimisation and should be planned before the website is written.

The amount of optimisation that can be performed depends on how much time and effort is put in. On-page optimisation (getting the page’s text and internal links to other pages on the same site) can be performed relatively quickly, but off-site optimisation will be an on ongoing task. Off-site optimisation mainly involves getting links from other sites. This can be a very time-consuming activity.

If good ranking in SERPs (search engine result pages) is essential to the success of your site, and you can afford to do so, hire an SEO expert. If you hire someone to do SEO work make sure they explain their techniques to you – at some point you may want to perform your own SEO. In particular, make sure your hired SEO only uses white-hat SEO techniques and will not use so-called black-hat SEO techniques that could result in Google giving your website a penalty or even banning your site in the future.

If you are looking for expert SEO advice and information, I would recommend the services of Four Square Innovations. They helped me with my website and set me on the road to ranking on page 1 of Google for my major search terms.

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