Web design and development may be the most in-demand, but under-serviced SEO product on the market.
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.
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.
Drag and drop features.
Website Builder Cons
Limited development options.
Often poor URL structures.
Some plans may be limited in page size.
.htaccess file management.
SEO plugins and tools.
Simple and intuitive interface.
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 level of expertise
Your website’s purpose
What Program Is Best for Your Business?
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 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 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.
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.
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
You want search engines to see the same exact page that a user sees.
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
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.
Featured Image: Pexels All screenshots taken by author, March 2019
On Oct. 31, Google announced the launch of its Site Kit WordPress plugin that, “enables you to set up and configure key Google services, get insights on how people find and use your site, learn how to improve, and easily monetize your content.”
This plugin allows you to easily connect the following Google Services in a dashboard format within your WordPress backend:
It brings the convenience of accessing your site’s performance data while logged into the backend of the site. This is great for webmasters, developers and agencies who are often an admin for their own site or a client’s WordPress site. However, it does not offer the robust and dynamic capabilities of a Google Data Studio report or dashboard to sort data so it may not be ideal for a digital marketing manager or CMO.
With that said, it wouldn’t hurt to implement this plugin as it’s actually a nifty tool that can help you stay on top of your site’s performance metrics. It’s also another way to give Google more access to your site which can have some in-direct benefits organically.
Here is what the Google Site Kit plugin looks like within the WordPress plugin directory.
Installing and setting up Google Site Kit
To utilize the plugin, simply click install and activate as you would any other WordPress plugin. You will then be prompted to complete the set up.
Click on the “Start Setup” button.
You will be prompted to give access to your site’s Google Search Console profile, which means you need to sign in to the Gmail account that has access to your site’s Search Console profile.
Once logged in you need to grant permissions for Google to access the data in your Search Console profile.
Once you’ve granted all the respective permissions, you will get a completion notification and can then click on “Go to my Dashboard.”
Once you’re in the Dashboard you will see options to connect other services such as Analytics, AdSense and PageSpeed insights. You can now choose to connect these services if you like. If you go to the settings of the plugin you will see additional connection options for Optimize and Tag Manager.
Here is what the dashboard looks like with Search Console, analytics and PageSpeed Insights enabled. You can see a clear breakdown of the respective metrics.
The plugin allows you to dive into each reporting respectively with navigation options on the left to drill down into Search Console and analytics.
There is also an admin bar feature to see individual page stats.
In summary, this is a great plugin by Google but keep in mind it’s just version 1.0. I’m excited to see what features and integrations the later versions will have!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Tony Edward is a director of SEO at Tinuiti and an adjunct instructor of search marketing at NYU. Tony has been in the online marketing industry for over 10 years. His background stems from affiliate marketing and he has experience in paid search, social media and video marketing. Tony is also the founder of the Thinking Crypto YouTube channel.
Bing announced a new link penalties. These link penalties are focused on taking down private blog networks (PBNs), subdomain leasing and manipulative cross-site linking.
Inorganic Site Structure
An inorganic site structure is a linking pattern that uses internal site-level link signals (with subdomains) or cross-site linking patterns (with external domains) in order to manipulate search engine rankings.
While these spam techniques already existed, Bing introduced the concept of calling them “inorganic site structure” in order to describe them.
Bing noted that sites legitimately create subdomains to keep different parts of the site separate, such as support.example.com. These are treated as belonging to the main domain, passing site-level signals to the subdomains.
Bing also said sites like WordPress create standalone sites under subdomains, in which case no site level signals are passed to the subdomains.
Examples of Inorganic Site Structure
An inorganic site structure is when a company leases a subdomain in order to take advantage of site-level signals to rank better. There have been
Private blog networks were also included as inorganic site structure
Bing also introduced the idea of domain boundaries. The idea is that there are boundaries to a domain. Sometimes, as in the case of legitimate subdomains (ex. support.example.com), those boundaries extend out to the subdomain. In other cases like WordPress.com subdomains the boundaries do not extend to the subdomains.
Private Blog Networks (PBNs) Bing called out PBNs as a form of spam that abuse website boundaries.
“While not all link networks misrepresent website boundaries, there are many cases where a single website is artificially split across many different domains, all cross-linking to one another, for the obvious purpose of rank boosting. This is particularly true of PBNs (private blog networks).”
Subdomain Leasing Penalties
Bing explained why they consider subdomain leasing a spammy activity:
“…we heard concerns from the SEO community around the growing practice of hosting third-party content or letting a third party operate a designated subdomain or subfolder, generally in exchange for compensation.
…the practice equates to buying ranking signals, which is not much different from buying links.”
At the time of this article, I still see a news site subdomain ranking in Bing (and Google). This page belongs to another company. All the links are redirected affiliate type links with parameters meant for tracking the referrals.
According to Archive.org the subdomain page was credited to an anonymous news staffer. Sometime in the summer the author was switched to someone with a name who is labeled as an expert, although the content is still the same.
So if Bing is already handing out penalties that means Bing (and Google who also ranks this page) still have some catching up to do.
Bing mentioned sites that are essentially one site that are broken up into multiple interlinking sites. Curiously Bing said that these kinds of sites already in violation of other link spam rules but that additional penalties will apply.
Here’s the kind of link structure that Bing used as an example:
All these sites are interlinking to each other. All the sites have related content and according to Bing are essentially the same site. This kind of linking practice goes back many years. They are traditionally known as interlinked websites. They are generally topically related to each other.
Bing used the above example to illustrate interlinked sites that are really just one site.
That link structure resembles the structure of interlinked websites that belong to the same company. If you’re planning a new web venture, it’s generally a good idea to create a site that’s comprehensive than to create a multitude of sites that are focused on just a small part of the niche.
Curiously, in reference to the above illustration, Bing said that kind of link structure was already in violation of link guidelines and that more penalties would be piled on top of those:
“Fig. 3 – All these domains are effectively the same website. This kind of behavior is already in violation of our link policy.
Going forward, it will be also in violation of our “inorganic site structure” policy and may receive additional penalties.“
It’s good news to hear Bing is improving. Competition between search engines encourage innovation and as Bing improves perhaps search traffic may become more diversified as more people switch to Bing as well as other engines like DuckDuckGo.
Read Bing’s announcement: Some Thoughts on Website Boundaries
Google has released version 1.0 of its Site Kit plugin for WordPress, which means its officially out of beta after 6 months.
In the time since the developer preview of Site Kit was released, Google says it drastically simplified the setup, fixed bugs, and polished the main user flows.
Site Kit allows WordPress users to access data from Google products right from their site’s dashboard. The plugin aggregates data from Google Search Console, Google Analytics, PageSpeed Insights, and AdSense.
With Site Kit there’s no additional code editing required, which makes it easy to set up products like Google Analytics for those without any developer experience.
Anyone can install Site Kit, but Google emphasizes that it’s especially useful for professionals who work on sites for clients. The reasons why include:
Clients and other teams can easily access data from Google products by logging into the WordPress dashboard.
Clients will see performance states and improvement recommendations directly from Google
Site Kit allows you to set roles and permissions and make sure only relevant people can see the data.
To get the most out of Site Kit, Google recommends reviewing the main dashboard on at least a weekly basis. You can also check the stats of individual pages by navigating to the page and clicking on Site Kit in the admin bar.
With this data, Google recommends comparing the top performing pages and seeing how people found them. This can help you discover trends, such as which topics get the most engagement on Twitter, which get the most engagement on Facebook, and so on.
To get started with Site Kit, simply install it from your WordPress dashboard.