When you design a website, it's easy to focus on what
your visitors are going to see. What you have to realise,
though, is that you're going to have another kind of
visitor with a completely different agenda: they're
not going to be looking at your pretty logo and they're
not going to be passing judgement on your background
colour. What they're looking for is the content and
structure of your page.
They're the search engine spiders, and they are in
control of probably the largest section of your traffic.
You need to please these spiders if you want your site
to be successful. Here's how.
Make Your Structure Clear.
Resist the temptation to lay your page out in non-standard
ways: you want it to be very clear to the search engine
where the navigation is, where the content is, and where
the headings are. As a rule, put navigation first in
your page. Always use the heading tags (h1, h2, etc.)
for headings and sub-headings.
Avoid using generic span and div tags and only making
things clear to the user through CSS font sizes: instead,
use every 'semantic' HTML tag that applies to your content.
If you're quoting someone, use the blockquote tag; if
you're posting program code, use the code tag. Search
engines love this.
Keep Keywords Consistent.
It's not usually worth deliberately saturating your
content with keywords in hope of a higher search ranking
the engines have pretty much wised up to this
tactic but do make sure that your keywords appear
consistently when they occur naturally. For example,
for these articles, I have stuck with 'website' throughout,
as suddenly writing 'web site' instead would bring down
It's worth noting that search engines read HTML, but
is a bad idea if you want search engines to see the
text. On the other hand, you might want to have just
the text in HTML and insert all the other parts of the
appear more focused, although you should be careful
not to insert navigation links this way if you want
the search engines to follow them.
Use Meta Tags.
Yes, meta tags are out of fashion, and search engines
pay no attention to them any more when it comes to ranking
your site, but they're still important in one way: the
meta description tag is still often used to decide what
text search engines' users see when they find your site
in their results! This can be just as important as the
ranking itself write something here that will
look useful to the searcher, and you're more likely
to get them to click-through. Don't forget that, while
search engines are just machines and algorithms, the
end result of it all does involve a human decision:
to click, or not to click?
Avoid Splash Pages.
You might think it's a great idea to have a 'splash'
page displaying a full-page version of your logo (or
an ad) to every user who arrives at your site, but search
engines really hate that. Using this trick will get
you ranked far lower than you would usually be, so you
should avoid it it's annoying to visitors anyway.
Include Alt Tags.
Any time you use a graphic, include alt text for it
especially if there is text in the graphic. Remember
that, as far as search engines are concerned, all your
graphics might as well just be big black boxes. Test
by removing all your graphics and seeing if your content
remains relatively intact. If it doesn't, then you'll
be turning search engines away.
Finally, Write Great Content.
The key with modern search engines (and, at the same
time, the thing you have least control over) is how
many people decide to link to your page from their page.
How can you make more people link to you? Make your
content useful. Make it something they'll want to quote
on their blogs. Content is more King than it's ever
been, and the best way to design for search engines
is to make your content really stand out.
About the author:
Angie is the lead web designer for a fortune 500 company.
Read her thoughts on web design on her blog... http://www.webdesignblogonline.com