Set your self up for success with your new website design
Previous articles in this blog have addressed the “usability” of a site from the visitor’s point of view – but there is another side, the “hidden” side to website design – making it Search Engine friendly.
For general intents and purposes, most SEOs will tell you that a user-friendly design is Search Engine friendly, but there are some guidelines you should follow when taking into consideration your design choices and the design house you choose to develop your site.
Ross Dunn’s recent article in the SearchEngineGuide titled “Is Your Site Search Engine Friendly? Your Personal Checklist” explains that in many cases clients’ approach a SEO company with a new web design and expect great SEO results. Conversely, they’re stunned to learn that their website will need major back-end code work to be friendly to search engine spiders.
Search engines use spiders to crawl through a website’s code to determine hundreds of factors, such as relevancy to search queries, age of site and “white-hat” strategies. The more points the spiders give your site, the higher your potential rankings can be. If your code is unfriendly to these spiders, they will not be able to determine relevancy and, therefore, will not award your site as many points – resulting in lower rankings.
Here are the highlights from Ross’ checklist – keep these in mind when hiring a design company:
Splash Pages – Although there is the occasional exception, splash pages are the kiss of death for SEO. If a spider hits your homepage and it’s a flash photo with no text, it will determine there is no content on the site – and leave. There is some debate as to whether a spider “sees” flash – we have seen no proof of that happening and suggest eliminating all splash pages from your site.
Layout – Spiders read code from the top of the page to the bottom. If there are long paragraphs of code the spider has to read before it gets to the on page elements such as text and navigation – it could consider the page empty or full of spam and leave the page, without indexing the whole thing or even going deeper into the site.
Sitemaps – Every website should have a sitemap – a page that lists all of the pages on your site with links to those pages. The link to the sitemap should live on at least the homepage of your site.
Search Engine ‘Unfriendly’ Dynamic URL’s – These are a common side effect of using a Content Management System that is not designed with search engine rankings in mind. Examples of these would be some sites built in .php or in Cold Fusion (.cf.) You CAN optimize these sites – but unless they are built from the beginning with SEO in mind – it could take hours of work on the code to make it possible.
FLASH – As stated above, some flash on a page is great – it’s a way to get multiple images on a page without making it extremely long – keep in mind – there must ALSO be text on that page for the search engine to spider.
FRAMES – Frames are slowly going by the wayside – thank heavens! A framed site essentially has ONE page – and that page imports content into the frame depending upon what part of the navigation you choose. Consequentially – you have one page to optimize, and then you can only optimize the frame. This severely limits the work a SEO can do to make your site rank – as the search engine basically only sees one page – and not very much of the content on that page.
Ross’ tips contain fabulous advice for choosing a design company that will help to make your online marketing successful. It’s smart to choose an SEO that also does web design and visa versa, because they have the expertise to make your website user friendly AND search engine friendly.
Blizzard Internet Marketing excels in website design, website optimization and online marketing. This allows us to create websites that are not only visually appealing, but are also easy to use, rank highly in the search engines and help you make the sale.
Carrie Hill – Blizzard Internet Marketing