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Choosing the Best Tech for Your Dev

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Choosing the Best Tech for Your Dev


Web design and development may be the most in-demand, but under-serviced SEO product on the market.

But why?

It seems as though most businesses follow this formula: build a website first, worry about the SEO later.

But as I’m sure most of us have seen, it’s difficult to give our clients the results they desire when they operate a five-page site using Wix or Weebly.

Of course, it can be just as difficult working with a client using a WordPress site that is littered with errors that can take hours upon hours of consulting to uncover.

Web design and development should be developed with SEO in mind.

While I confess that my knowledge of web design and development is cursory at best, my experience and knowledge of the industry have shown me that certain platforms are better for SEO than any others.

Let’s explore!

Website Builder vs. CMS: What’s the Difference?

Unless you are a coding genius, most website development projects will be built either using a pretty basic website builder or a more sophisticated content management system.

A website builder should be pretty familiar to anyone in SEO. The most common examples, include Wix, Weebly, and GoDaddy Website Builder.

Website builders incorporate drag and drop UX and UI that makes it easy for anyone to build a site without hiring a developer.

For this reason, website builders are often a great choice for cash-strapped small businesses, although this does come at the cost of scale and sophistication.

While a website builder offers intuitive styling features, developers will be hard-pressed to make any changes to the backend or files that are hosted by the builder.

For this reason, developers often prefer the flexibility and blank slate that a CMS like WordPress provides.

Content management systems are software programs that enable developers to store and structure content on their site.

It’s often a misconception that WordPress is a website developer, when it’s really a CMS that can incorporate website builders and other plugins into its API.

Using a CMS, developers are free to:

  • Add their own HTML.
  • Manipulate .htaccess files.
  • Organize content on their website however they choose.

Furthermore, CMS platforms offer themes and templates that can make building pages a lot easier.

Website Builder Pros

  • Easy learning curve.
  • Cost effective.
  • Drag and drop features.

Website Builder Cons

  • Limited development options.
  • Often poor URL structures.
  • Some plans may be limited in page size.

CMS Pros

  • Flexibility/sophistication.
  • Data management.
  • .htaccess file management.
  • SEO plugins and tools.
  • Simple and intuitive interface.

CMS Cons

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Easy to break.

With this in mind, you may be more likely to turn to a CMS for the added SEO value. But different businesses should look at different options.

The following factors should determine which platform you use to build a new website:

  • Your budget
  • Your level of expertise
  • Your website’s purpose

What Program Is Best for Your Business?

WordPress

Wordpress dashboard

WordPress’s open source software platform and library of plugins make it the most one of the most robust CMSs for SEO professionals.

WordPress is great for companies that produce lots of content and are looking for simple designs.

Plugins, such as Yoast and WP Rocket can help improve your onsite SEO strategy.

WordPress offers web designers and developers the flexibility and customization they need to create an SEO-friendly website that is fast and responsive.

One issue that frequently does come up with WordPress is its security.

WordPress is fine for most publishers and businesses, but some ecommerce companies and financial institutions prefer their own proprietary code and other platforms for this reason.

Shopify

Shopify home page

Shopify is one of the most innovative web builders on the market.

Perfect for ecommerce stores, Shopify allows webmasters to create an entire online business and marketplace all in a self-hosted platform.

Businesses don’t have to worry about much in terms of a hosting and are given the flexibility to customize their CSS and HTML however they like.

I’d recommend Shopify for small retailers and mom-and-pop stores looking for a more sophisticated platform then Etsy or a basic website builder.

Squarespace

Squarespace templates

Squarespace has long been a favorite website builder for small businesses, offering visually stunning design templates and flexible pricing options.

Squarespace is one of the best website builders for small, local businesses that don’t have a ton of money to dump into a new website.

With that said, Squarespace does falter when it comes to SEO features and integrating other API.

Its lack of support for third-party apps and limitations on what you can do in the backend of a site means you will have to go the extra mile in terms of marketing to reach new customers.

Messing with meta data on Squarespace can be a bit tricky and many of their SEO features, such as setting up redirects are not too easy to figure out for first time users.

Wix

Wix Homepage

You won’t find much love for Wix in the SEO community, Wix builder is probably the best solution for creating a small website that is thin on content.

Affordable and super simple to design, Wix is a great short-term solution for websites who don’t require a huge organic presence over traditional search to succeed.

Of course, Wix’s SEO features are bare bones at best. Wix significantly limits your ability to optimize new content, set up canonical tags, or add new markup to your site to assist in search.

Worst of all, there is no way to export data from Wix.

Weebly

Weebly Homepage

Finally, Weebly is the most simple website builder on this list. Its drag and drop features make it easy for anyone who doesn’t understand source code to create a website.

