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
Yoast has released version 12.1 of its WordPress plugin; the update adds your custom favicon to the mobile snippet preview, matches Google’s font sizes on desktop search results and introduces new schema filters.
Why we should care
An accurate preview of your mobile and desktop listings enables you to get a better idea of what your customers see before they click through, which may help you optimize your snippets and encourage them to click on your results.
The new filters introduced in this update can also be used to control your schema output and provide searchers with pertinent information about your brand.
More on the announcement
Yoast 12.1 also adds the following filters for more granular control over schema output:
wpseo_schema_organization_social_profiles filters an entity’s social profiles. You can use it to customize social profiles within the Organization schema object.
wpseo_schema_company_name and wpseo_schema_company_logo_id filter your company’s name and logo from the theme options if it hasn’t been designated in Yoast SEO’s settings.
wpseo_enable_structured_data_blocks disables Yoast’s structured data block editor blocks.
For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation updates, check out our coverage on Yoast SEO 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (images and video structured data), 11.2 (custom schema), 11.3 (personal image and avatar structured data), 11.4 (FAQ structured data), 11.5 (mobile snippet preview) and 11.6 (updated How-to structured data block).
About The Author
George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.
Google announced an update to Reviews Rich Results. The goal is to improve the Reviews Rich Results for users and to “address” abusive implementation and impose limits to where rich results trigger. Additionally,the “name” property becomes required.
Reviews Rich Results
The reviews rich results are explained in Google’s Review Snippet developer page. Google takes your schema structured data related to reviews and show stars in the search results.
The rich snippets developer page states:
“Review snippets may appear in rich results or Google Knowledge Panels.”
It’s the guidelines on their appearance in the rich results that is affected.
Limits Imposed on When Rich Results Reviews are Shown
Google announced that the display of rich results reviews will be limited. This means that any reviews outside of those limits will no longer show review snippets.
These are the allowed schema types:
Self-serving Reviews Not Allowed
Self-serving reviews are reviews of oneself. Google will no longer display self-serving reviews in the featured snippets.
This is how Google explained it:
“We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. “
“name” Property is Now Required
In perhaps the biggest change to Reviews Rich Results is the mandatory requirement of the name property in the featured snippets.
Publishers who rely on schema structured data plugins, including Reviews WordPress Plugins, should check if their plugin is currently including the “name” property.
If the name property is not included with your plugin then look for an update to your plugin and update it. If there is no “name” update then it may be something your plugin maker has in a future update.
You may wish to contact your plugin maker to find out when this is coming because the “name” property is now important.
Will Rich Results Disappear if “name” Property Missing?
Google did not say if failure to have the “name” property in the structured data will result in a loss of the Reviews Rich Result. They only said it’s required.
“With this update, the name property is now required, so you’ll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that’s being reviewed.”
This is an important update for publishers who use reviews structured data. Make sure your structured data is properly updated in order to continue to show rich results for your structured data.
Google’s news Tuesday that it is treating the nofollow attribute as a “hint” for ranking rather than a directive to ignore a link, and the introduction of rel="sponsored"andrel="ugc" raised reactions and questions from SEOs about next steps and the impact of the change to a nearly 15-year-old link attribute.
Choices for choice sake?
It’s useful if you want a choice to be more granular. You didn’t have that before. Now you do. If you want it.
As Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan stated in a tweet Tuesday, the announcement expands the options for site owners and SEOs to specify the nature of a link beyond the singular nofollow attribute. The additional sponsored and ugc attributes are aimed at giving Google more granular signals about the nature of link content.
As a point of clarification, Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that nofollow in meta robots will also be treated as a “hint,” but there are no ugc or sponsored robot meta tags. He also stated that he’ll be updating the official documentation to explicitly reflect this.
There is no real benefit for the sites that implement these new attributes instead of nofollow, other than organizational classification if it’s helpful. That has some viewing it through a lens of skepticism.
I want to believe this. It’s just that I don’t recall Google ever coming out with anything that did not have a direct benefit, or apparent hopeful benefit for Google’s own internal goals.
Drawing the focus back to that the key change that nofollow is now a ranking “hint,” not a directive, Sullivan tweeted, “As Gary says, that’s very helpful to our systems that impact *lots* of people. The new attributes are a minor aspect.”
That was in reference to Illyes earlier tweet that the treatment of nofollow could have a “massive impact on the end user.”
This has the potential to have a massive impact on the end user. While SEOs implement the nofollow, the outcomes of it trickle down to ranking, which directly affects end users.
It can be hard to reconcile hearing that the change could mean significant improvements in search results for users while also being told that most sites won’t see any ranking affect from the new nofollow treatment.
According to the announcement, these changes have already taken effect (save for nofollow being used as a crawling and indexing “hint,” which goes into effect in March 2020). “In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links,” Sullivan and Illyes wrote in the announcement. “We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.”
Who benefits from the new attributes?
Implementing the more granular sponsored andugc attributes is optional, and Google clearly stated there is no need for SEOs to go back and update any existing nofollows. So will site owners adopt the new attributes if they don’t have to?
But if no one is clear on the incentive to implement….they won’t.
As Sullivan has stated, the purpose of them is to provide options to help it classify these kinds of links more clearly. The nuances Google looks at between nofollow,sponsoredand ugc attributes won’t have an impact on your own site and the new attributes are voluntary to implement. “If you do want to help us understand the web better, implement them. If you don’t want to, don’t,” tweeted Illyes.
Making the new attributes voluntary means you don’t have to bang down IT’s door, but it could also mean the change request may fall to the bottom of the priority list for a lot of companies and never get implemented. As consultant Kristine Schachinger expressed in the tweet below, even the slightest SEO change can be hard to get implemented.
Do you really think we are going to get dev teams to start doing this, or content teams? We can hardly get them to write a title or description? What happens if we just ignore this? Seriously asking since no one is going to do this.
Google seems very clearly fine with that. At this stage, the actual work involved should be minimal. If your dev teams can’t implement a code change to incorporate ugc or sponsored attributes for several more sprints, or quarters (and you’ve been implementing nofollow when appropriate), you don’t have to fret.
For WordPress sites, Yoast SEO plugin founder and Chief Product Officer Joost de Valk said Tuesday that support will be coming in the next release.
“It’s quite easy,” said de Valk. If other vendors follow suit, it could speed up adoption of the new attributes.
An opportunity for manipulation?
Now that nofollow is a “hint,” some are also concerned about spammers that might want to test out whether their tactics have a new lease on life.
I’m sure this is well tested and has prob been live for like a year now without anyone noticing. It’s one of those things you prob should of not announced though – it’s going to create a plague of comment spam for blog owners now because ‘hey, nofollow links might work’.
Google says this shouldn’t spur spammers because most links will still be ignored just as before, whether they use the nofollow, ugc or sponsored attributes. Further, given that one of the stated reasons Google made the change to consider nofollow a “hint” is to be able to better understand link schemes, this spam tactic could be more risky than before.
This change should not have you overhauling your nofollow strategy. If you publish sponsored content or host forums or comments on your site, consider implementing the new attributes when you are able to make a code change. If you can’t or just don’t want to, there’s no harm in that either.
“On the surface, this only benefits Google,” Chris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media, commented via Facebook. “But, if you read between the lines, ‘hints’ mean a passing of PageRank or equivalent values. They’re already using Nofollowed links in some cases. They just want it easier to choose between links to use now in more cases.”
About The Author
George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.