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13 SEO Techniques Every Web Developer Should Know

By: Nikita Adnani at Design Junction

Submitted on Thu, Sep 17th, 2009 1:17 am

When web developers create a new site, or approach a site redesign, they seldom do so from the perspective of search engine optimisation (SEO). Instead, their goal is to inject a high level of aesthetic appeal. Flash videos and engaging images take precedence over a site architecture designed for easy search engine indexing and competitive organic ranking. Indeed, it is a rare developer who considers SEO a priority.

The challenge is that the development process can cause enormous problems with regard to a website's ability to rank well. Because search engine optimisation is a core marketing strategy, these problems often have a severe impact on a site's profitability. With this in mind, here are 13 SEO techniques every web developer should integrate into a site's design:

1. Streamline Your Code

Many web developers create attractive sites, but the underlying code they use is staggeringly heavy. Search engine spiders enjoy efficient, light code. They can crawl it more quickly and index it more accurately. Not only does that lead to higher organic rankings for a site's target keywords, but it's also easier to maintain those rankings.

It's worth noting that clean code does not hamper a web developer's design creativity. It merely streamlines a page's structure. For example, an external CSS file can accomplish the same thing as a heavy HTML table, but it does so with far less code.

2. Choose One Main Keyword For Each Page

For optimal search engine optimisation, each page should be designed to focus upon one main keyword. The content, tags, and surrounding code on the page should be developed to emphasize that keyword. Two or three secondary keywords can be used to add thematic support, but the main keyword should be the priority.

3.Place Keywords In Title Tags

Organic search algorithms rely heavily on page titles to determine the thematic relevance of a page's topic to a searcher's query. If all pages within a site's architecture have similar title tags, that will have a negative influence on each page's respective ability to rank competitively. Each page should have a unique title that includes its primary keyword. Furthermore, that keyword should be placed as closely as possible at the beginning of the title.

4. Use "Friendly" URLs

A site's URL structure plays a key role in supporting - or hampering - the owner's SEO efforts. Web developers will often design a site with URLs that are unfriendly to search engine spiders. For example, pages might look like the following:

While spiders can crawl such URLs, their ability to index them properly is limited. What's more, the above URL does little to support the page's main keyword. If a page is focused on "running shoes," the following URL would be far more search engine "friendly":
Search algorithms can identify keywords within an URL; they are used to further identify thematic relevance to searchers' queries.

5. Seed Keywords Throughout Each Page

Besides the title tag and URL, a page's main keyword should be used in specific ways throughout the page. It should be positioned at the top and placed within H1 header tags. It should be used within the first paragraph of content. If possible, the keyword should also be placed within H2 header tags.

6. Limit Your Use Of Flash

Many web developers continue to use Flash in order to create visuals that engage visitors. While Flash can be a powerful design tool for captivating an audience, it cannot be read by search engine spiders. If the spiders cannot read the underlying content, they cannot index it properly. This is the main reason beautifully designed sites rank poorly in the search engines. Spiders read text and little else.

7. Create Semantically-Related Content

As noted above, each page's main keyword should be used in specific ways on the page. However, it is also important to develop content that employs phrases that are semantically related to the main keyword. When search engine spiders crawl a site's content, they determine relevance based partly upon whether a coherent theme exists.

For example, consider a site that reviews products developed by Apple Inc. The pages are more likely to rank well for queries about Apple's products (rather than the fruit) if each page uses phrases related to electronics, MP3 players, and computers. A good web development company will typically offer strong SEO copywriting services.

8. Use Internal Linking

Links are the vehicle used by search engine spiders to find pages throughout a site. Normally, a sitemap will contain links to every page. However, web developers can further improve a page's organic ranking ability by generously linking to internal pages. Internal links should be placed within a page's body content and use anchor text that includes the linked page's main keyword.

9. Approach Ajax Cautiously

Ajax loads dynamically, which reduces the load time of individual pages. It is a popular development tool for web applications because it offers a near-seamless browsing experience for visitors. The drawback is that Ajax cannot be spidered well by the search engines. As a result, the individual pages that load dynamically cannot be indexed properly -- leading to poor search engine optimisation.

10. Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of seeding a keyword throughout a page (including within the underlying code) with an alarmingly high repetition. It is done as a search engine optimisation strategy. Not only is stuffing an ineffective website marketing technique over the long run, but it can also result in a site's organic rankings being penalized. While keyword density is important for ranking competitively, it should rarely climb above 3%; in most cases, it should remain under 2%.

11. Take Advantage Of The Image Alt Attribute

Search engine spiders cannot "read" an image; they have no contextual understanding, regardless of how simplistic the image appears. However, they can easily read an image's description if it is placed within the accompanying alt attribute. This is an on-page SEO technique that is simple to use, yet often neglected by web developers. By using a description that supports the page's main keyword, developers can further boost that page's organic ranking ability.

12. Fix Broken Links

Broken links are dead-ends for search engine spiders. While it is not known for certain how large an influence they have on a site's overall ranking ability, they have an impact. When spiders come upon broken links, they do not simply turn around and retreat. They collect data about the missing page as well as the page that carried the link. When the spiders return to the search engine, that data is used to determine thematic relevance, topical authority, freshness, and the resulting ranking power that should be attributed to the site.

Again, the level of damage broken links can have upon a site's ranking ability within its space is unknown (though, it is widely speculated). However, they play a role and should be fixed.

13. Develop For Inbound Links

Inbound links are the driving force behind a website's ability to rank competitively for its target keywords. Though many web developers don't realize it, there is a lot they can do to design a site that attracts high-quality links. Using "friendly" URLs (described in #4 above) is important, but creating engaging content is what ultimately draws attention.

When people link to a website, their links create ranking authority for the site, especially if they use thematically related anchor text. This creates long-term momentum. As a site or page climbs within the search engine's organic listings, its visibility increases. Assuming the content is engaging, the page's higher ranking draws more links over time, helping to fortify its position.

As millions of website owners have discovered, a beautiful site can go unnoticed by its target audience. It needs exposure. Web developers can use the 13 SEO techniques above to design - or redesign - a site that looks attractive while climbing the search engine listings.

About the Author

Nikita Adnani
Design Junction
Nikita Adnani is the Director of a leading Internet Marketing, eCommerce, Web Design & Development services company. She has about 15 years of experience in the field of Web Design, Visual Communication, Web Development and Search Engine Marketing Services. She has spent the last 9 years of her career devoted solely in pursuing Search Engine Marketing and Web Development strategies to help businesses improve their profit. Copyright 2009,

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