Does your web developer speak almost exclusively in jargon, with an occasional smattering of what sounds like Klingon? Do they use phrases like ‘latent semantic indexing protocols’ in everyday conversation? Do you find yourself listening with a glazed expression, nodding along as a stream of acronyms pass through your noggin and you ponder, ‘What does TTFB even mean?’.
Like it or not, your web developer is a key player in your organisation and you need to communicate effectively to maximise your web presence.
In the real world people often get their first impression of your business from your bricks-and-mortar premises. Similarly, your website delivers that first impression online and the way it’s designed dictates if your business is perceived as an attractive high street boutique or a run-down bargain basement. The better you’re able to communicate with your designer, the better site they’ll deliver – and that’s why it’s crucial to learn the lingo!
A big part of a web designer’s job should be to make your website easy to find, ensuring that Google can quickly work out what the site is about and who it’s relevant to. This is known as Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO – you’ll almost certainly be familiar with the concept, but the SEO umbrella stretches over many topics.
The basic idea is that people type a query (‘law firms Bristol’, for example) into their favourite search engine (lets face it, probably Google). Google treats this query as a set of keywords which it tries to match with its database of web pages and then display the most relevant results: the pages Google calculates will most likely be able to answer the query.
Google is always trying to find the most trustworthy answer to the queries typed into it and it can be tempting to build your website just to rank better on Google. Bad idea – to get some quick wins and get your site ranking higher, stop reading and watch this sweet slice of eye candy:
Search engines ‘index’ your site, storing information on layout and content which they use to match results to queries. Considered by most SEO professionals to be the strongest on page signal you can send to Google to tell it what this page is about is the URL (the bit after your domain name for example www.yourwebsite.com/THIS-BIT ) followed by the Page Title. On optimised sites these typically reflect the page’s topic; both the page title and the URL are defined within the page setup so it’s best to instruct your web developer on what you need these to be BEFORE the site is built.
Google’s smart enough to know that a page with the title ‘10 Simple Ways to Defeat a Cat Army’ should be a relevant result for queries about feline warfare, and will check the content of the page (including headlines, copy, alt text) to ensure they match with the expected topic. It will also check the body of the text for words which are related to the search keywords – something us SEO Nerds call ‘latent semantic indexing’ (or LSI), which is a fancy way of saying ‘words related to the keyword. In the above example, phrases like “kitten catapult” and “tactical spaying” would be semantically relevant to the search topic, and so would contribute to the page’s relevancy (therefore placing it higher in search engine results pages, or SERPs).
Mobile Internet is BIG business, with more browsing now done on mobile devices than desktops. If you’re going to capture some of this traffic, you need a website which works just as well on a 4” iPhone screen as a 21” desktop. Don’t forget that mobile browsing is conducted using a touchscreen – a button that’s nicely clickable with a cursor might not be so easy to find with stumpy little Shrek-like fingers and those “drop down menus” that only appear when you hover over something with your mouse – they don’t work on fingers – lose them or find a way to guide the user to that content without relying exclusively upon them. Content needs to scale to the dimensions of the screen it’s displayed upon to avoid text becoming unreadable and images being cropped.
LoMo (Local Mobile) is also growing in importance, as Google places a user’s location as a primary factor when determining relevancy for search queries. As such, having a comprehensive LoMo marketing strategy is fundamental to winning local business.
Because responsive websites are much easier to navigate on a smartphone, Google prioritises them in mobile search results, meaning that your website very probably won’t be displayed if it isn’t responsive.
If your website is the shopfloor, your Content Management System (CMS) is the store manager; you simply tell it what you want doing and it’ll make the necessary changes. Systems like WordPress make it easy for you to login and make changes yourself, so you can update stock, content and blogs without needing the services of your web developer.
Sites which are regularly updated are, yet again, likely to be ranked higher on search engines (Google says that any query deserves a really fresh answer), so a CMS which allows you to do this is a vital component to a successful site.
Hopefully, this brief rundown of acronym-busting will be of some use when you next have your developer in the room, but for further insight on the key questions to ask and what to be aware of, please download our free 25 Website Essentials eBook.
Thanks to Jon Payne for sharing his advice in this post. Jon is the Technical Director of Search and Social Media Marketing agency, Noisy Little Monkey