Site Design in Search Engine Optimization

Site Design in Search Engine Optimization

Web site design is an important aspect of search engine optimization (SEO). What follows are some tips to help you optimize your site design for search engines.

The main things to keep in mind about search engines is that they:

1. do not have an aesthetic sense (they don’t ‘see’ design and pictures, only text), and
2. need help navigating through your site and will follow links
3. might not be able to index all your pages and only take snapshots (quick overview) of content located at the top of your website or if they do, often weigh relevance and priority on the top portion

You should therefore:

1. design around your content:
* give content-rich, readable text filled with relevant keywords
* provide text-only alternatives for content that can’t be read by search engines (JavaScript, image maps, Flash and other multimedia)
* pay attention to the order and use of HTML tags (ALT; header; TITLE and META tags)
* include at least 250 words of rich search engine friendly content on your main page (search engines generally give more weight to content higher up on the page, too)
2. site navigation/architecture and directory structure is important
* avoid more than two sub-directory levels
* use linkmaps or internal links within your site so SEs can deep crawl or find all your pages by itself from your home page URL
* links to as many pages as possible in all your pages and include descriptions of various sections
* text navigation is the most search engine friendly, although graphic images and JavaScript mouseovers can also be used when in tandem with key HTML tags or you could read Shirley E. Kaiser’s Designing for Search Engines and Stars for ideas.
3. present your most relevant content on the top of your pages in case they don’t spider your entire page
* place as much relevant information towards the beginning of your page(s)
* use META Tag descriptions or the first few lines of text in your documents
* push javascripts or imagemaps towards the bottom of your page (since you want SE to prioritize relevant content over codes behind your scripts)

Below are the most common design issues to consider and how to address them:

Frames.

Why it’s a problem:

SEs consider each frame as a link from your main page and end up reading only the main page. Thus, SEs either:

* indexes an orphan window outside of the frameset (visitors are unable to link into your site);
* won’t even enter a site with frames at all (so none of your webpages will be indexed); or
* each individual frame will be indexed

What to do:

* implement a frame and a noframe version so regular users and non-frame users (search engines) can understand, using
* each frame should also include the META Robots Tag so search engines will not index them
* add some JavaScript to force pages into a frameset
* for more ideas, go to:
Working Around Frames
Optimizing Frames
Search Engine Friendly Web Design
`How to Optimize a Framed Site for High Rankings,’ by Jill Whalen

Dynamic URLs.

Why it’s a problem:

According to Submit-it.com, URLs (usually found in database-driven sites or those running scripts) that contain any of the following elements:
?, &, %, +, =, $, cgi-bin, .cgi
are typically considered by SEs as dynamic and can’t or won’t be indexed.
(Ex. http://search.msn.com/results.asp?q=dynamic+url)

What to do:

* use software designed to mirror your dynamic pages into static pages
* build a database-driven, but indexable site using an Apache feature that can “force” a script to be called for any certain directory tree (see Tim Perdue’s Building Dynamic Pages With Search Engines in Mind)
* other workaround and software solutions for a variety of environments (such as Apache, ASP, and Cold Fusion) as well as how to transform CGI-generated URLs into meaningful user interfaces can be found here.

Flash.

Why it’s a problem:

According to Sites That Use Flash, SEs can’t:

* index home pages that use purely Flash as “splash” pages (since they have little or no text there will be nothing for the search engine to base its ranking on)
* spider hyperlinks made with Flash (most SEs don’t understand Flash so they can’t follow links embedded in it)

What to do:

* avoid submitting any page that is made mostly of Flash
* add as much page copy to the page that you can
* make sure you have good meta tags and title tag
* add standard HTML hyperlinks to the other pages of your site
* create a site map page using standard HTML links to link to every page on your site (and vice versa)
* for more ideas, click this

Image Maps for navigation.

Why it’s a problem:

SEs often get trapped in code that makes up an image map so they can’t spider your site.

What to do:

* when using image maps for your main site navigation, include regular links or
* add another navigation scheme to your site using only standard HTML hyperlinks
* create a site map page using standard HTML links to link to every page on your site (and vice versa)

Javascript navigation.

Why it’s a problem:

Links within Javascript can’t be followed by SEs.

What to do:

* have some form standard HTML hyperlinks that they can follow
* create a site map page uses standard HTML links to link to every page on your site (and vice versa)
* if using JavaScript within your page between the HEAD tags, consider moving the code to an external .js file (see Jennifer Laycock’s SEO 101 – Coding the Page. Part 5: External JavaScript)

Tables.

Why it’s a problem:

When using tables to store a web page’s content, multiple columns are usually used with the main body of the text following a side bar on the left side. This is a problem because SEs index your content based on a first-come-first-serve basis.

What to do:

* optimize by using the “rowspan” property, which defines across how many rows the current cell should span. The source code is available at : Optimizing Your Main Text With Tables.

 

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