Web Designers and Search Engine Marketers

Submitted by Peter Handley | Category: Search Engine Optimization | Published on Nov 29, 2007
An article looking at the difficulties many web designers have with the Search Engine Optimisation industry. The article is trying to promote better understanding and closer working between the 2 industries.

Whilst studying at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Portsmouth University (where I graduated with a degree in Entertainment Technology) and in a freelance capacity since leaving I have dabbled in the world of web design. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when a site is finished, and enjoy integrating different types of media into a whole user experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


In the past I have created a number of sites, one for an upcoming author to help him promote his first published book, another was for an upcoming music production studio, and have had a couple of gardeners to design websites for. In the past when I was asked “how do we get people to find and visit the site” it was a great mystery to me.


Working web designers that I was using for feedback on my progression in design seemed as baffled as I was when I asked them the same question. Despite being a great designer (whose name I will keep to myself), one of these guys’ responses was “Never promise a client traffic from search engines. You will have to tell them to hire a specialist for that”.


I was intrigued at the time, but didn’t pursue it further. My lecturers at University were more concerned with usability issues and creating a fantastic looking site, and about the best information that I was given at the time was “make sure you add the Meta Keywords tag and put all the words you want to be found for in that!”.


After I graduated, I went to work for a Managed Search Engine Marketing company called Vertical Leap, and began my career as a Search Engine Marketer. At first all the information that I had to learn baffled me to some degree, but then I eventually realised much of the work required to “optimise” a site is very similar to constructing a site, in terms of what needs to be changed on pages.


There aren’t any “magical” tags that SEO utilises to get better rankings for words in search engines like Google. Instead, careful consideration of the content put into various tags, and the text content of the website is what you can change on a page to improve its rankings. It is also important to differentiate pages in the of a document, and ensure that page titles and Meta descriptions are different and are specific to each page!


That explains why the first website I ever built with all the text in graphics (using a very funky graffiti font, all style – no substance) and identical Meta data on every page was never picked up by the search engines. SEO people everywhere say it for a reason, but “content is king!”


If web designers understood the on page factors of SEO they would create websites that without much additional effort should rank well for the text content that appears on said designed sites. Once I understood SEO, the basics truly were simple, and creating a website that has a lot of the basic SEO work done is much easier than fixing it at a later stage.


SEO sometimes gets press as a “dark art”, when in fact most ethical search engine marketers merely tidy up structures of sites, clean up duplication of the head across a site and ensure that this is targeted to the content that appears on a page, and makes sure that the search engine spiders can access all the pages we want them too.


There are areas of Search Engine Optimisation that are more complex, but the mantra to remember for the basics, as for many other things is “Keep It Simple”. Before tackling complex areas that may affect a websites ranking, make sure the basics are in place before messing around with things that could in fact damage a sites ranking further.


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Name: Peter Handley

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