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It doesn’t matter whether you are a client wanting a new website, or a web developer, it is essential you know the answer to the question of “should a web developer include SEO functions for the client”?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the technique which determines the placement of website pages in the results of a search engine such as Google, when a user searches on keywords related to your page.

Just the same as if you had a bricks and mortar retail outlet, if your website is not visible to your potential visitors, they cannot get to know you or buy from you. Therefore, making your website relevant to Google (which controls well over 70% of all web searches worldwide) is a critical task in making your website a useful tool for your business.

So, the short answer is an overwhelming “Yes”, a web developer should include SEO functions for their client. A website is useless without being search engine friendly, and you could equate it to building and fitting out a beautiful, brand new shop and not putting up any signage as to what it is and covering all the windows with brown paper.

You may ask why you shouldn’t just have the website built and then come back and address the SEO issues. The answer is that there are many structural and integral building blocks within a website which need to be addressed at the point of inception, rather returning after completion for remedial adjustments.

As a starting point, when building a new site, the aspects which will improve your SEO process and which need to be addressed during the construction phase include:

  1. Code minimisation: Google spiders search the HTML code for quality content. If your code is full of JavaScript and CSS, it will be more difficult for the spiders to find the content, directly affecting the search engine ranking. Thus all scripts and CSS files should be included as external files. Another factor in keeping your code paired down is that this directly affects the loading time for your site, so for your human visitors, less is more.
  2. Duplicate content: The customer of Google is the user searching for content. Therefore, search engines want to satisfy searches, not website owners. Thus, to satisfy their customers, they want to show them the sites with the most unique, relevant content to meet their search criteria. So it is important that as a site is created, the content is different on every page. Even ensuring the ‘teaser’ copy to entice users to other pages on the site needs to be reworded not just copied from those other pages.
  3. Keyword directed content: Initial keyword research will give you a list of words and phrases your potential visitors will be using to find the solutions to problems you can fix. To make the most of this using SEO, create a page per keyword phrase or keyword.
  4. Meta Description Tags: When a user performs a search in Google, the description they see in the list of results is the <meta> description tag. This is designed to give your visitors an idea of what you can provide; good persuasive copy will ensure visitors will click on your page. This is your one and only chance to make a great first impression, so make it count. Also, just for Google and other search engines, make sure each page has a clear and original meta description tag, this eliminates duplicate content issues and keep the description to 160 characters.
  5. Title Tags: These appear in the title bar of the browser and are used by search engines to understand what the content of that page is about. Therefore, for your users, it is better to include keywords in the title tags and not just your company name; this also stops the title tag looking like duplicate content and being ignored by search engines. Remember also that these tags should be 70 characters; keep it to this so nothing is cut off.
  6. Internal Linking: Plain text links which include keywords improve SEO rankings. Where you can’t use anchor text due to the navigation on the site using something like JavaScript or Flash, then footer links on every page can help with SEO.
  7. Unique Pages: As always, content is King, so make sure you have genuinely unique, fresh content. Don’t include the same information on every page, even if it seems useful such as contact and privacy details or intellectual property rights.

So a web developer should include SEO functions for the client. This needs to be addressed at the initial website development stage to make the site SEO friendly from the beginning and save money and time later when SEO attributes need to be added.