On June 20, 2008, we performed a Google search using the phrase “Seattle graphic design.”
Out of about 722,000 total results, we carefully studied the top 10 websites Google identified as the best match for our search keywords.
Then we compared Google’s results to a list of the top 10 Seattle design firms drawn from the 2008 edition of Media Inc’s annual Northwest Graphic Design list.
It’s instructive to consider the differences between these lists. Large prominent design firms such as Hornall Anderson, HL2, Fitch, and Methodolgie are largely absent from Google’s results. While smaller (some relatively unknown) studios managed to grab Google’s top slots.
More importantly, can you learn how to accomplish the same results for your own studio?
Here is a quick look into a few of the most important factors that influence how your studio’s website ranks in Google search results. With a few strategic changes, and an awareness about how Google’s search algorithms work, you can make a big impact on how Google-friendly your website becomes.
This is the foundation for everything else. Think about the words your target client may type into a Google search page when they have problems your studio can help them solve. Build a short, focused list of keywords and phrases that are relevant to your studio’s online brand.
The Page Title is one of the most important areas Google and other search engines use to determine what is on a particular web page. Google uses your Page Title as the name of your link in search results (Google even makes the matching keywords bold) so these words have a big impact on search results. Put your keywords or phrases in the title, and keep it short.
The Page Description is a short blurb or summary of your web page found in the metadata. Google often uses the first 20-25 words of this description below your site name in search results. As with the Page Title, Google will bold the words that match the user’s search terms.
Incorporating keywords into your site’s headlines and body copy is key to your search results. For Google to read your words, they can’t be rendered as a graphic or embedded in a Flash element. How often should you repeat your keyword? Our advice is to not overdue it. Write naturally, but train yourself to use fewer pronouns.
The number and quality of links pointing to your website are terribly important to your Google rank. There are a number of different strategies and techniques to pursue at this stage. Some of our highest-ranking examples on this list have made a habit of including a small credit link back to their site on the websites they design. Those links add up quickly, especially if they are included on a page footer that appears on each page in a client’s website.
If you (like so many designers) use an all-Flash website, you may really be hurting Google’s ability to understand and index your site. Half of our high-ranking sites in Google’s Top-10 list use Flash animations in their design — however, all but one of them use Flash only as a supplemental design element. There are several new ways to add Google-friendly features to an all-Flash portfolio site. We’ll be covering some techniques in future tips, and we’ll discuss how to rebuild an example Flash website in this Wednesday’s Google for Graphic Designers workshop.
We’ve been having a lot of fun researching this topic, and we’ve got two more posts coming up that will dig even deeper into understanding how you and other design studios can improve your ranking in Google searches.
SEO for Graphic Designers Part 2: What are Studios in Google’s Top-10 Doing Right? In this first follow-up, we’ll look at each website in Google’s top-10 search results for “Seattle graphic design” and uncover the specific Google magic each website is using to accomplish their terrific search engine rank.
SEO for Graphic Designers Part 3: What are Studios in Media Inc’s Top-10 Doing Wrong? Even more instructive, in this third part, we’ll go through the websites for the 10 largest Seattle-area design firms from Media Inc’s list, and determine why their sites don’t rank better in these example search results. Amazingly only Phinney/Bischoff Design House shows up in Google’s top-100 results (excluding matches in Google maps which are handled differently). Even more amazingly, half of the Seattle-area studios in Media Inc’s top-10 list don’t appear anywhere in the 722k Google results for this sample search.
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Source: This tip inspired by a ton of research and work for Craig Swanson’s upcoming Seattle workshop Google for Graphic Designers this Wednesday June 25th at 9:30am or 4pm. Special thanks and credit to HubSpot’s Mike Volpe for the example and inspiration from his article Shortest Tutorial Ever on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).