What search engines really, really want from your website!
Monday, 26 March 2007 — by Wayne Smallman
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is as much about legibility and design as it is the HTML code. Here’s some SEO tips to help you make your website more search engine friendly…
The search engines are getting smarter all of the time, smart enough to negate the need for you to think like they do!
So why is a search engine like a fussy reader?
Imagine you are Miss. S. Engine. You enjoy reading. In fact, you enjoy reading so much, it’s just about the only thing you do.
Only problem is, you tire easily if everything isn’t right. In short: you’re a very fussy reader.
You go to a book shop, you pick five books at random. You sit down in a quiet corner and begin the process of summarizing their content.
The first book is a tome! It’s a tree in your hand. “Where’s the title?” You mumble to yourself. “Oh, there it is!” You find it printed in tiny letters down the spine.
You open the book and look to the index. “What?!” There are just four chapter headings for a book of more than six hundred pages! Worse still, there appears to be only a few title headings on a handful of pages.
After a cursory examination, you see page after page of stuff you’ve read before, none of which is of any interest, of relevance or of merit.
You sigh, you puff your cheeks and raise a brow or two, you put the book to one side for later.
You take the second book. This is a much smaller book, it’s got a smart enough cover and a bold, obvious title. But the index is missing, and so are some of the pages.
In fact, quite a lot of the pages are missing. Also, the pictures seem to have been stuck in afterwards and some of those pictures are now missing, too.
You sigh … again! Placing this book to one side on top of the first book, you now turn your attentions to the third book.
This is some kind of thought piece. A book for the purpose of research and study. Good! This implies that there’s some authority to be found in this particular book.
There’s an index and it’s clearly worded, plus there are plenty of clear page titles as well as sub-titles.
Wait a minute! “Where the hell are the references?” You exclaim in dismay. There’s lots being said in this book about various people saying this and saying that, but there aren’t any references! “How do I know any of this is factual?”
Your disappointment is palpable.
The law of averages tells you the fourth book has to be a worthwhile read, and it looks promising.
Good index, lots of well-worded headings, no pages missing … bonus! Pictures look good, references in place. They’ve even highlighted points, quotes, key words and key phrases.
We’re on a roll with this one.
Alas, there’s a fly in this otherwise perfect ointment; not all of the pages are formatted the same way. In fact, the formatting is so bad in places, it’s almost impossible to read!
You sigh and your shoulders sink in despair. “Spanish? And … and German?!” Not all of the pages are in the same language, either. To compound these errors even further, because the right character set wasn’t used, some of the accented characters haven’t printed out correctly.
Now you’re angry! Of what you can actually read, the various passages of text are littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
And finally, the fifth book.
But unfortunately for you, Miss. S. Engine, this is to be your longest sigh of all; this book is perfection all bar two huge, insurmountable problems.
Firstly the type face is very small, and secondly the type is printed in red ink on a blue background.
Your eyes strain so much to read the tiny type, and so garish are the colors that your eyes water. In the end, you give up. You simply cannot read on.
So what do the search engines really want from your website?
Hopefully you’ll have deduced that the 5 books talked about previously are in fact websites. Also, you’ll have seen the correlation between the problems with these books and the various aspects of websites and web design in general.
So if you want to please the likes of Miss S. Engine and her search engine kith & kin, you may want to consider the following web design hints and tips:
- Use proper titles and sub-titles
- Engage the readers’ interest
- Highlight key words and key phrases
- Use original content wherever possible
- Reference and link to quoted sources
- Ensure that you have no missing pages or pictures
- Provide a good index of all relevant web pages
- Check your spelling and your grammar
- Encode your web pages for the correct languages
- Be consistent with the layout of your web pages
- Ensure that all of your web pages are readable
The search engines are smart enough to figure things out the same way you do.
Don’t try and think like a machine, just think like a human and you’ll soon realize whether your website is door-stop of a page-turner…
About the author
Wayne Smallman is the man behind Octane Interactive, a web design, web applications development and internet marketing agency. Octane has been around since 1999 and is based in Yorkshire, England.
Wayne has been in the new media industry working as a web designer & developer since the mid nineties and also provides a consultation service to businesses looking to make the most of their web presence.
He’s a passionate believer in the power of technology to better the lives of everyone and his passion and drive are hallmarks of his attitude to doing business.
Wayne is also the author of a series of web-related articles for businesses and individuals wanting to know more about the web and how the web can help them be more productive and work smarter, not harder.