SEO 101: Valuing SEO-Conscious Web Design

SEO 101 Podcast

SEO 101 listener Paul Mycroft asked (via the SEO 101 forum on WebProWorld) what SEO services we think a web designer like him could offer/should be offering and how those services would differ/compare to a full-time SEO specialist.

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Originally aired on Webmaster Radio on 1/9/2008

From the question, it sounds like his clients are small to medium sized businesses that either aren’t ready for a full blown SEO specialist or don’t have the budget for a dedicated SEO person right now.

Paul says he spends much of his time each month designing, building and maintaining web sites and, in the process of doing so, he also performs some monthly SEO maintenance for those clients. The monthly SEO maintenance includes Google Analytics/traffic software analysis, keyword and internal linking adjustments, and some external link development. Paul estimates that he spends about four hours per month per client on these activities, and that the clients are getting what he considers to be “decent results”.

Our analysis
Additional services Paul could offer, like more intensive link development or linkbait/content writing would add a tremendous amount of time per client and would cause his workload to bloat to the point he needs to start outsourcing to other SEOs or developers, hire help, or try to handle everything by himself (and probably burn out in the process).

If hiring help or outsourcing aren’t in the plans, Paul should continue to provide the services he’s already performing for his clients, but make sure he’s educating them on the actual value of what he’s doing for them. He might also want to update his promotional literature to reflect a greater emphasis on SEO-conscious web design and list all of the benefits of building SEO into your website from the get-go, rather than trying to optimize a site as an afterthought to the design process.

So what are the benefits that should be emphasized?

  • A bot friendly site. The most awesome website in the universe is a waste of time and money if no one ever visits it.
  • Proper use of stylesheets. Way, way, WAY too many web designers and developers think it’s good, right and proper to use stylesheets for *everything* and do so to the point they omit important things like H1 tags and <strong> tags, and other HTML structures that the bots use to understand what is important on the page.
  • Good content. It’s not that most businesses can’t come up with quality content for their websites — most people in general just don’t know what defines good content. Having a developer or SEO consultant who can guide the client and educate them on how to locate good content, and then tweak it to be perfect content, is practically priceless.
  • Good URL structure. Do you have any idea what a colossal pain in the keister it is to try to fix bad url structure after the fact, or patch a content management system that makes crappy URLs by default — especially AFTER the site has gone live? Trust me… this is another one of those things that you just don’t fully appreciate until you’ve had to do it the hard way.
  • Graceful degradation. Graceful degradation is when your site is viewed by users who don’t have a browser capable of rendering it as it was intended to be viewed, but it is STILL USABLE despite not being as pretty as originally planned. Good SEO generally leads to good usability… and to steal a line from St. Martha, “that’s a good thing.”

What Paul is already doing for these businesses is probably worth a lot more than they realize, and worth a lot more than they’re paying. He should probably raise his rates. 😉