Although search experts are the ones who determine the best strategies for organically ranking a website, the execution of much of that work is done by Web developers.
And that means your website's success relies on the two teams' maintaining a positive working relationship. That relationship is important when things are going smoothly, but it's critical when something goes wrong.
"Make friends with your Web designer" is smart advice for an SEO practitioner.
This article covers a few best-practices that require effective collaboration between SEOs and their friends on the Web development team.
1. Write unique title tags
Title tags seem straightforward, but they're significant in SEO.
A good, well-optimized title tag can be good for your rankings on search engines; a compelling title tag can also greatly influence the number of people that may click your result (click-through rate, or CTR). Crafting a well-composed title may mean more people compelled to click.
And because Google seeks to rank content that's a good match with the user's intent, checking both of those off your list can boost both rankings and user engagement.
Your Web developer can help you implement changes to a site's title tags, especially when updating en masse.
Tips for writing title tags
Writing title tags is a mix of art and science. You want the title to provide clear direction to Google while also enticing searchers to click through to your site. I've found a few tricks that speak both to human and to robot.
Use numbers when possible
Numbers can be anything from data to dates. The reason numbers work so well is that our brains are trained to look for things that are different. In a sea of letters on SERPs, a number is likely to stand out.
Take up space (but not too much)
SEOs generally recommend using somewhere between 50 and 60 characters in title tags. The reason: if you simply have "Home" as your homepage title, for example, you aren't going to take up any real estate on the SERP—nor are you going to give Google or searchers any idea what you do.
Using too many characters will truncate your title, and words and context important for attracting clicks might be lost as a result. Character count is not an exact science, though; Google tends to cut off words at 600 pixels, and character widths vary. You can preview how your title will look on the SERPs using using the tool on this page.
Use action words
Rule number one of marketing? Have a call to action. And title tags are a piece of your search engine marketing plan. Let users know what their next step should be when they get to the page. You'll be offering direction to the user while also getting them to look forward to doing something—taking action..
2. Ensure fast load times
Loading time affects the search rankings of webpages, though it's more of a negative impact for the slowest of websites. If you have a fast- or medium-speed site, you may not see much difference in relation to page-load speed and rankings.
That said, website speed has an enormous influence on user behavior: For every extra second it takes your website to load, you can expect to lose a large percentage of visitors. Have in mind all the people looking at your site on slow Internet, in the subway, or with 48 browser tabs open.
Website speed is only a small part of the Google algorithm, but it's a huge overall success metric.
Opportunities for increasing page speed
Both actual and perceived page speed are affected by a variety of factors, most of which are at the mercy of the Web developer.
Page speed optimization is definitely one of the places that require analysis from the SEO and action by the developer.
It's common for developers to code using extra spacing, line breaks, and other practices for readability and ease of use. Though such practices are beneficial for developers when building a site or referring back to how they built a site, it can slow load times tremendously. Web devs should review the site's code and ensure that it's both minified and optimized.
Compress images as much as possible (without sacrificing quality)
When adding images to a website, it's tempting to simply use the source file, but those files are often very large. Most devices that take photos take photos meant for print; in other words, they are not meant for small screens.
With that in mind, compressing images can be done easily and quickly without compromising the quality of the image.
HTTP/2 connections allow for many responses to be received over one connection. That's is unlike a traditional HTTP protocol that requires separate requests for every response. If you have 30 images or videos on a page, traditionally it would take 30 requests to the server to receive the content. With HTTP/2, your requests are minimized and made more efficient.
3. Create a mobile-friendly site
Google takes mobile seriously.
More than half of Google searches take place on a mobile device. Therefore, Google gives a slight edge to sights that are mobile-friendly. Mobile is no longer something Webmasters can ignore.
Many people don't realize that Google typically determines your rankings based on the mobile version of your website and not your desktop version. Providing a good mobile experience is table stakes both for consumers and for Google. Nobody likes loading a restaurant menu on a poorly designed mobile site, and because the search engine's goal is to best serve searchers, they reward sites that make for the best user experience.
Options for mobile-friendly sites
There are two options for mobile-friendly websites: responsive sites or separate mobile sites.
A responsive site is a site that is hosted on a single domain and changes designs reactively, based on the device and screen size they're loaded on. If you're using a responsive website, you need to ensure that all buttons are large enough, all content is accessible, and navigation is easy to use.
Separate mobile subdomains
A separate mobile site is typically a subdomain that companies use to host a watered-down version of their desktop site. Beware, though: Separate mobile sites can suffer in rankings. To correctly operate a separate mobile site, it must provide all of the same information as the main site, the structured data must be correct, and all of the same metadata must be available.
Now get started!
With your newfound understanding of the relationship between SEO and Web development, I encourage you to set up a meeting with both teams and start with creating systems to ensure successful collaboration.
And if your Web dev is struggling with implementing your SEO recommendations, have this Web Developer's SEO Cheat Sheet on hand to help out.
Take the first step (it's free).
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