Unfortunately, Weebly does make it difficult to implement advanced technical features, such as schema and other technical SEO necessities.

Worst of all, migrating from a Weebly site to a Wix or WordPress site is incredibly frustrating. Generally, I rank Weebly as one of the worst website builders, although it’s not a bad place to start for a small business.

Further SEO Considerations for Developing a Website

Working with JavaScript

In the past, it was frowned upon to build a site heavy in JavaScript.

Fortunately, the search engines have become much better at reading JavaScript, although it’s still all too easy to block search engine bots from crawling a site without even knowing it.

You want search engines to see the same exact page that a user sees.

Unfortunately, when actions are required for JavaScript to fire and ends up blocking search engine bots, it means that search engines are seeing a lesser version of your site, which could hurt rankings.

Work with your developer to ensure that JavaScript is used sparingly and does not impede crawl paths and site speed.

Design for Mobile First

All designs should be made with mobile-first in mind.

Whether you are building a WordPress or a Wix site, it’s important that your actual design conforms to the physical requirements of a smaller screen size and different user habits.

With the mobile-first index search engines will rank sites higher that provide the following:

  • Responsive web design
  • Fast page speeds
  • Easy accessibility

Finding a solid website builder and CMS that can account for these considerations is important for your ongoing SEO.

What Are Your Favorite Tools & Platforms?

Every web designer and developer has a different philosophy on how to balance their UX and SEO.

How do you approach this topic? What insights can you provide to help bridge the gap between web development and SEO?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Pexels
All screenshots taken by author, March 2019





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Leaning into SEO as Google shifts from search engine to portal

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Leaning into SEO as Google shifts from search engine to portal


Google’s SERP is almost unrecognizable compared to what it looked like just a few years ago. The changes aren’t just on the surface, either: Google is becoming less search engine, more portal, said Jessica Bowman, CEO of SEO In-house  and Search Engine Land editor at large, during her keynote at SMX Advanced this month.

This evolution is fundamentally altering the customer journey from search, with Google owning the process by enabling users to bypass clicks to websites to get information, take action and even transact. This will have repercussions for just about every company. Bowman offered several plans of action for SEOs preparing for these changes and said investments in SEO will be more important than ever.

Build and train your SEO army

“When I evaluate an organization, I find that every role has activities they do that affect SEO, and SEO needs to be integrated into those activities,” Bowman told Search Engine Land, “The SEO team has to figure out what those are and then train people to do that.”

Larger companies should incorporate SEO into their daily vernacular, said Bowman. This way, you can conscript dozens, if not hundreds, of staff members into your “SEO army,” get them advocating for it, quoting best practices, involving the dedicated SEO team and flagging missing requirements on a day-to-day basis.

Although non-SEOs aren’t expected to be authorities on the topic, their 20% of effort stands to make 80% of the impact on your brand’s overall optimization, Bowman said. It will be up to your main SEO team as well as upper management to empower them.

Expand writing competencies

Product information, news stories, how-to guides and various other types of content may receive higher visibility on SERPs if they appear as a knowledge panel, within a carousel or as a featured snippet. Your writers, be they bloggers, copywriters, social media managers or anything in between, need to be creating content that is comprehensive and authoritative enough to compete for organic visibility, said Bowman.

Writers across the company need to master concepts such as SEO-friendly JavaScript, schema, writing for the long tail, rich snippets and the “People also ask” section in the search results. As with any process, regularly reviewing copy and providing feedback can help assure quality and enable you to get the most from your efforts.

Master Schema and JavaScript for SEO

Understanding and correctly implementing schema on your site can help crawlers make sense of your content and, consequently, increase the odds that it gets displayed as a featured snippet. Featured snippets and other rich results, of course, illustrate the double-edged sword nature of Google’s portal-like interface: They increase your content’s visibility and yet users may not click through to your site because the information they need has already been presented to them.

Event, FAQ, speakable content and much more — Google now supports dozens of markups for various content types, making schema a valuable tool for modern SEO. If you’re using WordPress’ CMS, Yoast has revamped its schema implementation to streamline structured data entry, but it’s still important for your development team to be able to verify the quality of your code.

With Googlebot’s latest update, it can now see more of your content than ever. However, limitations still exist and brands should be cognizant of JavaScript issues that may hinder indexing. Before coding JavaScript, your teams need to be discussing what content search engines will and won’t be able to see. It’s also worth keeping in mind that other search engines may not be as equipped to render your content.

“Particularly for large, global companies, they need to think about these smaller search engines that are less sophisticated than Google but still drive a decent amount of traffic in international markets,” Bowman emphasized.

