Too often, web designers view search engine optimization (SEO) as an after thought; they pass it off to Marketing or IT responsibilities leaving their role to user experience, aesthetic design, and navigation. In some cases, they have good reason as search engine optimizers often pollute search engine results with spam, making it harder to find relevant information when searching.
Iâ€™d like to introduce a 10 part series dedicated to SEO with each post focused on a specific task. Most search optimization articles summarize SEO or list the variety of things to do; letâ€™s instead get detailed about each initiative giving you, my readers, much needed detail to accomplish each task.
- If your site is in flash, you donâ€™t exist
- If you use images (buttons) to direct people, understand that text in an image is not the same as text on a page, engines donâ€™t read it
Before this gets long winded, letâ€™s get to the point with Paulâ€™s 3 rules for site accessibility. Only 3 you say? Yes, there are more, but these are the big ones which you need to pay attention to now.
- URL structureThere are two sub-topics here. Optimization and organization; all that matters is that you want to ensure your web page addresses are straightforward, memorable, and use common language. First, organization (since weâ€™re here to talk about accessibility)
Organization â€“ Engines canâ€™t read parameters. What are parameters? Look at your url and tell me if it has folders website.com/category/subcategory/group/page.html or a string of nonsense like this website.com/webapp/shopping?param1212&wefw1&category&productcodes1234
Now, tell the person next to you to stop laughing at you for talking to your computer monitor.
Search engines canâ€™t read parameters so if you have the second structure, the engine stops indexing pages at website.com. (OK experts, YES, some search engines can read and index parameters and yes we can debate to what degree or how many are allowedâ€¦ Iâ€™m not talking to youâ€¦ weâ€™re simplifying here).
Go to wikipedia and look up mod rewrite (or mod-rewrite, url rewrite, or rewrite engine, I donâ€™t recall how they name it now). You need to prioritize your IT resources to do this now. A mod rewrite which change the parameter based nonsense to a straightforward folder based URL. When thatâ€™s done, not only can engines index your content but its easier for your friends to link to the site, neighbors to bookmark pages, and enemies to remember the address of their favorite content on your site.
Optimization â€“ Iâ€™ll get into this more in another of the 10 topics, for now, just consider that you want the url to feature popular keywords. Thereâ€™s some debate as to the effectiveness of having these keywords in your URL (improving your position); donâ€™t worry about whether or it helps, think like a user, if you are searching for BMW are you not more likely to click on a result that has BMW in the URL?
Donâ€™t have a sitemap? What are you waiting for? At the very least enable Googleâ€™s sitemap generator and get one going. If you have more time, create a public sitemap that links to ALL pages in your site. Yes, all of them. Iâ€™ve worked for a few companies that want a sitemap limited to the content to which they want to send people. A sitemap is not for users, sure, some will use it and those that do probably want it to be comprehensive, its for search engines to find EVERYTHING so that when Joe Blow is searching for that obscure article that you donâ€™t really want to actively promote, he can find it, through Google (or Yahoo).
Know that conventional wisdom suggests sitemaps are no good beyond 100 pages. Search engines will only crawl about 100 links on a page. Again, we can debate that (or exactly how many links) but I say go with the wisdom of the masses and optimize accordingly. Limit a primary sitemap to 100 links and have some of those links go to other sitemaps with more specific content. For example, have your primary sitemap link to all the main category pages and a sitemap about the content in that category. Keep repeating until you map all your pages.
- Navigation and user experienceThis is more of a list. No way around it. Essentially, Iâ€™m going to run down a list of scripts, codes, and different technical things of which you want to be aware. Iâ€™m assuming most of you have to turn to engineers, web designers, programmers, or your son/daughter to make these changes to your site so I thought it best just to give you some do’s and donâ€™ts
Your site is now accessible. Go ahead, post it so I can check it out and feel free to ask me any questions. Coming up, we’ll get into detail about title tags, page copy, alt-text, meta content, and much more as we go into detail about SEO.