Continuing with the Top SEO Websites Series, I decided to turn the spotlight on Web design companies to find out which ones are excelling at SEO . Sure, these Web design firms may be able to create really slick websites, but how good are they are ranking organically in highly-competitive verticals in their industry? My previous post in this series "Top SEO College Websites"  made the case that most universities get an "F" when it comes to SEO. Here's hoping the top Web design firms in the country fare better in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than most colleges did.
Top SEO Web Design Company Websites: My Process
My process for determining which sites are doing the best at SEO involves three steps:
1) Identify Top 20 Searched Keywords - I used the Google Keyword Tool and our Free Keyword Tool  to get search volume estimates. I ommited certain results, like "web design jobs" and "web design software" and "web design hosting" because they're not relevant to this study. I also left off "affordable web design" because I felt that excludes sites that don't offer or promote "affordable" services. Basically, I'm trying to keep the playing field even with only core keywords. Think of it as SERP communism.
Here's the list I compiled of the 20 most searched Web design-related keywords:
2) Run Individual Queries for Top 20 Keywords - Once I determine the 20 most searched keywords, I ran those queries in Google and saved the top 100 results in a CSV file. If you'd like to do this yourself, you'll need to install the SEO for Firefox plugin. Then run your query, hit the "100" button and click "CSV."
3) Determine Domain Frequency - Finally, it's impossible to evaluate every Web design company on the Internet by doing a deep dive on each individual website and comparing and contrasting important on-page and off-page SEO factors. So a way to measure effective SEO is ranking frequency, ie how often a site displays in the SERPs for the top industry queries. The premise being that the more frequently your site displays for popular keywords, the better a job you're doing at SEO. To determine domain frequency for Top 10, Top 20 and Top 100 SERPs, I use the Ontolo Hosthame Occurance Counter.
Top SEO Web Design Company Websites: The Definitive Rankings
The goal of this post is to first identify the top competitive terms and keywords that a Web design company should be targeting in the search engines, and through query analysis, identify those Web design companies that are excelling at SEO in the SERPs. So without further ado, here are the Best SEO Web Design Company Websites.
Top SEO Web Design Company Websites: The Big Winners
So who are the winners when it comes to ranking well for the top Web design keywords? Well, any site in the Top 10 results clearly is doing a great job at SEO. But the big winners would have to be three sites that showed up consistenly on each of the Top 10, Top 20 and Top 100 lists, which were:
- Hoover Web Design
- LevelTen Design
Hoover Web Design appears to be killing it in the SERPs, with five organic listings in the top ten, and eight in the top 20 for some pretty competitive keywords. Without doing a deep dive into their site, it's hard to say why exactly they're dominating the Web design query space. But I'd presume much of their ranking prowess can be attributed to 98K inbound links, of which 154 are from .edu and .govs.
Plus, the fact that they have a mature domain and aged content (registered in 2000) and Google has awarded them site links in the SERPs demonstrates that they're an authoritative website, which only contributes to their power ranking ability.
Interesting Side Notes from the Study
Aside from discovering who's ranking the best for top SEO keywords , these query analysis studies reveal some interesting side notes. Also ranking well in these organic "Web design" verticals are companies that aren't Web design firms.
- Network Solutions - Known for Web hosting and Whois lookups, Network Solutions have four instances in the original Top 10 based on their "Web Solutions" packages for designers.
- Adobe - The software maker has three ranking instances in the Top 10 because they offer designers Web design software like Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop.
- Useit.com - Usability expert Jakob Nielsen also has three listings in the Top 10, which sort of makes sense since Nielsen writes about design-related issues with respect to improving usability.
Clearly companies like Network Solutions and Adobe see the value in SEO keyword rankings  for Web design-related queries to drive traffic to their product pages. And frankly, they do a better job than then the vast majority of national design firms at SEO, which may be due to their site trust. These are olddomains with tons of links, authority and brand strength, so I'm not surprised.
What Can Other Web Design Firms Take Away from This?
So what does this mean if you've got a Web design firm site that isn't ranking well or you've got a new site and you're trying to compete with these Web design companies that are killing it at SEO?
- Follow the leaders - Pay attention to the top Web design companies on this list, find out what they're doing for SEO and emulate their efforts. Clearly, these companies are succeeding at SEO and it would be in your company's best interest to sit up and take notes.
- Make your flash SEO-friendly - While researching for this post, I saw so many Web design firms destroying their SEO potential with Flash. It doesn't have to be this way. You can optimize Flash for SEO by embedding within a Flash file and layering your Flash files over an HTML content structure. Read more about it here: 2009 Google Flash SEO.
- If you can't beat 'em. join 'em - Much of the Top 10 results are littered with Web design directories, like webdesigners-directory.com, freelancedesigners.com and webdesignfinders.net. If your design firm site is unable to outrank these directories, the next best thing would be to get your site listed in their directory, so at least you have some SERP presence in the Top 10.