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Designing Your Utility Website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Your website has the potential to be your biggest asset. But, if your beautifully designed website isn’t easy for your customers to find, it can also be your biggest roadblock to success.

When customers have questions, or are looking for information about a purchase, they search online using a search engine like Google. Through an ever-changing set of top-secret algorithms, Google aims to show visitors information that best matches their search intent within the first few results. Just how accurate is Google? The top Google result has a 33 percent chance of getting clicked, and the lower your website ranks below that, the more drastically your chances of getting clicked decrease.

So how can you optimize the design of your utility website to get it popping up in prime position?

1. Go for search-friendly site architecture.

Search engine bots must be able to ‘crawl’ easily through the internal link structure of your website to ‘see’ the content of your pages, and list them in massive keyword-based indices. A pyramid structure, with as few links as possible between the homepage and each sub-page is ideal. It also means ‘link equity’ flows throughout the site, increasing ranking potential for every page.

Make sure you don’t have ‘orphaned pages’ that aren’t linked from any other pages. If Google can’t crawl to it, your page doesn’t exist!

Your link URLs should clearly describe the page content and include keywords (terms you expect customers to search for), if that seems natural. Cramming in as many keywords as you can will backfire, though. Google frowns upon keyword stuffing. Use plain words, not abbreviations or weird character strings.

Google loves simple, logical organization, because it not only makes navigational sense for the human user, but also tells its bots what pages are about and how they interrelate.

2. Create great content.

woman-on-laptop-computerProviding valuable content for your visitors builds your search-friendly credentials in all kinds of ways.

First, it attracts people to your site, and more traffic boosts your ranking.

Second, it keeps visitors on your site for longer—dwell time is a ranking metric Google smiles upon.

Great content also stimulates social shares, comments and backlinks (other websites linking back to your pages), which all help make your site a Golden Child in Google’s eyes.

Google has made it clear that their top priority is to better understand customers’ intent and find content to solve for their problems. Because of this, quality content is more important than ever. Gone are the days of fooling Google by stuffing your paragraphs and tags with keywords. If the content is not there, Google will know, and your ranking will suffer.

3. Get meta – tags, titles and descriptions.

The title tag for every page should be unique and include at least one content-relevant keyword. Your header tags on each page, especially h1 tags, should include keywords too to help shoot you to the top spot when users search those terms.

man-on-cell-phone

Meta descriptions are the blurbs you see under web page entries in search results. These don’t affect ranking directly, but they do impact how many people click through to your site, which bumps you up over time. Increase your click-through rate by using proven terms like Today, Fast, Step-by-Step or Simple in your meta description. Adding numbers also helps: 6 Tips for a Search-Friendly Site could help boost this post, for example.

4. Ramp up your site speed.

Page load time is one of Google’s favorite ranking signals, because faster sites mean happier users who stick around longer. If you have to wait interminable seconds while a page slowly plops into place, you’ll probably bounce before it’s done.

Since more than 50 percent of Google searches happen on mobile devices, mobile load speed—as well as a design that adjusts for comfortable viewing on a small screen—is especially important for search ranking.

5. Optimize your images.

Images make your web content attractive and bring in organic traffic via image search results.

woman-with-camera

 But be sure to resize your images before uploading to avoid dragging down your page speed. (Even iPhone photos can be 3K pixels wide, which is 2.5K more than you need.)

Use clear, concise alt-text to tell Google what’s in your pictures, so they’ll show up in image searches. And make sure photos are relevant to your content—confused visitors make Google unhappy!

6. Sprinkle with quality links.

Linking to sites with high domain authority can increase your Google rankings, so try to include prestige outbound links where they feel relevant.

Quality backlinks—from legitimate sites to your website—are the holy grail of search optimization and can float you happily up the rankings. But beware of spammy backlinks from disreputable sites, which can be seriously penalized by Google.

Wrapping up

These technical design tips will help your website rank at the top. But as a rule of thumb, remember that Google just wants happy users. So focus on creating an attractive, easy-to-use interface that encourages visitors to stay, and you won’t go wrong. Check out our marketing lookbook to see what Franklin Energy can do for your website!

View Our Marketing Lookbook

References

Ten SEO aspects for web designers to master, Search Engine Watch, 10 May 2018: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/05/10/ten-seo-aspects-for-web-designers-to-master/

Internal Links, Moz: https://moz.com/learn/seo/internal-link

Four ways to boost SEO in just 5 hours, Search Engine Watch, 14 May 2018: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/05/14/four-ways-to-boost-seo-in-just-5-hours/

Top SEO Tips 2018: A Step-by-Step “How-to” Guide, Alejandro Rioja, 1 March 2018: https://alejandrorioja.com/blog/seo-tips/

Page One: What’s A Google Rank Worth, Search Engine People, 6 July 2017: https://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/page-one-whats-google-rank-worth.html

Overlooked SEO Statistics for 2016 and Beyond, Digitimatic, 21 April 2017: https://digitimatic.com/blog/seo-statistics/

Megan Nyquist
Written by Megan Nyquist

Digital Marketing Strategist
Marketing is always evolving, but Megan Nyquist knows how to stay one step ahead. As an expert in both digital marketing strategy and digital campaign development, she works closely with clients and program marketing staff to develop innovative digital marketing campaigns that improve results and reduce costs. Megan also leads digital marketing training for the Franklin Energy marketing team and our clients. She has achieved trackable customer engagement in our own corporate marketing and effected impressive improvements in satisfaction and participation on behalf of our utility clients. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Marquette University, extensive digital marketing certifications and has won multiple digital marketing awards on behalf of Franklin Energy and our clients.

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