Design For Your Users, Not Google

Cole Wiebe
September 20, 2008
Read time: 2 minutes

SEO web design must target two audiences with every design decision. Here are some things to consider when developing a site that is both user friendly and search engine friendly.

1. Use as much HTML text as possible. Search engines adore plain text. They don’t view images or video files, listen to audio files or read Flash, so minimize their use in your site design. Use external style sheets and JavaScript whenever practical to pare the HTML down to almost pure text.

Another thing to consider is that some sites make users log in to view certain content or use a form to find content. Logins and forms are bad. The crawlers do not know how to log in to your site or fill out a form in order to view your content. The only content to hide behind a login and robots.txt file is very confidential content you never want indexed.

2. Make your URLs understandable. This means creating URLs like 'www.colewiebe.com/seo-web-design.html' instead of 'www.colewiebe.com/articles/2007-06-14-article27.html'. The first URL is “user friendly”, and it is also “search engine friendly”. The search engines will read more meaning and relevance into the first URL than the second one.

Also, when using the first URL in a blog signature or email, it is clear where the link is going, so click-throughs will increase.

3. Structure your site carefully. Make your site as ‘flat’ as possible. Strive for the magic 3 clicks to whatever content your user is looking for.

4. Design your site for your users, not the search engines. As much as possible treat search engines as if they were human beings manually scouring your site for content to index. If it is easy for humans to find what they are looking for on your site, logic dictates that the spiders will also find what they are looking for and index it.

Search engine crawlers can’t read Flash menus and often have difficulty with JavaScript pull-out menus or roll-overs. Consider basic HTML text links in your menus. Footer links can help make a poor navigation system easier to spider.

5. It has often been said that content is king. The search engines job is to index “relevant” search data. When the search engine starts producing “irrelevant” results web users will quickly move onto another engine. Therefore, poor content, poor ranking.

You’re after the triple win. When you develop amazing content the search engines win because they can provide first rate content on the first page of their search results. Other webmasters win when they become recognized as a major resource in their niche by linking to a site like yours. You win by having qualified traffic that builds your business.

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