A Basic Guide to Website Designing for Search Engines
Websites are designed basically for people and not for the search engines. But how will people find you without the search engines? The search engines are the medium for people to easily access your content for free and with little effort. So, while you write to answer the questions people ask and provide the answers to the problems that confront them daily, you must also optimize your content to be worthy of top search engine ranking so that people can easily find you when they use the search engines to find answers and solutions.
Designing a website today is not just about building static pages and boosting online presence by stuffing metadata and content with keywords. The search engines have made tremendous adjustments and improvements to their algorithms making it not just as easy as it were to climb to the top of search engine result pages (SERP).
In building websites to achieve SEO gains, it is important that you never forget that the search engines are evolving. What works and is acceptable today may not be accepted tomorrow. So you must be properly guided to adopt the best and safest practices so you are not hit by any future changes to the search engine algorithm.
Search engines today are interested in your website structure and how well that makes your website visitors easy to navigate through. They are interested in the mobile friendliness of your website, how error free your website is thereby making website users happy, that is what is commonly referred to as user experience. The bottom line is search engines are very interested in website quality and want to see that only quality websites make it to the top of their searches.
Ultimately, in building a website today, you need to win the heart of search engines as well as your users. Ironically, you can't really win the heart of search engines if you can't win the heart of your users. So if your website bounce rate is high, the time people spend on your website is low, people's review of your website are awful and you get dominantly poor rating, the search engines will not keep you at the top of their searches and even if you managed to get there, you will not be able to sustain the top position.
Having said that, you also need to understand that search engines work with spiders.
Because the success of your website will significantly depend on its position in the search engines, and so to impress the search engine spiders you need some clue on what impresses them and how to implement that on your website.
This post focuses on how you implement that on your website. We can assure you that if you get it right, you will certainly make it to the top and that will be your success story.
What Search Engines Love About Websites
Search engines read texts and cannot comprehend images, colours or graphics. So when you think of website content, you should be very concerned about the text content and not just the images. Infographics and other image forms can convey a lot of meaning, enhance understanding and the amount of time people dwell on your website but texts are key in assessing website quality.
It's been suggested that web pages should run as much as 1,500 words to get the nod of Google for quality. This has to be good content, well organised content that significantly covers the subject matter.
Because the search engines do not understand images, it is recommended that images should include alternate description texts to help search engines understand them and rank them in its results.
So, while it is a good idea to beautify your website with images, search engine friendly designs should focus on text content and less of graphic images, avoid flash remember to include keywords in your content development.
Pay Attention to Page Titles
The most conspicuous and outstanding content of your page is its title. Web crawlers are most attracted by page titles and website designers try to take advantage of this by matching page titles with search keywords. But this has become a poor strategy following the launch of Google Panda and Penguin updates. You can be penalized if you use exact matches of highly competitive keywords especially for your homepage.
In constructing your titles, we recommend you keep it between 30 and 60 characters, it should contain the keywords for which you want to rank and should avoid duplicated keywords.
Please note that a fantastic title is not all you need to rank well. Do not assess your website based on what worked 10 years ago. A lot have changed and the search engine spiders consider a lot of other factors outside the page title to rank websites.
According to Moz:
Meta tags provide information about the webpage in the HTML of the document. This information is called "metadata" and while it is not displayed on the page itself, it can be read by search engines and web crawlers. ... Examples of meta tags include the <title> and <description> elements.
Basically these include the page title itself, description and keywords. Google says the keyword meta tag is no longer useful in ranking websites. probably due to its abuse by SEOs who stuff content with keywords for which they want to rank. What is important is to build targeted keywords into your content because Google will still be able to understand your content based on the keywords in its content. Because Google has said it does not actually use the keyword meta tags in page ranking, we need not bother so much with keywords anymore.
Links are categorized broadly into internal and external links. Internal links are links to pages on your website while external links, as the name implies, are links to your websites from other websites. External links also imply links to other websites from your own website. The latter does not carry much weight but when your website makes reference to websites that are high in quality, it also speaks of its own quality as a website that is not associated with poor quality websites.
Links carry strong weight in terms of ranking factors. Getting links from high quality websites can be very rewarding because they are the most difficult to obtain. We have covered how to get quality external links in the article: 4 Ways to Build Quality Backlinks to Your Website.
Header tags are used by Google to identify keywords to which you attach strong importance. It is a good practice to have different header tags on the page. The importance decreases as you move from H1 to H2, H3 down to H6 headers.
Having headers will tell the search engines how much you attach to different keywords. The H1 header is taken to have much more weight than the H2 headers and so on.
In using headers, it is recommended that you do not skip any category and move to the next. For example, you use the H1, H2 and H3 tags and jump over the H4 tag to continue with the H5 tag. Use header tags in an orderly manner to build a consistent and proper website structure.
Work With Information
Because spiders read algorithms and do not take whole pages into account, as Google's John Mueler pointed out, Google does not need to crawl all pages to assess and determine page quality. So, be news savvy and place the most important information first. Titles, headers, and the introductory paragraphs must present the essentials.
SEO is competitive and so you must strive to outdo the competition. Whatever the competition does better could give them an advantage and put them ahead.
Avoid just writing for the sake of developing content and building in links. There are pages that just have content that are not related to a website, irrelevant content and have links. You will find that such pages have been created just to input links and are considered by Google as spammy. Having links on such pages can hurt SEO. It is one reason SEOs tell you not to buy links.
Keep in Touch With Google Updates
Conscious of the fact that Google is constantly updating their algorithm, their policies and quality guidelines, you need to keep up with these guidelines to comply with Google's rules and get a tap from Google which will always be rewarded with better rankings.
Keep up with the technical advancements in the way search engines examine materials. Read through guidelines of major search engines, as well as blogs and forums devoted to SEO and spiders.
Once your page design is completed, think about using a search engine simulator to evaluate your pages. Use reports that will clarify where you need to make any changes.
Understanding the updates is not enough. You also need to update your content to reflect the most recent practices. Google will love to see that your old content is updated to reflect the recent best practices recommended by Google.
Avoid Cloaking and Manipulative SEO
Cloaking is manipulative as it is designed to give a website undue advantage by presenting a different content to the search engines while the human visitors see something different. We suggest that if you have a presentation target and do not have any content to present, rather than just taking an empty space or stuffing the space with keywords on white background, it is better to leave out the module instead of taking the Google hammer.
What any search engine spider does is that it crawls the web and indexes pages in any given database. The spider makes use of algorithms to determine page ranking and relevancy of indexed pages.
Be SEO savvy and select keywords that search engines will find. Tools like Keyword Playground and Website Keyword Suggestions will help greatly. Avoid dynamic pages and if you have them then run them through the spider simulator to check if dynamic pages are accepted. Get your Meta Keywords and Meta Descriptions Right these are the delicacies a spider relishes. They are the cornerstones of page ranking and relevance in the "eyes" of any spider.
When planning a web site and its pages keep in mind at all times that you are producing content for people. Also remember that how much people will see your content depends to a large extent on its position on the search engine result pages.
Understanding what Google and other search engines consider as quality and respecting their quality guidelines will help you develop pages that are search engine friendly.
Remember that Google hates manipulations so you will have to avoid blac hat SEO practices like cloaking, link purchases, keyword stuffing, exact match domains and keywords.
Pay attention to page titles, use long tail keywords, try to build original and high quality content and update your website with new content while also looking at old content to bring them up to date too.