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How to Build a Website with SEO in Mind

Jan 14, 2011 / by Kevin Phelps

To make sure your site is built for the search engines, be sure to balance these elements in your Web design.

URL Structure:

Don’t bother using page IDs for your URLs. Changing your URLs to a worded structure will not only help with SEO, but it will also help your users know what the page is about. http://www.example.com/services is much better than http://www.example.com/?page_id=41. If you’re using WordPress for your website, you can simply go to Settings > Permalinks > and enter /%postname%/ as a Custom Structure. Also, make sure to have your site go to the www or the non-www version, but not both. That can potentially create duplicate content problems.

Use Flash in Moderation:

Incorporating Flash into your website is not bad, but too much of it is. The search engines are limited by what they can read within the Flash file, so do not put any text or important information within it that you may want the search engines to index. Also, do not build the entire website using Flash. It will basically shield all your site's content from the search engines deeming you irrelevant for the majority of keywords you’re going for.

In addition, Google has the new instant preview feature. If you use Flash, it can turn out blank or empty:

Here is a good use of Flash, and a bad use of Flash. Photographers everywhere are notorious for using all Flash websites.

Heading Tags:

Heading tags range from H1 to H6 and are great ways of separating out topics and giving a title to each page of content. When creating content for each page, remember to have only one H1 tag. If it sounds natural, use your keywords within this H1 to maximize its potential.

Here is a good use of H1 tags. A bad example would be any page with more than one H1 tag.

One Topic per Page:

If you have a variety of services or products, do not put them all on one page. Have your homepage be the broad focus of your business and create menus that go over your categories. Only have one product/service per page. It looks better, it’s simpler for the user to find what they need and you’ll thank yourself once you start targeting pages with keywords.

Don’t Use iFrames:

1998 called and they’d like their Web development methods back. Rarely is there a reason to implement iFrames for your website. An iFrame is basically a portal or window into another page within your website. The search engines cannot read the information within that window and that is why they’re useless. For the most part, iFrames have fizzled out but some major sites like Amazon.com and weather information sites will use them to enable users to display their content on their personal website effortlessly.

Here’s a site that uses iFrames. View the source page and search for some of the content you see on the site. You can’t find it and neither can the search engines.

Call to Action:

It doesn’t matter how much traffic your website receives, if it doesn’t convert, it’s useless. Many people don’t understand or value conversion optimization but it can significantly improve your bounce and conversion rate. A simple way of improving your amount of callers, orders, e-mails, leads, subscribers (or whatever you are using to identify a conversion) is to clearly display what you want that visitor to act on. If they should fill out a form or give you a call, make sure that action item is above their face where they cannot miss it.

Here’s an example of a good call to action, and a bad call to action.

Text within Images:

Many webmasters put text within an image because they want a special font to display or they just don’t understand HTML. The search engines cannot read what is inside images, so just don’t do it. Save yourself from doing it twice by doing it right.

Here is an example of a website using text within images. The header, footer and welcome title are all in images.

JavaScript within Navigation:

When you use JavaScript to display your navigation, the drop-down pages and the links that go along with them, it can create a barrier for the search engines because they have a hard time reading it. JavaScript isn’t as cut and dry as HTML and because there are a million ways to produce the same product out of JavaScript, it can really confuse the search engines.

Here’s a site that uses JavaScript with their navigation. If you disable JavaScript in your browser, its functionality goes away.

Navigational Structure:

Keeping your websites navigational structure clean and simple can be somewhat of a challenge for some people. Use categories, use parent pages and don’t exclude key pages from the navigation. If you want a visitor to buy that product or see that service, include it in your menu.

Although I somewhat enjoy this site, it is an example of a website with a confusing navigational structure.

Use of Content:

Each page should have its own unique text and images at the very least. Having other elements like video can help you too. Make sure each page has at least 150 unique words and 1 picture with descriptive alt text. Use that pages keywords in the text and image alt tag but don’t overuse it. SEO is a delicate balance and using your keyword once per 100 words is always safe.

Here is an example of a website with no useful text and lists of keywords.

Using Splash/Doorway/Squeeze Page:

When somebody first comes to your website, they should see your homepage, not a trendy or fun page in between. When the use of a splash page is used, it creates an unnecessary barrier between you and your visitors. This will affect your bounce rate and conversion rate and unlikely for the better.

Here is an example of a website using a Splash page.

Become a Blogger:

Search engines like to serve fresh content and using a blog is a great way to keep your site growing and active. Continually having new content for the search engines to index keeps their bot coming back and can even help you rank for longer tail keywords.

Our SEO blog is a great example of an active blog that posts new content about the industry it’s in.

Pay Attention to Site Speed:

If your website takes too long to load the page, odds are your visitors are going to get impatient and leave. The search engines also don’t like waiting around so site speed should be something to be concerned about. Having too many HTTP requests, large amounts of JavaScript and CSS files and large images to load can all contribute to a slow site speed.

Hopefully these examples will help you in the future if you choose to build a new website. As with everything, there are exceptions to the rule. But for the most part, these recommendations will help your SEO efforts as well as visitors that come to your website.

Do you know of any others? Please comment and add to this list.


Topics: Web Design Blog SEO Tips Content marketing Flash Site Content Google On-Page Optimization Conversion Optimization

Kevin Phelps

Written by Kevin Phelps

Kevin is a former SEO Manager at SEO.com. He has been actively involved in the SEO industry for over three years and has worked with small and large businesses nationwide.

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