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SEO: The Role of UX Developers

By Krishna Teja Kesineni

SEO. It is the three-letter word that all site owners crave for as it increases quality traffic. But, as most know, SEO is not easy. Great SEO is a team effort, starting from day one and involving everyone from market analysts to developers. We know the importance of great SEO. Let’s take a deep dive look into the role that developers play in achieving a good SEO-rated site.

There is a misconception by developers that SEO is too complex to understand and implement. Truth-be-told, if you understand how search engines work and have the patience to follow the best practices, you will turn the things around.

How Do Search Engines Work?

  • Search engines have bots that crawl the Internet, moving from website to website.

  • When they reach your website, the bots (which are scripts) click every link and either build out a map of links on your website or use the site map.
  • Once they map your website's structure, the bots parse, store, and weigh the contents.
  • Then they send all of this information back to the Mother Ship (Google, Yahoo, Bing, or Ask) and then use an algorithm to rank your website among other websites for search queries, also called keywords.

Different search engines have different criteria in evaluating the sites. It's important to prioritize your development based on the popularity by the location you are targeting. As of September 2016, Google has the share of 75.2% in the world [1]. But in some East Asian countries and Russia, Google is not the most popular search engine because its algorithm eliminates some results due to regional filters. For example, Yandex is popular in Russia with market share of 61.9% [2].

From here, our focus is on optimizing the code for Google search. It uses the algorithm called “PAGE RANKING”

How Google Page Ranking Works

The exact Page Ranking algorithm has never been published, nor never will. But we can see basic steps.

  1. Discovery - Google needs awareness of your website's existence and the content you offer.
  1. Amplifiers - These are aspects of your website that enhance your page ranking.
  1. Dampeners- These are aspects of your website that hurt your page ranking.

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Important Things To Keep in Mind

Here are some great tips for developers to remember while developing a site that truly will affect ratings.

  • Use unique, accurate page titles.  A page title, displayed in search results, explains what the page is about  to both the user and the search engine. Create unique, brief, descriptive and meaningful titles for each page. Google will know how the page is distinct from other.
  • Use description meta tags.  Description meta tags give Google a summary of what a page is about. Google may use this for displaying in the search results, so give unique and accurately summarized descriptions to each page. Don’t copy and paste the content of the document.
  • Use keywords meta tags.  Keywords meta tags specify the basic keywords that user search that will            match with pages. Don’t overpopulate your keywords, but instead give relevant keywords that describe what the page is about.
  • Pay attention to structure of URL’s.  URL’s will be displayed in the search results, so avoid using lengthy URLs with unnecessary parameters and session IDs. Avoid, also, multiple URLs leading to same page. Instead, create simple hierarchy in the URLs like  ‘www.domaine.com/people/teja’. The partial URL’s must also work.
  • Easier site navigation.  Site navigation is important to search engines for indexing the page. Maintain a natural flow of hierarchy of links.
  • Add links to sitemaps.  Make sure to add appropriate links to the HTML & XML sitemap. HTML site map is for user and XML is for the Google. Every link on the website must be present in the sitemaps.
  • Create useful 404 pages.  Users will occasionally come to a page that doesn't exist on your site, arriving there either by following a broken link or typing in the wrong URL. Create a custom “404 error page” that will guide the user to a working page.
  • Give alt text for images.  Give meaningful alternative text for images, as it will be used in indexing the images by search engines. Most of the text-reading tools read the  alternative text wherever there is an image, something that helps the visibly disabled users.
  • Image Sitemap.  Create an image XML sitemap with keywords for each image. A search engine uses the same for indexing.
  • Heading tags.  Use proper heading tags to emphasize your important text. Heading tags are used to present structure on the page to your users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>, the most important, and ending with <h6>, the least important.
  • Avoid script-based navigation.  Use anchor tags for navigation purposes, and load the website by             disabling the JavaScript, as the pages you want to index must be present.
  • Use tables.  Use table tags for display the table content. This will display the same in the search results.
  • Avoid background images.  Search engines do not index background images.
  • txt.  A "robots.txt" file tells search engines whether they can access, and therefore, crawl parts of your site. Make sure robot.txt is included and don’t forget to include folders that don’t require crawling. In this way you   can control what is visible to search engines.
  • Use of rel="nofollow".   Setting "rel" attribute of a link to "nofollow" will tell search engines that certain links on your site shouldn't be followed or to pass your page's   reputation to the pages linked to it. Use this for things like Message Boards and the Comments Section.
  • Mobile support  Today, most websites are responsive. Google has the ability to load CSS and identify the responsiveness of the page. If there are separate sites for mobile, be sure to make proper redirections. This increases the rating of the page.
  • Backlinks.  The more sites that link to yours, the better your search rankings will be. However, the quality of the backlink is important, as well. Sites built around user-interaction and sharing are made great by using social media.
  • Usability.   Again, Google has the ability to load CSS and JavaScript to analyze the layout and usability of your website. UX will play a major role in ranking, so making good UX will increase your rank.
  • Speed.  Google knows how much time it will take to load the page in different environments. The faster the website loads, the betters the ranking.
  • Quality content.   Unique and original content is huge! If the website user starts “liking” and stays on the site for long periods of time, the rank increases. If (s)he navigates away quickly, the ranking will fall.
  • Do not content farm.  Creating of hallow pages are good for traffic, but not for users. Google is watching and knows when you do this, thus decreases your rank.
  • Do not hide content.  Hiding content is not a good practice. Google loads CSS and JavaScript on your website and knows what content is visible to the user.
  • Correct console errors.  If you see console errors, fix them right away. These errors indicate to Google that you have taken care of things. 


Summary 


Your users come first. Search engines are designed to give users the information they're looking for as fast as possible. Because they don’t care about your site, build it using centric product. Before you start development, try to understand the requirements, define the folder and URL structure, get the flow of the pages, and obtain the keywords, descriptions and titles.

At the time of developing, don’t be lazy. Use proper html components. Make sure you have followed the coding standards. Have a link? Make sure there is a title text. Have an image? Make sure there is alt text.

And finally, remember that having an SEO foundation in place is critical as you grow and scale, but the results won't be seen overnight. 

Krishna Teja Kesineni

Krishna Teja Kesineni

Software Engineering at Innominds

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