SEO For Web Designers

I’ve been asked to discuss Search Engine Optimization with the current class of front end engineers at the Iron Yard Code Academy in Durham today from ten to eleven. This will be my second SEO presentation at the Iron Yard in a year.

SEO For Web Designers – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Returning to the Iron Yard provided a chance to compare current SEO stats with previous benchmarks:

  • Links moved down 35% from 1,844 to 1,217.
  • Twitter following moved down from 27% to 20%
  • Gained 7 first page listings, lost 3

The data shows SEO isn’t a priority for The Iron Yard. Links can be “lost” for a variety of reasons. Great SEO teams “disavow” links that come from unknown or spammy locations to protect rank. We doubt the Iron Yard is disavowing links since such actions are typically reserved for advanced SEOs.

More likely is a combination of the not very accurate source (Alexa) and Google’s ongoing bonsai trimming of the web. Loss of some “root domains” linking in could easily be offset if the Iron Yard understood how to ask for help and create community as the Haiku Deck outlines.

One sign of NOT understanding the social nature of SEO is the Iron Yard’s drop in follows back % from 27% to 20% on Twitter. The Iron Yard doesn’t digitally “listen” very well. I mentioned the school several times via @theIronYard and was rarely picked up and never thanked. Bad “digital listening” can cost SEO points.

SEO rests now on the strength of the online community a company creates. A “code academy” begins in a naturally strong position since they will be graduating hundreds of students a year. Students are grateful and willing to share IF asked. Currently, there is no “ask” and the yard isn’t listening.

Technical SEO is comprised of a series of interlinked factors including:

  • Title Meta
  • Image Alt text
  • Body copy and headlines
  • Internal linkage
  • Meta description
  • URL

There are other “technical” factors you can easily discover on The important idea is to do the keyword research so you know what keywords matter most. “Keyword research” should evaluate search demand against current positions and keyword difficulty (of attaining rank).

You want top listings. Top listings rarely come, at least at first, from the most competitive terms. This means your content should map a “long tail” strategy where you develop content to win terms with some monthly search demand. Better to win “minor” terms as you refine your content engine than whack at listings impossible to win in this lifetime.

Once you have a stable of victories you can daisy chain them together and lay siege to bigger terms. “Wining” SEO, despite the way those last sentences sounded, isn’t your websites most important mission. Creating the love, loyalty and advocacy needed to win an increasing number of hearts and minds is any websites prime objective.

SEO can become a self-referential game. Don’t let that happen. You aren’t trying to win SEO positions. You are creating amazing content, content capable of bringing SEO along with it. Yes, tracking lends itself to the self-referential, but stay focused on the real goal – the development of the sustainable online community with advocates helping create your online brand.

Dana Calder’s Photos from SEO for Web Designers:

SEO for Web Designers Darwin

SEO For Web Designers Iron Yard

SEO Web Designers Marty