First thoughts about SEO friendly web design 

As a website developer it’s your job to create a site that works well and looks great. Designers have a slightly different brief; all they need to do is create a site that looks great. Is it possible that an over designed site, heavy with flash animation, could really damage your SEO campaign? Yes, and if people can’t find your site it really doesn’t matter how good it looks.

The first thing to remember is that Google likes pages that load quickly and anything which slows your site down will influence your rankings. Websites overburdened with images don’t perform well in the search results. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use images, just don’t go overboard. For the images that you do decide to use it’s important to make sure that the files are as small as possible without compromising picture quality.

While Google’s spiders greedily devour text they have little appetite for images and Flash. In fact they can’t read either, which means that Google can’t use any such graphical information to help rank a page. If your site contains elements of Flash there’s nothing to worry about. However, if you have decided to invest in a fully animated homepage; Google will have trouble figuring out what your website is really about.

Google’s been busily working on this shortfall and back in 2007 they announced that their spiders could now access Flash files. Whether they manage to glean any useful information from them remains to be seen. However, for now it seems sensible to err on the side of caution. Ask yourself if that Flash, or those extra images, is really adding anything to your site.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cascading Style Sheets (or CSS) have come on a long way in a relatively short period of time. A good CSS can now replace the functionality of many previously ‘unspiderable’ design features…including JavaScript dropdown menus.

If in any doubt employ the services of a web design agency who are on top of the SEO game (by which we mean give the web project a call!).

First thoughts about creating a SEO friendly site structure

It won’t surprise you to hear that good site architecture lays the foundations for a successful SEO campaign; what’s more surprising is the number of websites that get it so very wrong. Planning a search engine friendly site structure is both simple and logical. In fact, it’s a case of ‘the simpler the better’.

From a usability perspective your goal is to develop an easy-to-follow navigation system which tells users exactly where they are, and allows them to quickly dig deep into the site. From an SEO perspective it’s your goal is to encourage the flow of Google’s all-important PageRank across the site. Fortunately both goals have the same resolution, and that’s to develop a ‘waterfall’ structure which allows the strength of the homepage to percolate throughout the website.

Start by dividing your content into broad categories, these could be anything from ‘Products’ and ‘Services’ to ‘Flights’ and ‘Hotels’. If you can use a keyword for the category titles; you’ve already got a SEO head-start. Note that visitors arriving through search engines will need to orientate themselves, so make sure that the main category navigation links are on every page.

Next it’s just a case of adding the pages to be included in each category and the neatest solution is with a dropdown menu (created using search-friendly CSS rather than JavaScript)

After the homepage the ‘categories’ will be the strongest pages, and as the PageRank filters down though the site it will becomes more diluted. Hence, it makes sense to make sure that your most important pages are higher up in the site structure.