Guidelines for Creating an SEO Friendly Website
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become increasingly important to building your company, blog, brand or service. If you cannot get found on the search engines, most likely you are missing out on major opportunities and your business is suffering as a consequence. Cymax Media offers professional search engine optimization services so you can seize opportunities rather than miss them, but you, as the owner of the website, can also format your ideas in ways that will make your site more SEO-friendly. Whether you are an avid blogger or a business manager, this guide should prove useful to help you get better rankings on Google and ultimately grow your online presence.
More than ever, people are turning to their computer screens than to phone books and encyclopedias to find answers. “Where is the nearest place I can get my hair cut?” “Why is my dog not eating?” “What are directions to Papa John’s Pizza Place from Castle Rock?” “How many years is law school?” “Is it better to buy a new or a used vehicle?” The questions just keep coming. By providing those answers in a way that Google values, you can drive traffic to YOU. And in the fiercely competitive world of websites, traffic is a very highly prized commodity.
If you need your existing website reviewed, we would be more than happy to take a look. Between running your own affairs and trying to juggle so many things, sometimes it is just easier to leave the whole “computers thing” to someone else and let them take care of all this for you. This guide is not to replace the nitty-gritty work that must be done behind-the-scenes in order to get your website working powerfully, but it is written in case you, as the client, desire to know how to get better rankings based on changes that are solely up to you. There are some things that do rest entirely upon you, and this guide is written to help you understand how to do them so we can help you better. It’s a two-part dance.
Websites By Humans, For Humans
Before we get too far ahead into this, let me make one final important point (well, maybe not the FINAL one). Optimizing your website is not about trying only to please the robots out there in Cyber Space. Most importantly is putting visitors first. I repeat – VISITORS FIRST! Why are visitors more important? Well, if a human and a robot were both dangling from a cliff about to plunge 500 feet into a raging river of death, which one would you lend a hand to first? Of course, the person. People must come first before robots, and that is still true in the world of search engine optimization. Robots are not your customers. They do not dial you up on the phone and ask about your company (well, maybe if they are automated calls, but you get the picture). They do not walk into your store or your home and converse with you about important subjects. Most importantly – they do not buy anything or put your information to use on a personal level. They will not subscribe to your RSS feed or order your product for a birthday gift to their nephew. Remember the old saying? The customer is always right. Not the Google spider crawling through your pages while you are sleeping. (Creepy thought.) And you know something else?
The robots themselves have declared (Team Google) that it is the user experience that trumps everything else.
So if you don’t believe me, take Google’s word for it…
“At the top of Google’s core principles is: “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” So, it’s no surprise that we share the same passion for innovation and excellence in design as we do in engineering. We believe each Google product should have an intuitive, simple and beautiful design that delights users each time they visit…”
There you have it, straight from the horse’s robotic mouth. Everyone is very eager to try to “trick the system” when it comes to SEO, but the truth is, that doesn’t work because you are trying to please the robots over the people. That means fewer subscribers, less interest in you and/or your brand, and little to no interaction with your audience. In other words, not good! You say, well Google doesn’t know everything. They can’t tell when I’m trying to get them to rank me higher by forfeiting the user. Au contraire… when it comes to search engines, GOOGLE DOES KNOW EVERYTHING! They are not a multi-billion dollar company with hundreds of geniuses working for them for no reason. They can smell tricks from a mile away, and can and do penalize your page rank.
By the way, now is probably a good time to give you a brief index of terms used in the world of Search Engine Optimization so you can follow along (hopefully) without getting too lost:
- SERP: a long list of results served up by a search engine in response to a query; stands for Search Engine Results Page
- Query: what a user types into the search bar
- Spider: an invisible robot sent out by a search engine to crawl the links and pages of a website
- Crawl: the motive of movement of a spider
- Page Rank: how well a website does on the search engines as determined by position
- Search Engine Optimization: the process of optimizing a website to do as well as possible on page ranks
Hopefully that should be enough to get us going with some basic terms. There may be others that need to be mentioned along the way, but I will try to explain them if needed as we go. Speaking of go, let’s get to it! We’ve introduced long enough, don’t you agree?
