Why SEO is not just about keywords

Contrary to popular belief, comprehensive search engine optimisation (SEO) starts with your website, not with your keywords. Though there’s no magic formula, focusing on design, content, on-page and off-page will have a positive impact on ranking in search engine results.

Well optimised websites have a number of design considerations at their core and are critical in delivering the right impression, information and experience to stimulate future traffic and drive conversion. Search engine bots, just like human visitors, place a high degree of significance on whether (and how quickly) the site works, how easily it can be navigated and ultimately how accessible it is.

Here’s my quick take on which design considerations are important and why:

1. Functionality / usability: Website visitors are short on time and have bewildering choice, so they expect a site to work. This means ensuring it loads quickly, that all pages display correctly and links to pages both within the site and to other websites work. Enquiry forms, email and sign up functions need to be easy and quick to use too. Automated email confirmation and data validation should be in place when anyone elects to make contact.

2. Navigation: Your site has to be easy to navigate. If in doubt, test it on people removed from what you do. Ask them to complete a number of search and enquiry related tasks and watch how they go about it.

3. Aesthetics: Your site should be clear and attractive. Cluttered pages disrupt flow and confuse visitors. Colour palettes, fonts and images should deliver an experience that encourages visitors to stay and return.

4. Accessibility: It’s important to consider the needs of different browsers in your site design. This is especially relevant to settings that help the visually impaired and users affected by motor neurone, learning difficulties or deafness. The Disability Discrimination Act and WC3 international compliance standards for good web design should be consulted.

5. Hygiene factors: Finally, ensure that legal, data protection and privacy policy statements are included on your site. These can relate to the smooth running of technical content, the collection and use of personal data (through logins or forums) or assist with queries and concerns. Statements or downloadable policies should be comprehensively signposted and easy to find.

Summary: These elements might initially appear to have little role in SEO but actually they are important for optimisation and impact the overall website experience. And they are critical in building a durable, future-proof website.

An extended version of this post originally featured on the BDB Blog in October 2010. Please visit to read in its entirety and have your say.

Image: Tendou86 on Blogspot

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8 responses to “Why SEO is not just about keywords

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why SEO is not just about keywords | The Marketing Assassin -- Topsy.com

  2. Some good points here. Thanks

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  5. You said it your self these are not SEO tips good considerations when building a site but mostly would not effect your ranking what so ever!

    • Thanks for commenting, though not sure I understand what you’re saying. I guess design, navigation and functionality considerations feed in to a good user experience which will probably prompt return visit, recommendation and referral. Higher levels of traffic might then suggest the site has a degree of influence and will contribute.

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