Design your Site with SEO in Mind

There are many design factors that can greatly affect your websites placement on search results. Unfortunately many designers work against there own best interest by unknowingly using methods that decrease a site’s ranking on search engines. Most often SEO experts end up having to correct these design errors in order to achieve top search engine placement. This article outlines a few design errors that should be avoided when creating a website with SEO in mind.

The first mistake made by some designers is the use of splash pages. Splash pages are those introductory pages that appear before users can advance to your site. The problem with splash pages is that search bots don’t like them for a number of reasons. One reason is that most splash pages don’t contain the types of internal links found on the site actual homepage. Splash pages are also sometimes designed to automatically advance the user to the sites homepage automatically after a certain period of time. The problem with this is that a search bot doesn’t know to stick around and wait. If a search bot is left waiting for too long it search bots will give up and move on to the next page in its queue. Another problem is that splash pages are not designed for text content and contain flash animations or graphics which are transparent to search bots. The first page crawl by a search bot should contain relevant content and links to every other page of your site.

If you understand how search bots work then you will know that they can read text and some html but can’t read images, videos, or flash animations. Many designers build media rich websites full of images and animations believing there artistic ability will generate a better quality website. Although the aesthetics of the website might be outstanding if the site isn’t SEO friendly and can’t be found in search results it won’t do much good. Websites built entirely with Flash are perfect examples of this and should be avoided. The website might appear to be relevant to the user and prove useful but to a search engine it appears empty. As a consequence search engine will have no idea what the site is actually about and won’t place it in search results.

Many designers often use graphics for page headers in order to add artistic value or use fancy fonts not available in text form. Header tags are a vital component of your website as it describes the theme of each page within your site. An analogy of this is textbook that didn’t contain any headings. Each chapter or section would run into the next and at a quick glace you would have no idea of what each chapter is about. If you use images for your headers tags this is exactly how a search engine will see your site. For SEO purposes best practice is to use text for all header tags.

Weighing down a site with too much complex code can also negatively impact your site ability to place high in search results. Search bots can read some html but complex code such as JavaScript is often ignored. As a result links within a script might not be indexed. This is particularly troublesome if JavaScript is used for your sites navigation system. It is best to keep the amount of JavaScript used down to a minimum. If JavaScript is used as a part of your navigation system be sure to include text links to each page of your site somewhere else on the page where search bots can crawl them. These text links are usually placed at the bottom of a site alongside so they don’t upset the aesthetics of the site. A second problem occurs when your content is buried under hundreds of lines of code or nested within tables. If a search bot has to crawl through hundreds of lines of code in order to find text chances are it will give up before crawling the entire page and move on to the next site in queue. A good rule of thumb is to have more text then code.

There are many design factors that can hinder a websites ability to place in search results. In order to build an SEO friendly site it is important to avoid using splash pages, excessive use of graphics and animations, use text in header tags, and avoid using too much complex code. A website designed with SEO is much easier for search bots to crawl and is easier to place on the first page of search results. Placing a website that isn’t favoured by search engines on the first page of search results is almost impossible. As a result most web designers often need to outsource website optimization to experienced SEO experts who have a better understanding of how search engines work.

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