5 SEO tips for Web Developers

Lone Ranger in white hat

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard web developers say that “SEO is the client’s problem.” There’s already enough to worry about with new technologies and standards popping up every five minutes, right? So why not just let this one thing go?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but even if you don’t pay attention to how well your websites rank on the search results pages (SERPs), your clients do, and they don’t see it as their responsibility, they see it as yours. So, with that in mind, here are five SEO best practices you can integrate into your workflow to make sure that your websites are better optimized for search.

Links matter

Of course, you knew this, linking back to a website from external sites is one of the most crucial factors in SEO. However, that issue is generally out of the hands of the developer unless you’re a one-person shop. What you can do, though, is make sure that you have a rich web of internal links on your website. This is one of those times that employing usability best practices will help you out with SEO: the easier your content is to find on the site, the better the user experience, and the higher your site will rank. If you have a page of brilliant content on your website that you can only find from one link, the chance of people finding it will be slim. On the other hand, if you cross link to it from multiple pages and blog posts on your site, people will be more likely to find it. Similarly, the search engines will be able to crawl the site more easily and will be more likely to rank it higher.

Page load times matter

From Yoast.com: “Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.” During the development cycle of a new website, there are several things you can do to mitigate the load time issue, such as optimizing images, using a CDN to deliver content closer to the visitor, moving to PHP7, leveraging browser caching, and compressing long CSS and JavaScript files.

Well-formatted Heading tags matter

Just about every website I audit for search optimization still suffers from incorrect usage of Heading tags. Here are the basics in a nutshell:

  • Use one, and only one, H1 on your pages. Google considers the H1 to be the most important heading on your page, so make sure it clearly describes what a visitor will find on the page. If you use more than one H1 on a page, the search ranking will suffer.
  • The H1 should contain the most important keywords for that page.
  • For local search, include the location in the H1.
  • You can use multiple instances of H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 on a page, but keep usage consistent across the website.

Accessibility matters

You know you’ve done it, everybody does it at least once. In the dark of night, while no one else was around, you didn’t bother using alt attributes on all of your images. Even worse, one time you put in the attribute but didn’t provide a value! Well, even though it may seem a petty, make-work-ish task, search engines, and the visually impaired, care if your website can be read by screen readers. So while you’re uploading all of those nicely optimized images (see item #2), make sure you provide alts with helpful, descriptive text.

Sitemaps matter

There are some pros and cons to using an XML sitemap on your website, but since Google still recommends using them under the right circumstances, I do too.

So, there you go, not too overwhelming, right? There are certainly more SEO best practices you can and should use, but if you’re a web developer who is new to SEO, this is a good place to start.

Happy optimizing!

-Rob.

Rob Parker is a data-driven marketing, design and user experience executive consultant with over 20 years experience. He helps small, medium and enterprise-level businesses gain value and customers by developing solid online and offline marketing and user experience strategies and techniques. He is a unique mix of marketing strategist, UX architect, designer, data analyst, writer, usability expert and perceiver of consumer habits and psychology. Rob combines user and market research with data analysis and his experience as a designer and content writer to make recommendations to increase your rankings on web searches and attract customers (SEO), as well as how to increase conversions on your website (CRO).