Regardless of if you work at a full-service web company or as a freelance web designer, you will eventually have to work with internet marketers. Being that I work as an internet marketer at a web agency, I have daily interaction with designers, programmers, IT/support, and other marketers. One thing I have noticed is that there is not a good connection across departments. No matter if you are creating a new site, doing a redesign, or simply adding a page, it is important to have good internal communication.
Specifically between the designer and the marketer, there needs to be a strong understanding. The designer needs to focus on creating a site that is visually pleasing, while the marketer needs to give a clear understanding of the site goals. This will make it easier for the designer to create a site that accomplishes the overall client objectives and engages visitors.
Work Together From The Beginning
There is a myth that the marketing of a website doesn’t take place until after the site has been built. This is absolutely untrue. If you are working with an Internet Marketer/SEO it is important to work together from the beginning to formulate a strategy that will be inline with the clients goals. You can save yourself time and the client money, if everyone is on the same page.
Regardless of the client goals there are a number of things to discuss:
- Site & Content Architecture
- Determine to use Static or Dynamic Title/Meta Description Tags
- Determine Static Pages or CMS
- What Content the Client Can Control
- Use a Well Thought-out Navigation
- Discuss the Target Audience, Demographics, and Geographic Location
There are also some SEO best practices that the designer should be aware of:
- Use Keyword-rich Anchor Text
- Use Keyword-rich File Naming Conventions for Images
- Using H Tags and Alt Attributes on Images
- Call To Actions are Being Used
- Consistent Content Layout
- Keyword-rich URL structure (URL re-writer may need to be integrated)
- Use Good Internal Linking Throughout the Site
- Contact Form Integration (tracked in Analytics)
- Contact Information Easy To Find
- Using External CSS and js Files for Fast Load Time
- Use Flash Elements not the Entire Site
- Design a Site for Optimal Screen Resolution
I do want to stress that Google recently has placed a lot of emphasis on your site/page load time. Google announced a few years ago that it would use load time as a factor in quality score for PPC ads. Now it has transferred over into how Google rank sites organically. Keep this in mind when designing your site. Try to minimize server calls, image sizes, css/js files, and unnecessary code to reduce load time. Use Google Webmaster Tools, YSlow for Firebug or Pingdom to help you with speeding up your site.
Content Development Strategy
It is important that when organizing the content structure that it is built for scalability. It may be that the client will want to add a new product or service down the road, if the site is built properly it will be easy to add the additional pages.
Also, during the initial keyword research and analysis the marketing team should be gathering insights into what people are searching. This can help with creating the navigation and site structure because it can help identify different segments in the market. Keep in mind that every page has a chance to rank in the search engines, not just the homepage. With that in mind, SEO’s are always looking for relevant pages that can be added to the site, so it can be optimized for a specific theme.
This is a good example of showing different search “themes” or “segments” that warrants its own page.
For news or blogs that consistently create new content, it is essential to make as easy as possible for users to be able to share the content via social sites. Add social media icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. Also make it easy for a user to sign up for their feed via RSS.
Being Able to Track Conversions
One thing to know about Internet Marketers is that we like to track everything. This is what helps us make data driven decisions on our marketing efforts. In order to properly track visitor and conversion data we need to make sure we have a few things setup properly in the back end.
For example, in Google Analytics we will want to make sure we add the GA script to the footer of every page on the site. Once that is completed you will want to take it a step further and setup conversion goals for the site. If you are working with an SEO, they should have determined the sites goals. However in order to setup the goals properly you need unique urls.
This can be accomplished with a number of ways.
- Creating a unique thank you page that the user gets directed to once a contact form is submitted (ex: domain.com/thank-you.html)
- If the form submits to itself you will have to create a virtual pageview, by modifying the analytics code slightly. Whatever you decide to name it, that is what will have to be entered (example below).
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-youraccountcode-1");
- If you would like to track learn more about how you can modify links to append tracking. (watch a video created by Google that talks more about event tracking and virtual pageviews) , downloads, a video interaction or any other event
- If you are working with an ecommerce system be sure to turn on the ecommerce functionality in the setup of Google Analytics. This will pull in purchase and revenue data.
Look out for Blackhat SEO & Duplicate Content Issues
Some web designers and developers will intentionally or unintentionally trick the search engines into placing a website higher in the search rankings. This can include hidden text, hidden links, sneaky redirects, keyword stuffing and link farming. The marketing team you are working with should make you aware of any potential issues that currently exist with the site and anything that could penalize a sites rankings.
Probably the most common issues for duplicate content are on shopping sites where the same products content can be found on a unique product page, a category page, and even the homepage. If there are multiple options for a product (ex: color, size) there can be multiple urls for the same product. If you site has hundreds or thousands of products, this can create tons of duplicate content.
To resolve this issue you can use a canonical tag that will allow you to tell the engines which url is the main url.
Main URL: http://www.example.com/page.html
Duplicate URL: http://www.example.com/page.html?sid=asdf314159265
Add to the HEAD: <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/page.html”/> to specify which URL is the main url that you want the search engines to keep in their index.
You can also use what is called page sculpting, where you allow search engine spiders to only crawl certain pages on your site. Using the NoFollow, NoIndex tag will tell the search engines not to crawl and index.
Landing Page Optimization
It’s important that if part of the marketing strategy is driving visitors to a targeted landing page via PPC, Banner Ads, or Paid Placement that there are dedicated pages designed to convert. There are landing page elements that should be used in order to stimulate users to take action.
Here are some tips to think about when designing a landing page.
- Limit the Number of User Options
- Build Credibility (Testimonials, Reviews, Company Awards, etc…)
- Unique Content
- Test Page Elements (Buttons, Messaging, Images, Offers)
- Be Concise
I don’t believe a web designer needs to know the ins and outs of internet marketing and SEO, however these best practices will help produce a better product, gain better rankings, and convert more users. It can also make the designers life easier and allows the marketer to focus on driving traffic.
What do you think about the relationship between a web developer and internet marketer. Share your thoughts with us.
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Mark is the President of Search Creatively a Raleigh Internet Marketing company. He also is the creator of StayOnSearch, a search marketing blog dedicated to SEO's and Internet Marketing professionals. He also contributes to a number of industry blogs including Search Engine Journal, ProBlogDesign, and 1stWebDesigner. Follow Mark on Twitter (@m_thompson)