Monitor and study mobile SERPs

“The problem is, a lot of us work on our computers, and so we’re checking things out on the desktop interface,” Bowman pointed out. Beginning on July 1, all new sites will be indexed using Google’s mobile-first indexing, with older sites getting monitored and evaluated for mobile-first indexing readiness. Since the majority of searches now happen on mobile, brands need to closely examine the mobile SERP and account for updates and changes in order to create content that’s optimized for the devices their audiences are using.

“I think the reason that we, as an industry, have not been talking about this is because of that — we’re not really studying the search results on a mobile interface to truly see they’re [Google] taking it over, and as mobile takes over, they’re going to gobble up some of our traffic. I think once they’ve got it [the mobile SERP] mastered and they know it’s a strong user experience, it’s only a matter of time before they do that to desktop as well.”

Take advantage of big data

“Hiring a data scientist is better than hiring an SEO to study the data,” Bowman stated simply. Data scientists are better equipped to identify commonalities and trends that you can use to improve your optimization efforts, inform your content strategy and enhance user experience (UX).

During her keynote, Bowman also recommended that brands make use of the Google Chrome User Experience Report to compare site speed to the competition as well as reference UX metrics from popular destinations across the web. You can then be more proactive.

Google’s search results interface has changed dramatically, but brands and agencies that can shake the inertia, rally their staffs and reorient their processes will be the first to spot new opportunities and novel ways to reach their audiences.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core


The inclusion of XML Sitemaps as a WordPress Core feature has been proposed by a group of Yoast and Google team members as well as other contributors. In addition to a basic XML Sitemap, the proposal also introduces an XML Sitemaps API that would extend functionality for developers and webmasters.

The proposed XML Sitemaps structure. Image sourced from Make WordPress Core.

What it’ll include. The proposal states that XML Sitemaps will be enabled by default, allowing for indexing of the following content types:

  • Homepage
.
  • Posts page
.
  • Core post types (Pages and Posts)
.
  • Custom post types
.
  • Core taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
.
  • Custom taxonomies
.
  • Users (Authors)
.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your WordPress site’s automatically generated robots.txt file will also reference your sitemap index.

What it won’t include. Although the proposed feature will include the majority of WordPress content types and meet search engine minimum requirements, the initial integration will not cover image, video or news sitemaps, XML Sitemaps caching mechanisms or user-facing changes such as UI controls that exclude individual posts or pages from the sitemap.

The XML Sitemaps API. Here’s how the API will let you manipulate your XML Sitemaps:

  • Provide a custom XML Stylesheet
.
  • Add extra sitemaps and sitemap entries
.
  • Add extra attributes to sitemap entries
.
  • Exclude a specific post, post type, taxonomy or term from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude a specific author from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude specific authors with a specific role from the sitemap
.

Why we should care. Sitemaps facilitate indexing by providing web crawlers with your site’s URLs. If implemented, this might mean one less third-party plugin that brands and webmasters have to rely on for their SEO efforts. As a WordPress Core feature, we can expect wider compatibility and support than we might get from third-party solutions.

Poorly optimized plugins can also slow down your site, which can have a negative impact on your organic traffic. This default option from WordPress may not replace plugins like Yoast SEO because they often include other features in addition to XML Sitemaps, but its availability has the potential to provide us with more flexibility over which plugins we install.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements


Yoast SEO’s latest update enhances its FAQ blocks by automatically generating structured data to accompany questions and answers. The update also introduces some UX improvements and addresses issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

How to use it. Yoast’s FAQ structured data implementation is only compatible with the WordPress block editor (also known as Gutenberg; available on versions 5.0 and newer). Webmasters can get started by selecting the FAQ block, adding a question, inputting the answer and an image (if applicable) and repeating the process for all frequently asked questions.

The Yoast FAQ block.

The corresponding FAQpage structured data will be generated in the background and added to Yoast’s structured data graph, which may help search engines identify your FAQ page and figure out how it fits into the overall scheme of your site.

A new action and filter were also introduced to make this integration more flexible. The wpseo_pre-schema_block-type_<block-type> lets you adjust the graph output based the blocks on the page and the wpseo_schema_block_<block-type> filter enables you to filter graph output on a per-block basis.

Other improvements. Yoast has also linked the SEO and readability scores in the Classic Editor and relocated the Focus keyphrase field to the top of meta box and sidebar to make it easier to find. And, they’ve resolved issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

Why we should care. At this year’s I/O conference, Google announced support for FAQ markup, which may mean that searchers will be presented with FAQs as rich results more frequently. Being able to easily and efficiently equip our FAQ sections with structured data can yield better odds of earning prominent placement on SERPs.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation, check out our coverage on their 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (image and video), 11.2 (custom schema) and 11.3 (image and avatar) updates.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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