Previously, we looked at how to make your content more readable for search engines. Now, let’s see what you need to know as your site enters visual design, coding and beyond.

After The Content Strategy Stage

OK. The hard part of SEO is over for you content strategists. Or is it? Working with your team to optimize their designs + code is also an important part of the process.

What To Look For

Images and Text

Don’t let your team embed important text inside images. Make sure that search engines can read all the navigation, headers, buttons, content, and links. Also, check that the design includes captions for images, wherever possible. When the coding is done, ensure your carefully written ALT tags have been included so search engines can “see” the content in images.

image_withcaption

An image caption that search engines can read.

Also, don’t forget that descriptive image filenames can help. No cryptic img4.jpg titles! Use smiling-baby-in-bath.jpg instead.

Typography

If there’s more text embedded in images than you would like, talk with your team about web fonts. Sources like Google Web Fonts and Font Squirrel provide many font options to keep the integrity of a design while making it search engine friendly.

webfont_sample

A web-safe font from Font Squirrel.

 

Interactivity and Animation

Interactivity and animation can be very helpful. But, it can also be hard for search engines to see. Here are some pointers:

  • Avoid an all-Flash site. Only use Flash for elements within a site, to enhance the content, and never for navigation.
  • If your designer wants to use a fly-out or rollover for navigation, make sure they implement it with CSS. That way, search engines will see all of the links.
  • Avoid dynamically loading content with Ajax unless you have a really good reason. Search engines can’t read that content, and your site may suffer in the long run.

Page Load

Search engines can penalize sites that take too long to load, so monitor your page load time. Review these pointers with your team:

  • Optimize all images on the site.
    • Specify a width and height for all images to help the browser render each page before images are fully downloaded.
    • Don’t use CSS to size images if you can help it. Make them the right size beforehand.
    • Thumbnails can help reduce the amount of information within a page. Use them to link to full-size images.
    • Crop out any unnecessary white space or information in your images.
    • Reduce file size by making sure images are at 72 dpi and minimize the depth of color wherever possible.
  • Remove unused code from CSS files.
  • Reduce the use of JavaScript.

descriptive_url_example

A URL that describes the content on a page.

 

URLs

With descriptive URLs, search engines have a better idea of the content on your page. You would rather have “websiteexample.com/clothing/womens/dresses” as your URL than “websiteexample.com/products/item1?=12345”.

There’s No “I” In SEO

SEO should never hinder your team’s process. Your content becomes optimized for search when every person on your team applies best practices. Now that you have the essentials of SEO, it’s time to get to work.

Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in August 2012.

The Author

Lisa Clark is the award-winning Creative Director for Content Science, specializing in visual branding, visual identity, and visual content strategy. You can contact Lisa at Content Science.

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