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How to integrate SEO and Web Design?

Web Designers and SEO teams remain locked in a continuous feud divided by a line in the Google sandbox. Both sides stand behind their respective crafts, each believing their work is vital to online success.

On the one hand, the SEO team must drive traffic. The other must communicate brand experience. Both are very essential, yet employ very different techniques and ideas. How can web design and SEO live together in harmony?

The Design Team

Web Designers create websites with the client's audience in mind.

Too often they believe a user's experience dictates success. A simple "build it and they will come" mindset pervades their approach to site design. That's not all bad.

At a very basic level, creative teams long to tell a story. Through design and copy, the team takes a brand and crafts a world for it. They built  a Website with a look and theme; a feel and flavour. Often, the most effective way to convey a message is through more expressive technologies like AJAX, Flash Animation, and Silverlight. Even video integration (read youtube) has become more prevalent with increased broadband penetration.

Designers want to make use of these technologies because they engage the user. Technological integration helps tell the brand story and bring design to life. If Flash or Silverlight will make the overall site experience more enticing and interactive, then designers should implement them accordingly.

The SEO Team

If a designer tells a story, then the search engineer provides directions to the lecture hall where it's told. The SEO side focuses heavily on traffic and visibility, believing a website must be seen to be heard.

Now here's a surprise. Remember those cool technologies the creative team wants to use? Well, SEO wants to use them too. They're just more cautious.

While an SEO-friendly website doesn't need to be straight HTML, SEO teams must take into consideration search engine spiders. Even if a site uses AJAX, key content must be accessible to spiders for indexing.

This is where the 2 teams lock horns. When creative says Flash, SEO counters with CSS. When creative wants rollover navigation, SEO wants text-based. So what's more important: the experience or the traffic? Which side is right?

The Compromise

It can't all be about Search Engine Optimization. If you drive traffic to a site and user experience is sub-par, you disappoint not only the user but the client as well. Conversely, what good is an eye-catching website if no one can see it? The Internet is big enough for both experimental webdesign and search optimization. It is big enough. :)

While not always easy, the web designer and search engine engineer can find ways to achieve both creative and search interest without sacrificing the integrity of either.

The key to such compromises is education. Creative must understand how SEO works; SEO must also comprehend the importance of certain design elements to branding and messaging. Both must also consider how visitors will reach the site. Will they find it solely through search? Or will a media blitz (including social media) help drive traffic to the site? All these elements must be considered when negotiating design and optimization issues.

You (The Client) Comes First

Regardless of department affiliation, our web designers and SEO engineer will place your (client) interests before their own. Clients want both brand identity and search visibility. The creative and SEO teams need to put aside their feud in order to meet such expectations.

Sometimes you might have to forgo a video splash page, or you may need to optimize a Flash microsite. Even if you disagree with the other department's tactics, you still need them to achieve project objectives. Our client matters. You matters.