Search Engine Friendly Design and Development

Search engines are limited in their ability to understand internet content; therefore, they use specific criteria to understand the organization of, and meaning of, content. Search engine friendly design and development supplies search engines with the information they need to understand web pages and media in a way that also enhances the user experience.

Search Engine Algorithms and Website Indexing

Search engines employ highly advanced algorithms to crawl web pages and media, indexing them to deliver search results to users.

For a website to rank in search results, search engines must have the ability to index the website and understand the content. And in cases where rich content is used on a page that search engines cannot understand, the web page with the content should also have SEO friendly components (such as text) that search engines understand.

One easy way to see how Google views a web page is to view Google’s cached version of the page.

Example: Adobe Flash and AIR Showcase Gallery

SEO Example: Google Cached version Green Down Arrow

  • Do a Google search for Adobe Flash and AIR Showcase Gallery.
  • Now, to see Google’s cached version of the page, click on the Green Down Arrow beside the URL to see the Google cached version of the page.
  • When comparing the page users see with the page Google cached, you see a significant difference.
  • The content and media in the body of the page are not indexed by Google, and it does not appear on the page Google cached. So for SEO purposes, the page has little value and does not rank for competitive keywords (see below). Even the links created in Flash are invisible to Google and are not indexed.
    • Sometimes publishers produce web pages mostly for user experience and not to necessarily rank on search engines for competitive keywords, as with the Adobe page in our example.

    Things That Prevent Search Engines from Indexing Content

    Some of the things you should watch for that often result in the inability of search engines to index a web page are:

    • Rich content such as sound, video, and images, including animation with software like Flash, are difficult for search engines to understand and index. And even with metadata and rich snippets, it is difficult for pages with rich content to rank at the top of search engines without indexable text on the page.
    • Submission-required forms require users to complete an online form before accessing content, which blocks users and search engines from seeing the pages. The content that is protected in this fashion typically has no SEO value.
    • Links in unparseable JavaScript cannot be followed by search engines, in most cases, and has little to no SEO value. For SEO purposes, links should be in HTML.
    • Links pointing to pages blocked by the Meta Robots tag or robots.txt are of no value for SEO because search engines will not crawl them.
    • Links created in Flash, Java, and other plug-ins generally have no SEO value, since they are invisible to search engine crawlers.
    • Pages with hundreds of links are of little to no value for SEO and may result in a penalty in some cases. Web pages with lots of links dilute the value of a link from the page, while also risking that the search engine will only crawl a fraction of the links.

    Search Engine Friendly Design and Development Tips

    Here are a few tips about implementing search engine friendly design and development with your web pages.

    URLs and Links

    Simple, readable URLs are helpful for user experience and SEO. To take it one step further, also include a keyword in the URL; however, be careful not to be guilty of keyword stuffing with your content and URLs.

    Properly implement nofollow links, especially if you are linking to untrusted content. Nofollow links are not necessarily bad for SEO and can help preserve the SEO value of hyperlinks on the page.

    By adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute to the link tag:

    • You are not asking search engines to crawl the target page.
    • You are not endorsing the target page with the link.

    Google recently introduced two new link attributes. These new attributes join the nofollow attribute, including passing along ranking credit to the page.

    The two new attributes are:

    • rel=” sponsored”: This attribute is for links created as part of advertisements, sponsorships, or other compensation agreements.
    • rel= “ugc”: This attribute is for links within user generated content, such as comments, forum posts, and guest blogs. “UGC” stands for User Generated Content.

    Related: Google’s New Link Attributes, How They Help SEO

    Keyword Usage and Targeting

    Correct implementation of keywords is one of the most important SEO tasks.

    Search engines crawl web pages to create keyword-based indexes. Therefore, proper implementation of keywords across a website is vitally important.

    Here are a few tips for using keywords:

    • Use the keyword in the page title tag, meta description tag, h1 tag, and in at least one h2 tag.
    • Use the keyword in the URL.
    • Use the keyword in the first paragraph, and as close to the beginning of the paragraph as possible to maintain good user experience.
    • Use the keyword, including variations of the keyword, to maintain a reasonable keyword density in the body of the document, without being spammy and while retaining a good user experience.
    • Use the keyword at least once in the alt attribute of an image on the page.

    Meta Tags

    Meta tags are an important method of providing information to search engines about web pages; therefore, they are absolutely vital to SEO.

    Title Tag: The title tag is the HTML element that specifies the title of a web page, and should be an accurate and concise description of the page’s content. Title tags are often used by search engines as the clickable headline in search results and are important for usability, SEO, and social sharing.

    Meta Description Tag: The meta description tells search engines about your web page. Often, the meta description appears in search results, under the title tag and can present to searchers a good reason to click on the link to view your content.

    Keywords Tag: The keywords meta tag is generally considered to have no SEO value; however, it is still implemented by some of the highest ranking websites. This tag certainly does not hurt, when implemented correctly. And who knows, it may have value in the future, or may have value with getting listed on other sites besides search engines.

    Other than social meta tags, which are not within the scope of this article, other technical tags are usually implemented by web designers and developers, such as:

    • Canonical URL.
    • Content type.
    • Viewport.
    • Robots.
    • Language.
    • Geo.
    • Refresh.
    • Site verification.

    Duplicate Content

    Duplicate content is one of the biggest problems facing websites, especially those created and maintained with a CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. And since websites are penalized for having duplicate content, it’s an important problem to solve.

    The solution is to use the Canonical URL Tag, which allows you to tell search engines that certain similar URLs are actually one and the same.

    Plugins and extensions for content management systems can simplify the process. Yoast SEO is one of the best, and is available for WordPress and Drupal, and is also part of Route 66 for Joomla.

    Rich Snippets

    Rich snippets are extra information included on a web page that are not seen by users but are used to communicate to search engines information such as:

    • Details about your business that is important for local SEO.
    • Site navigation breadcrumbs.
    • Customer reviews.
    • TV and movie information.
    • Event information.
    • Recipe information.
    • Product information.

    Although rich snippets are not required for SEO, they are very helpful when working for a high ranking in search engine results.

    Take Away

    Search engines have a process whereby they crawl and index a website so that it can be presented in search results to users.

    Search engine friendly design and development is the structuring and implementing of information on a web page and in media that search engines need to understand the content and correctly include it in search results, while also enhancing the user experience.

    If you would like help with search engine friendly design and development for your website, request a free analysis of your website that includes key SEO metrics, or schedule a free consultation.

    Recommended: The Beginners Guide To SEO

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