Successful Site Architecture

Aug 22, 2007 • 5:19 am | comments (2) by twitter | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2007 San Jose
 

San Jose SES Successful Site Architecture

Moderator: Barbara Coll , WebMama.com

Speakers:

Matt Bailey, SiteLogic Derrick Wheeler, Axciom Digital

It's the last session before the Google Dance. Not a packed room.

Barbara intros the session. It's the 6th year of this talk, according to Barbara. Two speakers. Both are veterans. They'll cover the details and give you info to take home. They'll review classic errors.

Irishtourism.com is her choice for an example of a perfect site, both SEO and usability wise. She introduces Derrick Wheeler first.

DW:

Who has been to the top of success mountain? Web arch, quality content, unique and user friendly are the blocks in the foundation. SE's have to go to your website via URL, follows links, reads content, etc. He has a funny illustration on power point of all the things that happens in eng's. Search crawls, indexes, users perform targeted queries, se's rank users click on ranked pages and users take action. This is what you need to be sucessful. It will impact your website.

Internal linking - SE's use them to discover URLs, deterine relevance and understand the importance of the page. If you link to a page a lot, you tell the SE the page is important. Shows example of URLs source code and how SE's identify them. SE's can't follow JavaScript..we've heard this. He shows an example of script and how and why SE's can't execute the script. They can't follow the path to a product page and this blocks it from the index. He shows examples of URLs that SE's may be able to follow. Internal cross linking is how you tell SE's what pages are important. Navigation architecture is used for this. He has a screenshot diagram of this. He shows a page of a web page that has an image that has no alt attribute in it. Top navigation should be text so SE's can understand the content. They can't with images.

Form based navigation is a problem for SE's who can't use forms. Inconsistent linking creates duplicate linking. Creates a poor user experience. Shows a breadcrumb nav example URL that's very complicated the way its constructed. Same pages, different URLs, is an issue for SE's. Shows examples of breadcrumb navigation that end up as dead ends for SE's and users. (You have to see his presentation to get the visuals for this. He's showing code.) If you don't have to redirect, then don't redirect. There's another example on the screen of a press release link structure starting from a homepage. SE's use URLS to determine relevance.

Be careful with the number of parameters, number of directory levels, total length. He prefers shorter URLS with fewer keywords over long URLs with stuffed keywords. He recommends 'URLs with dashes rather than underscores for usability issues. You can't always see the underscore. If you use parameter based urls link consistently to a single version.

He shows a screenshot of http request/response cylce. Describes the actions servers take depending on the URL status code. Most websites link to your domain (shorter URL), even if you redirect. Shows an example of a site that constantly redirected users to different urls but the content was elsewhere. The circle of death is the robots.txt file that people leave on the server by accident. If you leave it in there, SE's can't index the site with it in there (used during the development stage to prevent search engines from crawling during a build.) Remove it after launch.

Note: My battery is getting low so I'm stopping here to save some of it for Matt's part. Sorry!

Barb presents Matt Bailey next. I may have to cut out early...

He begins with joking about search engine submission is no longer necessary. The process of submitting websites is extinct. The SE's will find you. If you build it properly, they will come. Build it right the first time.

Discusses the Target lawsuit and the fact that it was inaccessible to those who used screen readers. There were no alt text. It relied on image maps. You had to use a mouse to use a form or fill things out or make selections. If you don't use a mouse how can you do this? Target resisted a judge's demand to put in alt text.

Read the Google Guidelines. You can save money if you do that. They do update them. They'll tell you what they want. Use text links, sitemap, do keyword research, use title and alt tags and more. Google's guidelines are similar to the accessibility checklist at W3C. Provide a text equiv to every non text element. Provide redundant text links. SE spiders are very reliant on accessibility. They can't see. Don't use a mouse. They rely on the architecture to get through your site. He shows a Target page without the images. It's blank, with a little content. All of the sale information is in images with no text equiv. If you have to select a country first to get into a website or language, if a drop down menu requiring a mouse action, SE's can't get into the site. The Target URLS are extremely cluttered and very long. Shows example of usable URL, with a favicon.

Keywords in the URL rather than confusing parameters. Talks about branding with favicon. They appear in your bookmarks.

CSS and standards. Can validated CSS help you rank better? Do sites using CSS will I rank higher? There is an indirect correlation between them. CSS allows content to be the primary focus of th epage. Design elements and mark up contained in external files. Reduces page "clutter". CSS vs tables. Shows a screenshot of how a page looks with table tags to SE's. It's search friendly but SE's look at the left most table, then the next column, down and then the next column. They stack the tables on top of themselves. The content is moved to the bottom of the page. (My note: Mobile phones do this.) Okay, Matt just used this as an example. We think alike, ha ha. He suggests viewing pages in mobile phones to see how SE's stack code. He says to use Google Webmaster Central. Look at sitemap.org and use them for large websites. SE's agree that sitemap.xml format is the best protocol. He says he uses as a last resort.

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Comments:

No Name

08/22/2007 01:10 pm

I am always talking about how site architecture and proper layouts play a pivotal part in not only SEO, but also usability and conversion rates. I think that this panel addresses a lot of the debate that if a site validates it will rank higher, which I believe is true. I believe it ranks high not because it meets the "standards" but because the "standards" meet all the on page factors of SEO. Making you site accessible, makes it accessible to SE as well. Great summary of the events, wish I was there.

Steve Phillips

08/22/2007 01:11 pm

Just a note of "thanks" for doing such an excellent job of covering SES!

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