In addition to inbound links, social media and hundreds of other factors, Design also plays a large roll in your website’s overall search engine optimization. When I say design, I mean the overall look of the site and how the content itself was created. With the use of CSS and software like Adobe Flash, the website the human viewer sees may be much different than what the search engine sees. Let’s look at a few important aspects of design as they relate to your overall SEO.
The navigation are the links that direct visitors to other areas and pages on a website. In order for a visitor and a search engine to properly navigate your website you need to have clean, easy to use and crawl navigation. Navigation should include proper HTML text links to the main directories or pages of your site. You don’t want to stuff tons of links to every page into the top or bottom navigation. Just the main site links should be in your templates main navigation and footer.
Many designers love Adobe Flash because of the custom animation and interactive content you can build using it. I know because I’m one of them. The problem is that search engines don’t see flash as human visitors see it. The same can also be said for images. They can only see what is in the alt text attributes you supply to each image. Building your entire navigation system using Flash or images is not going to help search engines crawl your pages. If you do use these items in your navigation make sure you also have HTML text links somewhere on the page as well.
Here are some helpful navigation design tips
- Only use Flash and Images as supporting visual aids on a site’s pages. They are not ideal for navigation or blocks of text.
- Use the sites main top and footer navigation to link to the important directories and pages. Don’t stuff the footer with links to every page of the site.
- Use proper HTML text links wherever possible in navigation
Usability and Content
How do you create visually appealing content, but still design for both humans and search engines. Just because a website looks awesome to the human visitors doesn’t mean the search engine sees the same awesomeness. Try using www.seo-browser.com for an idea of what the search engine sees when viewing certain pages of your site. Sometimes designers will use images to display text, so they can use a creative font that browsers don’t support. I’ve even seen entire blocks of text placed as an image into a sites pages. Realize that although human visitors can read this text, search engines will skip over it as if its not even there.
Here are some tips to creating great content for
humans and search engines
- Always opt for HTML text in links and copy, verse using images and Flash.
- If you use Flash, only use it for some graphical parts of the page, not the entire site design.
- Use the alt attribute on all your images. This allows the search engine to have a brief description of the image. Also use descriptive keywords in the image file name itself.
CSS and SEO
If you’re a designer than you are familiar with using cascading style sheets when you build a website. Your CSS file is a separate file that controls where items are placed on the page, colors, boarders, and basically the entire visual look of the HTML document. Always keep in mind that while visually CSS has redefined how we build HTML, search engines still don’t see the site the same as the human viewer.
Why is CSS good for SEO?
- It allows for smaller HTML files, cutting down on load time
- Cleaner HTML files that are easier for search engines to crawl
- You can spend more time on SEO because your site will be easier to maintain and make quick changes site wide.
The overall design of your website is becoming an increasingly more important factor in SEO. Search Engines are taking into account design and usability more now than they did in the past. Websites that implement proper design elements and are clean/easy to navigate are more likely to be considered quality to the human visitor and search engine alike.
If you know of more design element that help with SEO, let us know. Add it to the comments below.