Do What You Say & Say What You Do
Striking a Balance Between Functionality And Technicality
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – a phrase coined by the great writer, Margaret Hungerford. It’s a phrase that remains just as true now as when it was first penned back in the 19th century. What does it mean? Well, in simple terms, it means that while one person may find something to be beautiful, another may not. It’s a phrase that I believe ties in closely with what I’d like to talk about in this article: Striking a balancing functionality with technicality.
The connection comes in when looking at the term “balancing”. Building a well rounded website requires a careful balancing act between creating something that works for a user and looks impeccable (functionality) and something that is structurally sound and can be read by Google’s robots (technicality). Many developers get caught up in either one or the other; becoming over excited by a new design and technique and losing a grip on the rules of coding for SEO; or focussing so heavily on making sure the coding is perfect that the user experience becomes flawed. It’s usually the former, though I have come across instances of both. This is where the phrase comes in: the balance that needs to be struck is to build your site for both robot and human. Beauty must be found in the eye of both beholders to make your website a success!
So, let’s begin, as so many do, with aesthetics. What do you need to do to make sure your visual functionality is beautiful to both robot and human? Well, it goes without saying that your design needs to be stunning, cutting edge, and unquestionably attractive. It doesn’t need repeating that the website’s appearance is what determines whether a user decides to stay or go. Design your site with your user in mind – before you begin with colours and images, brainstorm a user experience. Once you are set on that appearance carefully plan your coding – group CSS styles where possible to minimize script calls and try not to use “display:none” tags when designing for responsiveness (use percentages). The careful planning of your code is key to ensuring fast load speed and easy reading for crawlers to get your site ranking well in Google.
However, clean coding isn’t the only thing that needs to be perfect. “Do What You Say”… ie make sure everything actually works. It’s great having exciting new functionalities on your site to filter search results or render animations but if they don’t work, both your user and the crawler are going to be confused. You need to test your site fully before you set it live. Does every button go to where it says it will? Do blog thumbnails pull through the right size and image? Does your contact form use the correct mailing php? These are just a few of many things you need to check. Why? Well, if they are broken, your SEO and your user experience will suffer. Broken links, slow incorrect processes, and failed source material attempts greatly damage your site’s credibility in the eyes of crawlers. Equally, if your site doesn’t do what it says it will do, your users will simply move onto the next website.
Now you’ve started building the site with balancing your designs with impeccable coding, it’s time to ‘say what you do’. This refers to Meta Data, Structured Schema, Authorship Information, and Alt Tags. You need to make sure that you absolutely fill every page with every bit of information you can about what that page does. There is a reason why the list above exists; so use it!
- Meta Data – This is possibly the most important in the list. It includes a Title and Meta Description that essentially sums up the page for crawlers. Without it, the crawlers start with no indication of what they are looking for and how best to proceed. As such, they read the rest of the script in a vague way without actually taking in how parts of your text and images relate to an overall subject. Every page of your site is unique otherwise it simply wouldn’t exist. You need to make sure that each page’s meta data is just as unique – that means no repetition!
- Structured Data – Just as the meta description, structured data, or schema, essentially gives an idea of what the page is about. It is utilised by all search engines in exactly the same way in order to indicate your site’s intentions in search.
- Authorship Information – Who created the site? Surprisingly, this has a significant impact on the credibility of your site. The more sites you build, the higher your credibility and search engines recognise the interconnectivity of your work from blog entries to full builds.
- Alt Tags – Or Image tags are the little snippets of code that accompany an image to describe what’s going on. The most important thing to remember is to not be spammy! Fill every single alt tag with something related and, where you can, try to fit in a keyword. Just don’t go filling every alt tag with only keywords because your site will just seem desperate to rank and subsequently get a damaged reputation.
Do What You Say, Say What You Do
Why is all of this important? In today’s internet market, you are up against a lot of competition. SEO is no longer an unheard of concept but is a fully fledged industry and everybody’s using it! It’s not just OK to build a site and throw it onto the web anymore. You need to make it the very best it can be in every possible nuance – which includes coding for search engines. So, when you next come to build a website, or if you have one already, make sure you are constantly optimising the site. If you don’t, you’ll only fall behind your competitors!