Apr 10, 2013

How SEO Affects Web Development

SEO is an important aspect in the realm of the digital marketing. Understanding the factors that can affect how search engines will rank your site can be the difference between appearing on page 1 of SERPs or ten pages back. SEO is an important variable that brands need to take into account at all levels when creating and maintaining a website, including planning, development, content creation, moderating, and any other phase that you may go through with your site.

Let’s discuss some key points that can help boost your rank while developing your website.

We’ll start with the infrastructure of the site, or the architecture if you will.

While this may seem inconsequential, having a poorly structured site can negatively impact your page rank. Ensuring that the content of your site is well laid out and, even more importantly, has been categorized and named appropriately will help boost your SEO. It will also lead to having URL's that describe the class of content so that the user know what he or she is viewing and web crawlers know what is being indexed properly. Remember, too, not to go overboard and create a very deep hierarchy of folders, concise and descriptive URLs are the goal.


Now let’s talk redirects.

Another important component to remember when considering how development affects SEO is the appropriate use of response headers for your site. This is especially important for redirects. There are primarily two types you encounter when developing a website: 301's and 302's. These serve very different purposes and should be used carefully to ensure that web crawlers categorize the pages appropriately. If a page has been relocated permanently then you will want to use a 301 redirect. This will ensure that the previous page’s rank will be passed along to the new page, and in essence it will replace the old page with the new one in search indexes. 302 redirects on the other hand, should be used for temporary relocations. One example where using a 302 would be appropriate would be if you were doing A/B testing. Some users would see one version of a page while others would see a different version, until a final decision has been made on which version to use a 302 would be acceptable.

Response headers are also important if you take the site down for maintenance. During any time when your site is down make sure that your website is responding with the appropriate 503 response code. This lets web crawlers know that they will need to revisit the site at a later time to index the pages it was trying to reach rather than having the crawler index error pages.


Optimizing for crawlers.

Ensuring that your site is optimized for the search spiders to crawl is another characteristic of SEO that you will want to consider. This starts with having a valid robots.txt file at the root of your site. This file will specify to the spiders which portions of the site it should index. Ensuring that you have a well-defined robots.txt file will ensure that content you want indexed will be and things you don't want to be indexed should be skipped. It is not a certainty that the robots.txt file will prevent spiders from scanning portions of your site that you don't want them to see. So if there are pages or content you do not want crawled or indexed, it is best to take additional measures to ensure that those portions of your site are not accessible.



If your site includes comment areas or areas for user generated content, it would be wise to add the attribute rel='nofollow' to any links they may post.  This allows the crawlers to know that these links should not be taken into account when calculating your page rank and will help filter any spam links from being associated with your site. 


Prevent information overload.

Lastly having your page optimized so that it loads in a timely fashion will also help increase your site visibility. Not only will your users have a better experience in the time they spend on your site, but site load time is also one of the factors influencing your page rank by search engines.


[Contributed by Jeff Trespalacios, Interactive Developer]