Thank you for tuning in for another lesson in making a successful website. This is our fourth installment and don’t forget to check out our previous lessons on Content, Content, Content!, Web site Design: Function Before Form, and Website Best Practices. This lesson, in many ways, is the most important aspect of a successful website, however, just like our previous sessions, this one builds on the previous ones as well.  Todays topic:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most confusing aspect of web development for people because there is a lot of miss information. Also, since a successful website must have a lot of traffic, SEO has become a big business with many companies trying to help you develop SEO strategies.  I’m here to tell you, that you don’t need to hire anyone; these companies can’t do anything that you can’t with a little bit of focus and hard work.

  1. Content! – See I told you we were building on pervious lessons. Content is still without question the “king of the castle,” so to speak. Your content should be relevant to your site and the content should be “keyword” heavy (but not too heavy). Below are two examples:
    • Design BIG Dreams is a design firm that specializing in fulfilling a non-profits’ dreams of having a beautiful, relevant, and useful website.
    • The Green Company makes green products for green businesses, green homes, and green people, and no green company does it better than The Green Company.

    The first example is a useful sentence that does not overdo the keyword.  The more times one keyword is used search engines start to questions weather or not your site is spam (not good).  However, you want to use the keywords enough so the search engine categorizes your site appropriately. Typically speaking, if you are trying to use a word for search engines, you are going to use it too much. Writing what you site is about without thinking of how this will effect your search engine rank will yield a good result.

  2. Alt Text – Alt text are the words associated with images or pictures on your website.  Alt text serves several functions, the first and most important is that it allows for great accessibility to your website, meaning that if someone is using a web reader, it will read the text because it can’t display the image. The second is the alt text is read by search engines.  So, including alt text on all images is not only best practice, but it helps your SEO; that sounds like a win-win to me. Good alt text should describe what the image is, below are two examples of possible alt text for a picture of me on this website:
    • Headshot of Anthony D’Arco, founder and designer for Design BIG Dreams. (Good!)
    • Pic of anthony (Bad.)

    The first not only describes what the image is, but also has strong keyword usage; the second, not so much of either.

  3. Page Title/URL – Yep that’s right, the page title and URL both help your SEO. First is simple, page title: your page title should reflect what the page is about. Easy right? The trick is to avoid confusing or ambiguous titles; if you do that you should be fine.  However, the URL is a bit more tricky.  URLs can be made a many formats, but some are more SEO friendly than the others. Quick lesson,, /features/ is called a slug. First, the URL slug should not contain unnecessary words (“/features/” not “/the-features-of-design-big-dreams/”). Second, the URL slugs with multiple words should always be separated by dashes (“/rule-4-successful-website/”).  Search engines can only read these words when dashes separate them, so do it!
  4. Headlines – Your headlines are weighted according to importance.  So, search engines view heading 1’s to be more valuable than heading 3’s. That being said it is important to consider what gets included in your heading 1’s (and no, you can’t put everything in heading 1’s; you will be labeled spam faster then you can say “canned meat.”).
  5. Site Map – A site map is an outline of the all of the pages or posts that appear on your site. This page doesn’t need to be linked to any pages if you don’t want, and should be submitted to major search engines. A site map helps search engines accurately order all the pages on your site, so this is obviously a good thing.
  6. Meta Data – Meta data is found in your websites head tag.  If you just said, “Hey! Wait a minute. What the heck is head tag!?” Your lesson is over. Head tags happen behind the scenes. So, if you don’t know what a head tag is, enjoy the rest of your day. For those that do, a meta data are words that describe what the page is about. The words are found within the head tag, and they are with the <meta> tag.  Each phrase with the meta should be comma separated and should contain no more that 10-15 phrases. A meta tag might look like this: <meta name=”Keywords” content=”Design BIG Dreams is awesome, design firm, Chicago, Non-profits, Pricing” />

That is it for today, I hope this was educational. Knowledge is power, and I hope that you gained some with this lesson. Thank you for joining me, and have a nice day.