When designing a website, it is important to make informed decisions about each design element in order to optimize the site for search engine rankings. Many of your visitors are likely to come from search engines and it is therefore important to design your website with optimum search engine infrastructure in place.
1. Dynamic title, description, keywords
It is critical that you include relevant and unique keywords directly in the content of your website. A well written page header title, description and keywords helps search engine crawlers understand what the page material is about and helps differentiate one page from another. Be sure to include your keywords in your domain name, title tags and headings. Spiders love to crawl these areas!
2. One url for homepage
What this means is that from a search engine perspective, a url with businessintelligence.me (without www) and www.businessintelligence.me (including www) are considered different pages in search engines. For search engines every page is different and having identical content for www.businessintelligence.me and businessintelligence.me is like having two website addresses with the same content. Creating 301 redirection or permanent redirection from www.businessintelligence.me to businessintelligence.me (or vice versa) will avoid the issue of having two urls with the same content. Creating a redirection is also likely to boost the PageRank concentration of your homepage.
3. Design website using CSS
In the past, the layout of most websites were accomplished using HTML tables. Today however, progressive websites are developed using CSS. CSS produces cleaner code and helps search engine crawlers to easily find and reach the main content of a webpage. Another benefit of CSS pages is website loading time, since the files sizes are smaller, the page loads faster than a table based design.
4. XML sitemap
Site maps help search engines index your site. Search engines use the information contained within a site map to know how fresh your content is, how frequently you update the site and which areas are especially relevant. Creating a sitemap will help search engines keep their index database fresh and it is easier for their crawler to follow links from a XML sitemap as all links are in one simple file.
5. Optimizing for image search by using alt tags for graphics and image links
Web users often use search engines to find images and graphics. Optimizing your website for image search will add value in terms of search engines traffic and increase visitors to your site. The practice of using alt and titles in image tags is another way to further optimize your site. It not only provides accessibility, but helps search engines add a description to the image displayed.
6. Always be Testing
Doing A/B or Multivariate testing to optimize your site used to require some in-house programming expertise or expensive 3rd party software. Thankfully, Google has provided us with a free alternative.
7. Improve the form of your web forms
Web forms are an exchange of information and value. If people must spend time filling out an online form, you should offer something in return. Limit the form to only what is absolutely necessary. If your checkout process includes several steps, include a visible and prominent progress indicator. Include visible point of action assurances like security logos and privacy statements near to your call to action. Your visitors are likely to make errors filling out your forms, so instead of flashing red error messages, write friendly and useful copy that actually helps them fill out the form.
At the same time, there are some design elements that should be avoided:
Flash – Search engine spiders don’t like flash files. There are no textual elements in flash i.e. the spiders can’t scan, read them or understand what the pages or the site are all about half as well as they can with html pages. Many new designers make the mistake of relying on flash files because they look great but in reality, all of that content, including your keywords, will not be of much use if they only appear in flash format. Google and other search engines are working on understanding flash better but the technology is not quite there yet. Also, try not to rely on images as navigation - text is much better from an SEO point of view.
Frames – Frames are another design element that is largely ignored by spiders. Like flash, if you feel you must use frames, keep them to a minimum and find another way to represent important information in text form.
Images with Text – Search engine spiders will not index text that is included in images, so it is important that your images do not contain vital text. It is a better idea to use “alt” tags which serve as descriptive text that tells the spiders what the image is or represents; or to use CSS to display text behind an image.
Other non-design related common website optimization mistakes that people tend to make when beginning to optimize their sites for search engines could be:
“Black Hat” web site optimization
This includes techniques that are unethical and not looked upon favorably by search engine spiders - keyword stuffing, doorway pages, invisible text, and many more. These practices are technically likely to raise your site ranking. However, search engine spiders have become very smart to Black Hat SEO techniques and can now detect them with ease. As a result, your site will be poorly ranked and you lose any good SEO that you have done. Don't go for the quick fix; learn how to optimize your site for the long haul.
Using link farms and FFA’s
There is no doubt that link building is a vital part of SEO. But inbound links are only valuable when they are legitimate. Link farms and FFA’s (free for all’s) are used by many sites looking for inbound links, but these links carry no value. Search engines know when links are coming from these kinds of sites, and not only will these sites not provide your site with any traffic, certain search engines will ban those who participate.