Originally written April 2013, updated for the state of content-SEO-design circle that we advocate today – and the fact that Google wants you to write for your readers, not their algorithms. You web team should include a technical SEO pro, a content writer to implement their directives, and a designer/developer to present it all in a user-focused manner.

Since I’m a web professional, I’m always curious about the companies that design websites. If the footer of a website says “web design by…” I’m going to click. The odd thing that I keep finding is “SEO-focused” websites seem to have terrible design. From my anecdotal look at about several “SEO-enhanced” sites in past weeks, almost none looked like they were designed with the site user in mind. The writing is crap, and since it’s completely self-serving and not customer-serving, the bounce rate is in the stratosphere. This tells Google, “hey, this site is worthless.” Google then penalizes you for wanting to win at SEO without doing the actual work involved.

I imagine the design consultation sounded something like this:

Business Owner: I need a website, and I need to get on the front page of Google.

Shady SEO Company: We can make that happen! Give us your search terms and we’ll get you all set up. That will cost X -thousand dollars.

Business Owner pays and as promised, soon ranks on the front page of Google…with an ugly, hard to use website six months later is wondering why there’s still no new business from the magic website.

stop paying for bullshit black hat seoStop paying for bullsh!t black hat SEO and get a content writer already.

Yes, I needed to say that really loud. If your web content is well-written and relevant to your business, you’re well on your way to search engine glory. SEO and good design are NOT mutually exclusive. Remember that you don’t just want traffic to your website – you want to convert that traffic when they get there. Believe me, even if you’re making sales, improving the design of your site to benefit your clients and customers will help you make more money. If your website is running on WordPress, that’s another big SEO boost. The best possible thing you can do towards ranking highly on Google for your search terms is to have a blog for your business and write great posts about once per week. Being a good digital citizen – that is, commenting on other blogs, helping folks out, sharing your posts in conversations where it’s helpful and relevant – is huge piece of the puzzle. A company you pay to stuff your keywords on every page and in every page title, add fake followers to your social accounts, and mechanically repost 3 pictures of your office with “buy my crap” all day is NOT going to give the results that those simple, FREE tasks will.

Please don’t think I’m saying that search engine optimization professionals don’t have a role. I’m saying that an SEO pro isn’t the best person to design your site. Structuring your content and informing writing? Absolutely. Picking colors and layout – not so much. If you’re hiring someone for your website with the intention of building high traffic and a strong following, consider that you should have a web designer, content writer and a technical SEO professional. I recommend that they NOT all be the same person unless that person is particularly gifted in allĀ areas. If you are working on your DIY site or even if you’re working with a professional, keep these 2 things in mind:

  1. What is the first thing you want users to do when they get to your website?
  2. What do you want them to do before they leave your site?

Those guiding questions will help you design a site that truly works for your business.