Search Engine Friendly Design

Aug 20, 2007 - 8:38 pm 2 by

Session Overview: How can you build a web site from the ground up that pleases both crawler-based search engines and your visitors? Discover how "search engine friendly" design can tap into free traffic from search engines. This session is especially suited for beginners who need an overview of important design issues to keep in mind. More technical design issues are covered in the Successful Site Architecture session on Day 2.

Moderator: * Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner, Beyond Ink

Speakers: * Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO, Omni Marketing Interactive

Anne Always pleased to be able to introduce Shari Thurow who wrote the book on "Search Engine Visibility." Read this book and you'll know almost everything we know!

Shari Ouch, I have a racquetball injury. When I talk about search friendly design I come from the trenches - I am a developer. Born in ColdFusion & HTML, I've been a developer for many years and have been working in search since 1995.

My presentation is not necessarily all "my opinion." It's based on analytics.

Goals What is Search Friendly Design? Building Blocks - Text - Link - Popularity Design Considerations - Home Page

What Search Friendly Design is not! - A page design to be #1 in the search engines. - Whenever you design a site, design for users - the people that search. A Search Friendly Design is a user-friendly site designed for users

Design your site for: - Primary Audience - end users - Secondary - Search Engines both human and crawler based. 5 Basic Rules of Site Design - Easy to read - really means two things -- From the user standpoint - design for teen is different from baby boomer. -- From the search engine standpoint - design means the content is accessible. - Easy to navigate -- People should know where they are at all times. -- If they are confused, they should be able to find their way back. - Easy to find -- On the search engines, directories, industry related sites. -- Product and service information should be easy to find when users come to the site. - Consistent layout and design -- Refers to the allocation of real estate. -- Conveys reliability, dependability and trust. - Quick to download -- Majority of a web page should download in 30 seconds or less on a dial-up.

These 5 rules are not mutually exclusive.

Easy to Find Detail - Find me on search engines, directives and industry sites. - Go directly to relevant page -- Give users "sense of place" - Within 7-8 clicks, users want to find information. -- They will click up to 25 times if you provide a scent of information. - Keep important information above the fold -- In many cases, there is no scent to the information that sits below the fold. - Contact Information -- In terms of link development - people want to know you are a trustworthy site. -- Four places for contact information - Header, Footer, About Us, and Contact.

Search Engines (the other 3 rules: 8 total including the 5 above)- - All Search Engines -- Index text -- Follow links -- Measure popularity - If you don't add text and a means of access, the search engines will not find or rank your site. - When people come to the site, the page has to be focused. - Provide access - URL structure, navigation scheme, and cross-linking strategy - for users and search engines. Many people falsely believe Search Engine Optimization is a linear process - Bring in SEO early in the design phase - it can save both time and money.

All three of the following factors are critical to the long term success of the site. - Site & Page Architecture - Keyword Rich Text - High Quality Link Development

When people visit, does the page seem focused? Put the keywords in the following locations: - Title Tags - Heading - Contextual link and cross-links - Product descriptions - Graphic image w/alt text

Two most important places are Title tag and Body Text - All search engines use body text to determine rankings.

Primary & Secondary Text - Primary - all search engines use primary text -- Title Tags -- Visible Body Copy -- Headings - Secondary - some search engines use secondary. -- Meta tag content - important for display. -- Alternative text - important for accessibility

How you title and headline has an impact on how people link to your site.

Text Summary - Use words that people use - Put keywords in titles, visible body text, anchor text, Meta tags and alternative text.

What goes into a search friendly design? - Navigation - Cross linking - Type of page - Page layout and structure - URL Structure

Navigational Links - Text links are the best! - Navigation buttons and image maps - buttons are friendlier than image maps. - Menus can be hit and miss for search engines. JavaScript and menus cause problems. - The least friendly form of navigation is flash. - Don't avoid using a non-friendly navigation scheme just because of the search engines. Do what's right for the user. Shari likes using multiple types.

Tip - Always have at least two forms of navigation on your site.

Contextual Links - Bread crumb links- be specific and communicate a hierarchy and sense of place to the audience.

Tip - When you design a site set out to impress the target audience not the boss or his wife.

