SEO Techniques Web Developers Need to Learn Part 1

Web developers are hired to make things work on a web site. SEO is often considered an afterthought that is often someone else’s responsibility.

However web developers can do quite a bit to help, or harm, a company’s optimization efforts.

To help visitors find web sites more easily, many organizations are bringing SEO professionals in during the planning phase of a new website.

If you are working without the input of someone who specializes in SEO, these tips can help guide you along the path to search engine bliss.

Basic Little Things

While you may be a highly skilled web developer, you may not be well versed in the word of search engine optimization. If you think that filling the meta keyword tag or jamming a keyword into the first 100 words as often as possible will help your site, keep reading.

If you are familiar with some basic SEO techniques, stay tuned. Part two will get a bit more advanced.

Keyword rich folder structure

When laying out the plans for a new website many developers use folders as a way to better organize files but nothing more. An SEO will actually take this opportunity to get the targeted keywords in front of the search engines once again.

For example, if a company is targeting the keyword kids’ shoes it may be natural for the developer to place all pictures of children’s shoes into an images folder. However, if the folder were named, kids shoes pictures it gets the keyword into the URL another time. For example, www.domainname.com/kids-shoes-pictures/red-hitops.png is much more search engine friendly than www.domainname/images/img0122.png. The search engine won’t know what you are referring to in the latter file.

This should be applied to other files as well, not just images.

A distant cousin of this tip is to make sure that your URLs are search engine friendly. Some applications, like WordPress, have a default permalink that looks a little like this: http://www.domainname.com?p=123. That says little about that page to your visitor and even less to the search engines. Be a nice person and make sure that your website’s URLs are a bit friendlier.

NB – Do not overdo it when it comes to your URLs. Long overly long URLs with parameter/value pairs are not good for SEO and not well liked by humans either.

Bad Image Optimization

Most websites and blogs are filled with images because they really make a site stand out. Unfortunately most developers miss out on yet another way they can help their site’s search engine ranking.

For a test, go to Google images and search for some pictures on any topic you choose. Note how many of these images have file names that are just a string of letters and/or numbers. Probably quite a few. There are even more, I am sure, that use only a single word as the file name.

Using targeted keywords when naming images to be used on your sites can certainly help improve on how favorably the search engines view your site. As can the alt tag. Using a good description for your alt tag, that contains your keywords, will help your website’s usability and optimization.

Too Much HTML, Too Little CSS

Most developers have moved out of the nineties and use CSS to design the aesthetics of a website. However, there are times when HTML is used in lieu of a style sheet and it shouldn’t. Ever.

When a search engine spider crawls a website, it sees CSS as the design elements of the site and HTML as the content elements. If HTML is used for both, the search engines get confused.

Oh, and there are people who advise using CSS to hide keywords in things like headings so that you can use an image with the text in it. The thought is that you get the cool design that goes along with the image without losing the SEO benefit of keywords in the content.

Never. Never. Never. Never hide keywords using CSS or anything else. Even if you have the best intentions this is one of the oldest black hat SEO tricks in the books and the search engines don’t look to kindly on this practice.

In part two of this series we will look at the more intermediate SEO tips you can apply to help make your site a friend of the search engines.

Jeff is the editor of Developer Drive. He also works as a freelance writer and blogger as well as a technology coordinator for a school district. More articles by Jeff Orloff
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