Guest Post by Meg Fenn, from Shakeitup Creative

Thinking that your web designer can carry out SEO work on your website is an assumption commonly made by business owners. However, be careful. Unless you’ve specifically tasked them with proper SEO work, they won’t be including that in the work they’ve agreed with you. 

As a design and marketing company, we’ve seen confusion arise in this area many times. We’ve created proposals that only include web design work, only include SEO work, or include both. Ideally, a proposal would include both but the fact remains that some budgets don’t allow for that and of course there needs to be a website in the first place (in order for SEO work to be done) and therefore web design is prioritised. 

As the client, you might be thinking:

“I’m confused, the description in my web design proposal seems to include SEO because it states things like: Alt tags, image optimisation, Yoast SEO plugin, optimising copy….?” 

Those are all good activities to include in a web design proposal and they are indeed important to websites. However, it doesn’t mean any actual proper SEO work is going to be done. 

Let me translate:

  • Including alt tags and image optimisation activities means that your web designer will be re-sizing and ensuring your images are not huge files and have alt tags within the code. 
  • When they say ‘Yoast SEO plugin’, that means they will install that plugin but not actually implement anything within it. 
  • Whereas, optimising copy should not be included unless SEO work IS going to be a part of the web design project, as it does mean editing the copy specifically for SEO benefit. Copy editing is a more likely activity that a web designer would carry out (although that too, might be better placed with a marketer). 


So, what should ‘proper’ SEO work include? 

SEO work consists of two main elements: keyphrase research and SEO implementation, in that order. The research side could include a website technical audit if the site is currently online (and this is where your web designer could play an important role in SEO), a report including keyword volume and search difficulty and content recommendations based on competitor analysis. The implementation side normally consists of both on-site and off-site SEO activities which could be Yoast SEO plugin implementation, online listings, Google My Business optimisation or copy optimisation, to name a few.

So, a web design proposal is likely to include things like, but not limited to layout design, mobile responsiveness, information architecture and image optimisation. An SEO proposal should include things like, but not limited to keyphrase research, seed phrases, technical audit and SEO implementation. 

Now that we know what is included in website design and what is not in relation to SEO, let’s chat about why this is important and the role of your website designer when it comes to SEO work on your website. 

In our experience, SEO is typically only considered to be an ‘add-on’ or an afterthought to a website achieved by a few key words dotted around in the right places. This belief is slowly but surely changing as the business landscape changes. People are becoming more digital and search savvy or at least understanding the need for SEO; the way we market our businesses and marketing tools are increasingly becoming accessible to all. 

Being found on Google, for example, is an important part of a company’s marketing strategy and therefore the need to understand it has become a necessity. SEO as an ‘add-on’ or afterthought is no longer a good enough option. As a result, web design as a project is also changing and attention to the SEO side of things is becoming essential. 

Simply said, SEO is a vital part of your website design and furthermore, like web design, it’s not just done once, it’s never ‘finished’. SEO work can and should be ongoing. 

Most importantly, SEO is a specialised area of expertise which is why your web designer is not implementing your SEO. Although web designers know an awful lot about the technical aspect of web design, about coding and building sites, they won’t conduct keyphrase research or recommend SEO strategy. There will be some cross-over in expertise to a certain degree but generally speaking, the strengths of web designers are coding and development. As alluded to previously, your website designer may be able to carry out some of the recommendations from the technical audit such as fixing broken links or removing duplicate content. 

Oe, as our lead WordPress developer says:

“While I do some SEO on the websites I build, mostly setting up SEO systems, I do not actually provide SEO services as today this is a discipline in itself within the entire website eco-system. I cannot specialise in everything and my strengths are within the code and development (plus this is what interests me the most), hence even though I have a degree in arts I have moved away from providing the design of a site as graphic designers create much better designs than I do.” – Darren Stevens

Darren also explains that his main concerns are for the website visitor and the website owner (the client) so his focus is on front-end and back-end usability. As luck would have it, front end usability and user experience are ranking factors for SEO.  So there is some cross-over when it comes to expertise but even more important to mention is this cross-over should not be done in isolation. So, although your web designer is not your SEO expert, they should work together to create your website to ensure all aspects work smoothly together resulting in a successful website. 


About Meg Fenn, Director of Shake It Up Creative 

Meg is a web and graphic designer who often project manages all aspects of marketing and therefore works directly with clients, SEOs, web designers and marketers. She is passionate about working in collaboration to ensure smooth and successful digital marketing projects and has been featured in Net Magazine and been a main stage BrightonSEO speaker on this topic.