Search engine optimization for today's search engine robots requires that sites
be well-designed and easy-to-navigate. To a great degree, organic search engine
optimization is simply an extension of best practices in web page design. SEO's
relationship with web design is a natural one. By making sites simple and easily
accessible, you are providing the easiest path for the search engine robots to
index your site, at the same time that you are creating the optimum experience
for your human visitors.
This approach ties well into the notion of long-term search engine marketing
success. Rather than trying to "psych out" the ever-changing search engine
algorithms, build pages that have good text and good links. No matter what the
search engines are looking for this month or next, they will always reward good
content and simple navigation.
Search Engine Robots
Search engine robots are automated programs that go out on the World Wide Web
and visit web pages. They read the text on a page and click through links in
order to travel from page to page. What this really means is that they "read" or
collect information from the source code of each page. Depending on the search
engine, the robots typically pick up the title and meta description. The robots
then go on to the body text of the page in the source code. They also pay
attention to certain tags such as headings and alt text. Search engine robots
have capabilities like first-generation browsers at best: no scripting, no
frames, no Flash. When designing, think simple.
Search Engine Friendly Design
Creating search engine friendly design is relatively easy. Cut out all the bells
and whistles and stick to simple architecture. Search engine robots "understand"
text on the page and hyperlinks, especially text links. The relationship of SEO
and web design makes sense when you start with good design techniques for your
visitor. The easier the navigation and the more text on the page, the better it
is not only for the visitor but also for the search engine robots.
Obstacles For Indexing Web Pages
Search engine robots cannot "choose" from drop down lists, click a submit
code necessary to script your pages or create those lists can trip-up the search
code means the search engine robots must go through all this code to finally
code for quicker access to your source code by the search engine robots, and faster
loading time for your online visitors. Some search engine robots have difficulty
with dynamically-generated pages, especially those with URLs that contain long
querystrings. Some search engines, such as Google, index a portion of
dynamically generated pages, but not all search engines do. Frames cause
problems with indexing and are generally best left out of design for optimum
indexing. Web pages built entirely in Flash can present another set of problems
Depth Of Directories
Search engine robots may have difficulty reaching deeper pages in a website. Aim
to keep your most important pages no more than one or two "clicks" away from
your home page. Keep your pages closer to the root instead of in deeply-nested
subdirectories. In this way you will be assured the optimum indexing of your web
pages. Just as your website visitor may become lost and frustrated in too many
clicks away from your homepage, the robots may also give up after multiple
clicks away from the root of your site.
Solutions And Helpful Techniques
If there are so many problems with indexing, how will you ever make it work?
The use of static pages is the easiest way to ensure you will be indexed by the
search engine robots. If you must use dynamically-generated pages, there are
techniques you can use to improve the chances of their being indexed. Use your
web server's rewrite capabilities to create simple URLs from complex ones. Use
fixed landing pages including real content, which in turn will list the links to
your dynamic pages. If you must use querystrings in your page addresses, make
them as short as possible, and avoid the use of "session id" values.
When using Flash to dress up your pages, use a portion of Flash for an important
message, but avoid building entire pages using that technology. Make sure that
the search engine robots can look at all of the important text content on your
pages. You want your message to get across to your human visitor as well. Give
them enough information about your product to interest them in going the next
step and purchasing your product.
If you must use frames, be sure to optimize the "no frames" section of your
pages. Robots can't index framed pages, so they rely on the no frames text to
as needed in the search engine results page.
Got imagemaps and mouseover links? Make sure your pages include text links that
duplicate those images, and always include a link back to your homepage.
Use a sitemap to present all your web pages to the search engine robots,
especially your deeper pages. Make sure you have hyperlink text links on your
page, and a sentence or two describing each page listed, using a few of your
keyword phrases in the text.
Remember that the search engine robots "read" the text on your web page. The
more that your content is on-topic and includes a reasonable amount of
keyword-rich text, the more the search engine robot will "understand" what the
page is about. This information is then taken back to the search engine database
to eventually become part of the data you see in the search engine results.
Last of all, it is very important to test your pages for validation. Errors from
programming code and malformed html can keep the search engine robots from
indexing your web pages. Keep your coding clean.
Check List For Success
* Include plenty of good content in text on your web pages
* Incorporate easy to follow text navigation
* Serve up dynamically generated pages as simply as possible
* Add a sitemap for optimum indexing of pages
* Validate your pages using the World Wide Web Consortium's validation tool, or other html validator
On Your Way To Indexed Pages
The best way to assure that your pages will be indexed is to keep them simple.
This type of architecture not only helps the search engine robots, but makes it
easier for your website visitors to move throughout your site. Don't forget to
provide plenty of good content on your pages. The search engine robots and your
visitors will reward you with return visits.
dynamically-generated pages, Frames and Flash, read the following articles:
Optimizing Dynamic Pages (Part I)
Optimizing Dynamic Pages (Part II)
Optimizing Frames for Search Engines
Html validation tool
Stylesheet validation tool
April 6, 2004
Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation, a Search Engine Promotion company serving small businesses. Besides running her own company, Daria is an associate of WebMama.com, an Internet web marketing strategies company. She has specialized in search engine optimization since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly & Associates, a technical book publishing company.