Website Optimization Articles

You might be wasting money on your current website

Having a website that is designed and optimized for search engines can mean the difference between a profit generator and a money pit.

OK, so you have a website for your small business. Did you design it? Your nephew? The kid down the block? Chances are, if you took the budget route with your small business website, the search engines, and the millions of potential customers on the internet USING search engines, don't know you exist.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn't just for big business

Getting your website designed and launched is one thing. Getting your website listed on the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN are another. Getting your website listed on the FIRST PAGE of these search engines is another entirely. Search engines "spider" websites and index the content in massive databases which feed the search requests of search engine users. The more relevant the content of your page is to the search phrase typed in by a search engine user, the more likely your webpage is to show up somewhere in the search rankings.

The problem arises when website designers don't design your website with search engines in mind. They use fancy flash layouts, dynamic javascript menus and many other web technologies that may look nice, but search engines are blind to the content and won't index your site in it's entirety. Now don't get us wrong, there is a place for these bells and whisles depending on the purpose of your website. But if the goal of your website is to attract users to your online storefront as potential customers, your website should be DESIGNED for that purpose.

Search engine-friendly design

Obviously, you want visitors to have a meaningful experience on your site. But you also want search engine spiders to find all the pages and content that will rank your site for a particular keyword or keyphrase. If your site isn’t search engine spider-friendly, it will never be highly ranked. Here are some of the search engine-friendly web design issues we deal with regularly:

  • JavaScript based drop-down or slide-out menus can prevent search engine spiders from following navigation links in web pages. Much of the same functionality of javascript can be duplicated with search engine-friendly cascading style sheets.
  • Requiring cookies on your website also prevents spiders from indexing your content.
  • Web pages that require users to input any type of information in order to access the content blocks search engines from your pages.
  • Shopping cart systems that invoke session IDs. Shopping carts are dynamic modules and they pass many variables through the url. When a search engine encounters these variables, they will not parse the page because they can get caught up in an endless loop and in effect become "trapped" in your website.
  • Not using unique title tags for each page of the site. This is a common problem due to inexperienced designers. They may just use the company name in the title of each page (the text that appears in the top border of your browser). The page title is an important piece of information gathered by search engines, and it should be utilized uniquely for each page.
  • Optimizing your pages too broadly. Many designers think they can optimize a new website for broad search terms and get high rankings. The internet is mature enough that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of pages already optimized for broad search terms. An example would be building a website optimized for "vacations". There are currently 67,200,000 pages in Google for the search term "vacations". Optimization needs to be directed toward niche markets and location based searches. If the website is for vacations in Nebraska on the Platte River for sandhill crane watching, then the site should be optimized much narrower in focus. Search for "nebraska sandhill crane vacations" results in only 32,600 search results in Google. There is a much higher likelihood of ranking in the top search results with a narrower focused optimization strategy.

Navigation structure

Search engines don't notice if your site has "pretty" navigation, but they do notice if your site has an unorganized navigational structure. Consistent internal page linking can help spiders get through your site and properly index the content on each page.

Website redesign issues

After a website redesign, there can be pages from the old site that are no longer used, but they may still be listed by the search engines. It takes time for search engines to filter out nonexistant pages, and those old pages may still be attracting search traffic. There are techniques that can be used by designers to make sure these pages are redirected to new pages, or to a custom error page that informs the user the page is no longer available and provides links back into the website.

Duplicate content issues and filters

If your website designer lifted copy from an existing website, the search engines may be penalizing you for duplicate content. Search engines run filters to eliminate duplicate content, and if your site has the same text as another site, your search ranking may be penalized. The best solution for this problem is to write your own content, and keep it fresh and updated. Search engines LOVE original content, and a site that is updated frequently will be rewarded with higher ranking in searches than the site that hasn't been updated since 2001.

Conclusion

There are many pitfalls that an unknowing website designer can fall into. There may be ways to save money on your small business website, but you may end up wasting money on your website because of them. Most designers are not search engine optimizers, and there is a fine balance between a pretty site and a search engine friendly site. Our goal is to mesh an attractive, user-friendly site with clean code that allows search engines to spider the site easily and frequently. Would you prefer to have the site that looks great but gets no traffic or the site that looks good and gets 30 e-mail requests and new customers every day?

Contact us if you have any questions concerning your current website and how it can be optimized to be indexed by search engine spiders.