Creating a Search Engine Friendly Site Structure
So, you are excited to construct the outline of your new website. What do you do? Our clients sometimes find it helpful to get out an old-fashioned piece of paper and a pencil to sketch a basic structure for their website. But wait! Before you get too far ahead, it helps to know what kind of a site structure will best help organize your content and what kind of a site structure might be confusing for viewers and search engines to make sense of.
What is a website made of? A website consists, basically, of content, pages, (used to hold content), and a menu (used to hold pages). This, of course, is a very crude breakdown, as much more goes into a website to make it something worth having on the web and having people see. But as far as a search engines go, keep in mind that robots are completely oblivious to design and appearance. This means that you can have a beautiful, eye-catching website and it might mean nothing to the search engines. They don’t have eyes, and thus cannot see videos, pictures, graphics, etc. So you have to build your website understanding that when considering SEO and its implications. What is the point of mentioning this? The point is, the main thing to do when designing your structure is not to worry so much about being too outrageously fancy. Often times, highly complex site structures end up with “gaps” and cause search engines to get confused, drop pages, or think you are trying to hide things from them when really you are not!
What about the Home page?
Every website has a home page. For some websites, it is their most crucial page and they throw all of their efforts into making that one page great. Some websites consist only of a home page! (That is not advisable for most websites though, so don’t get any ideas). Your home page should be a place where you can get to just about any location on your site, so consider that when structuring your home page. Also think about what main words you are targeting. It should be like a “summary” of your entire site.
What the structure of your website will look like really depends on what kind of website you are interested in. A blog will have a completely different structure than an eCommerce website. You will want to make your website meet some requirements as far as the framework goes:
- It should be easy to navigate.
Listen up now. The simpler the better is always a good rule of thumb. It is ok to have a lot of pages, but they need to be well organized into categories and menu items. Generally, fewer menu items is better because a big huge list of 20 menu items on the first row can be extremely overwhelming! On the other hand, only one or two menu items can be extremely hard to navigate and result in a similar situation – feeling overwhelmed! Make sure you group pages into categories. You do not want a menu item that says “Interior Decorating Services” to have an item under it called “Lawn mowing,” but you would want menu items under that to be something like, “Painting,” “Furniture Piecing,” “Wallpaper,” etc. Don’t be scattered. Think big picture and that will come in really useful.
Tiers upon tiers of menu items can be very hard to navigate through as well. Remember – you don’t have to include ALL of your pages in a menu if you have a mega site. Most will get buried and never seen at that rate! Narrow things down the more you fine-tune your location to more and more specific pages. Big picture first, then the details follow is a good rule of thumb.
- It should have well-thought out page structure
- Dealing with a lot of Pages…
Do you really need 7 pages to talk about the same facet of one subject? Or might it be a better idea to consolidate, where possible? You say, but then I won’t rank as well. How do you know that? Consolidating multiple short pages on the same subject can give you one big “powerful” page that might shoot up several places on the SERPs!
- Dealing with too many huge Pages…
When visitors land on a page where the scroll bar is 5 cm long, they might think twice about trying to dig through all of those words to find the information they want and leave to find another page! That is not good, as it increases your bounce rate (the speed at which people land on and leave your site). Divide and conquer mega pages into smaller pages, then make links between them all that say something like, “Continue on to read about growing perennials instead of annuals.” Nobody likes to have a dictionary thrust at them when they might only need one tidbit of information!
- It should be organized.
Scatterbrains should enlist the help of a Type-A in order to provide the best, clear path for users to journey through. You want to pull viewers in, not give them excuses to hop off the boat at any given opportunity. This means that outbound links should be limited. It also means that you should avoid confusing directions and things like 404 error pages, broken links, outdated info and the like. There may be times when you have a mix of videos, pages, posts, and everything but the kitchen sink. Try to assemble all of these in a logical manner and you will vastly improve the structure of your website.
Hopefully these guidelines have helped in charting the uncharted waters when it comes to site structure.