Should You Hire an SEO Expert in 2022?

People often ask us if it pays to hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company to help drive more traffic to their website. Our answer is often the same: “If they promise to guarantee that your site will be on the first page of Google, then an emphatic ‘NO.’” Only an unethical SEO pro would say that, and any spammy technique that violates search engine policies will result in a permanent ban.

Frankly, the most important SEO ranking factor is content. Social signals, backlinks, HTML code, responsive design, and finally a high ranking domain name support strong content. 

WORDS! The words used on all pages, the photos that enhance those words; your headers and sub-headers, article title and descriptions, lists, blogs and even how a form is labeled all contribute to SEO strength.

This is why every website that ActiveCanvas builds begins with a content strategy. Before one pixel is spent on design and color palettes, we spend considerable time building knowledge and writing content that we know is strong and that will rank high at Google. (There are other fine search engines, but Google sets the standards, so we pay attention to their algorithms).

Google is and always has been very clear about this. Their search algorithm prioritizes high-quality content that genuinely helps consumers understand your brand and interact with it. In fact, if your website uses any “click-bait” (content whose main purpose is to get a get a click regardless of relevance) or that uses too many misleading keywords, your site will be demoted, not promoted, and could be banned or ignored by Google, Facebook and others.

We recommend an SEO audit every year or so just to be sure that the online conversation you are having with potential and current customers is still compelling content that meets all the Google SEO standards. When we focus on your audience instead of “clicks” you have an SEO-friendly website that people actually want to read. And that’s good for your bottom line!

Design for Change

Known has the “King of Web Standards” and a longtime hero of ours is Jeffrey Zeldman. He’s one of the brains behind WordPress, the blogging software launched in 2003 that has evolved into a popular publishing system for websites. Jeffrey once said…

“Your company’s survival is tied to the ability of the products it makes to work in situations you haven’t imagined, and on devices that don’t yet exist.”

When we’re asked to design a “responsive design” website, we still start with words. Before one pixel of design is undertaken, we have done our research on all their competitors and listed the top keywords for our customer’s industry. We list what sticks out in our research, we come to understand our customer’s pain points, we search for the “big idea” for the messaging, we list all the reasons why someone wouldn’t purchase from this customer and overcome possible objections, we describe products and services honestly and in process we find our voice and craft the entire message for the website’s content. 

Next we create the brand message. Starting with the current logo, we create a brand messaging style guide based on the website’s copy. We gather all the social proof like customer testimonials and case studies and optimize the images to look great on all device sizes such as desktops and mobile phones.

Copy dictates design, not the other way around.

Because we started with the end in mind, we have all the content for the entire website and have created a site map. Every paragraph has a goal and a call to action and the content document is packed with relevant SEO words and phrases. Then we build the wireframe to define the layout structure on the many device form factors (2-dimensional sizes). On the left side of the wireframe is the site design as it will be viewed on computers; the right side is for tablets and mobile devices. Saved as a PDF, this document serves as a “go by” during coding and development.

But what about the future of websites? The answer may surprise you. Look at that growth of wearable devices like the Apple watch. We already use responsive design to translate websites on smaller screen sizes like tablets and mobile phones, but our wearable device is already forcing web designers to redefine responsive design. It’s more intuitive and less distracting to glance at a device on your wrist. Watch for it. The Internet of Things (IoT) is on the move!

Web Design Trends for 2021

It’s a tradition at ActiveCanvas to share with our clients and readers what website design industry “experts” believe will trend for the coming year. Some of these trends stick around and become part of the fabric of online design, while others fade into oblivion. Both the winners and the losers give us useful insight. So here are our top 5 for 2021 with our favorite trend rated #1.

#1 Dark Mode. Dark mode is how Apple changed the way we see our screens. Instead of a white background with dark text, users have the option to switch to light text on a dark background to preserve battery life and reduce blue light exposure. If you want to convey caring, try Dark Mode. 

#2 Minimalism. These sites use basic shapes, clean, usually sans serif text, limited color palettes, and an abundance of empty space to put the focus on content and functionality. The minimalist style trend is not new, but because it’s such a strong factor in boosting SEO and extending audience reach these functional and inclusive sites are still madly popular. If you want to be trusted, use Minimalism.

#3 Illustration. These sites use graphic design and hand-drawn elements to communicate in place of photographic elements. The illustrations aren’t always accurate either — drawings of people in odd shapes and sizes are known as “odd bodies” and hand-drawn shapes have little or no symmetry. If you want to convey diversity, freedom, and individualism; try Illustration. 

#4 Organic Design. Maybe a year of isolation indoors has us begging for the look and feel of the outdoors because a new and growing trend uses nature for inspiration. Organic designs use warm, subtle, earthy colors, natural shapes and textures…a favorite choice for businesses connected to our environment and sustainability. If you want to convey health, wellness or beauty, think Organic.

#5 Anti-Design. These quirky websites defy balance and good taste by using asymmetrical layouts, distortion, odd layering patterns, and really terrible color palettes. About the only positive thing about this new style is that it does make a site stand about. If you want to be talked about, use Anti-Design.

You are invited to join us for the ride as we plunge into 2021 with open minds and a commitment to excellence. For our part, we promise to continue building solid, hand-coded websites using best practices for page speed, user experience, and conversion.