Embedded Links - Make sure you put embedded text links in your news and press releases. - Don't overdo embedded links it will make it hard to read. - Don't overdo #2 - it looks like search engine spam. - Embedded links are a natural call to action

Site Map - You do not want the site map to be a sea of blue links. - Annotate the site map with keywords to make it easier to read.

Call to Action - On a web page, you have to tell people what you want them to do. -- If you don't tell them, they won't do it!

Information Pages - Contains information for your target audience. - Use user language - Factual information not sales hype - Spider friendly - Simpler layout - Visually match the rest of your site

Information pages and doorway pages are not the same. - Information pages are for your audience. - Doorway pages are for rank. -- Doorway pages are used for cloaking (which is bad) - Information pages have high quality links

Types of Information Pages - Tips Pages - great place to give additional use information and details. - FAQ Pages - providing useful additional and relevant information and compliments product or services pages. - Glossary - having a reference page can help define some terms that may not be popular but useful for your audience. - Category & Gallery Pages - good places for cross-link optimization (Look at Lands End as an example).

Cross Linking - Provide vertical and horizontal cross-links - The more "pogo-sticking" a user does between category and product pages reduces the potential they will convert.

Beware companies that build information pages - Red Flags - these are all names for doorway pages. Check the presentation for the full list of 18 page types. -- Doorway Pages -- Hallway Pages (sitemap to doorway pages) -- Envelope Pages - end users don't see frames but search engines do. -- Directory Information pages -- Shadow domains -- Micro Sites - Spammer Flags -- Instant link popularity -- Permanent positions -- Guaranteed positions

Link Component Summary - Use 2 forms of link navigation - Use text links effectively - Web site usability

What is popularity? - Number and quality of links. -- Major engines use link popularity to determine position. - Number of times people click - Number of bookmarks - A number factors go into your popularity and it is constantly changing.

Popularity Factors - How good is your content - How do sites link to you and where the link take the user - is it relevant? - Usability - how are you handling the user on your site.

For inbound links keywords and anchor text should be different from different sources. Too much similarity is a red flag to the search engines that you've bought links.

Link popularity and Link Development takes times - Recommend looking into News/Press Release Optimization

Good and Bad Home Page - Splash pages are horrible! -- Search engines don't like them and they don't do anything -- Flash is also used for splash pages - which cannot be crawled. - Text, links and popularity drive home page design. - If you desire a heavy graphics or flash home page, use content below the fold that is descriptive and uses embedded links to give the user information.

Don't be afraid to turn in spam to the search engines

Factors that go into a quality home page - Hard to get important keywords on the homepage but please try - At least one spider friendly navigation scheme - Visible link to the site map - Link to the most important sections of the site

So, what should you walk away with? Follow the 5 basic rules of web design - Put the words the audience uses and give them easy access. - Tell the search engines that you think the terms are important - Get objective 3rd parties to validate your content - It is not the search engines job to make your site rank - It's Yours!

Q and A Q - In the title, is it bad to put your toll free number? A - No, it may help in local search because of the way the results are displayed.

Q - Site transition from .htm to .php, how do we handle it? A - Use 301 redirects. Change of address card for computers.

Q - Are other types of sites, other than news, ones that you would recommend for links? A - Some news sites are spam. Most blogs don't get rank. Look at industry sites and directories. Yahoo directory is important. Web portals. Reference sites. Education sites that are well built. A2 - You need high quality not high quantity links.

Q - Should I improve my site navigation - we've had success but some things are getting old - I'm scared to change it and lose traffic? A - Did you test it? Meaning did you test the navigation on your users? If you don't test it on your users, don't make the change until you do! People click on graphical image links more than they do CSS links.

Q - What are some strategies you would use to remove internal roadblocks to change? A - Sometimes it takes a 3rd party or their web site to help make the case. If something isn't working, do something different. If it means spending $1000 for a good consultant, then by all means do it.

Q - When you have an older page with inbound links, how does that affect the link quality? A - Use a 301 if the content is updated. If the content is gone, use a 404. Sometimes you may also want to look at a robots.txt exclusion, but it must be based on the situation.


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