Designing for Search engines
Website Design Versus Search Engine Optimization
The design of your website can have a serious impact on your rankings with the search engines. The creation of an effective site will invariably require a trade-off between graphic design and search engine optimization. There are a number of important points to remember when designing your site.
Search engines love content. They want to see content on your site that is relevant, useful and well-written. This means that the size of your site has quite an impact on your rankings. If you only have a few pages but your competitors have large sites with lots of informational content then they are going to achieve better rankings than you.
While graphics based websites may look more aesthetically pleasing they are much more difficult to optimise. Search engines can not read the text in graphics or animations and so may only see a small amount of text. As we noted above, the amount of content on your site matters with regard to the search engines. An additional design point to note here is that graphically heavy sites will be slower for the user to download and may cost you visitors in the long run. No-one likes waiting for slow sites and it may be enough to encourage your visitors to jump on to the next relevant site listed.
Dynamic web pages can be difficult to get good rankings for as the content is dynamically generated as needed from a database. These pages often have long urls, sometimes containing characters that many search engines struggle to follow, examples are ?, #, & or =. The best way to tackle this issue is to have plenty of static html pages with keyword relevant content and a good internal linking network within your site. Links to and from your dynamic pages may help get them indexed.
Always, always use correct html. There are a variety of tools available for creating web pages these days, in fact, most word processors have the facility to create HTML pages. The problem with these is that all the formatting information is mixed in with the page content and so the search engines are having to trawl through text they don’t need to see. More efficiently written websites achieve better rankings as a rule. The use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a much more resourceful way of creating your pages.
Using frames to create your site is an out-dated method which is not supported by many of the search engines, even those search engines that are capable of indexing pages constructed with frames frown upon their use. Frames allow you to a create a site with content split into different visual areas. This can just as easily be achieved using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
Keep your content updated and fresh. Not only will your visitors be bored if they return to you site and nothing has been added for months but this is also important to the search engines. Web sites that continuously evolve their content usually gain higher rankings than stagnant, out of date sites. You can remedy this problem by having a “recent news” section or a monthly web poll but make sure you do update it regularly.
It’s important to keep these points in mind when designing your website. Ensure you consider search engine optimisation from the beginning of the design phase. Don’t leave it until your site is built as it may be too late to rectify some of the issues at that stage.