When you pull up a web page in your browser window, your mind takes in the way it looks. It asses the colors, the information, the graphics, the words, the look, and the feel. It decides in a few seconds whether to trust the page and continue to read, or to ditch it altogether and find something new.
For most of us, we only consider the way a web page looks and feels to the viewer. But for the rest of us, those of us who code and live in a web dev environment where the creation of these pages is exciting, we realize there’s more to a page than its looks.
Because we also realize that while it’s important to ensure a page is good looking enough to attract viewers and readers, it’s equally important to ensure a page is attractable enough for search engines.
And search engines look at a page differently.
Seeing Your Site As The Search Engines Do
In order for a page to look the way it does on your browser window, a web development team creates coding that puts the data in proper order. It links together things like HTML, images, flash files, java applets, and other non-text content to display the final results in a way that’s user-friendly.
Think of it as a sandwich. There’s the “pretty” page that you and I can see when we visit a particular URL. And then there’s the “coded” page that the search engines see and use to provide proper rank.
The two work together all the time.
The problem lies with the indexable content. While many web dev departments spend lots of time making sure the site is “pretty”, the “coded” portion of the page may be sloppy, and there’s no way you would ever know.
Until it starts showing up in different ways. Like your site doesn’t show up on Google, no matter how hard you try.
Your Site Should Be Crawlable
There are two kinds of search engines: human placement and technology based.
Some search engines have human interaction, where individuals make the call on what to include and how to place the content.
In most cases, however, a search engine is automated and uses “spiders” to crawl the site, look at the content, and rank it accordingly. Technology crawls through the content and browses the pathways to take in all the data that is there.
Just as it’s important to have your content in order, it’s equally important to have a crawlable link structure – one that leads the way to ensure everything on your site is considered before ranking you appropriately.
Mess with this structure, and your content may never be ranked.
What can stop this process?
Submission Required Forms
If you require users to fill out a form or put in a password before accessing certain data, the search engines will never see those protected pages.
Links in Flash, Java, and other plugins
When links are embedded in things outside of HTML, you may find search engines do not crawl or give very little weight to the content.
Frames or iframes
These present structural issues for the search engines in terms of organization and following. Unless a designer is advanced in understanding search engine indexing, it’s best to stay away from them.
Resources and Links pages
Search engines will only crawl so many links on any given page. Pages with hundreds of links are at risk of not being indexed.
For this reason, a designer can add “nofollow” links to give you a clean, spiderable HTML link that gives easy access to the spiders as they crawl your page.
Search Engine Optimization
This is also where search engine optimization (SEO) tactics come into play.
Keywords are the fundamental structure of the search process. They are the building blocks of search. In fact, the entire science of search is based on the keyword process.
As the engines crawl and index the contents of pages around the web, they keep track of those pages in keyword-based indexes. Then they store the data for comparison to all the other sites crawled. Obviously, if you want your page to rank well with the term “golf”, you’d better ensure “golf” is prominently used throughout the page.
Search engines measure how keywords are used on a page to help determine relevance every time its used in a query. It’s also important to understand that search engines don’t think like you and me. “Golf Club” is different than “Club Golf” in the eyes of search. That’s why it’s important to ensure every page of your site is optimized to ensure it’s focused on the right keyword. That means using all aspects of ranking – titles, text, and metadata – to its best ability.
On Page Optimization
While keyword usage and targeting is an important part of search engine algorithms, you should also engage in many other tactics used for on page optimization. That means using your keyword in places like:
- In the title tag – keep them as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible
- At the top of the page – spiders should find the keyword as quickly as possible
- At least two or three times in the body copy – the longer the content, the more it should be used, without using it to the point of being ridiculous
- At least once in the alt attribute of an image or graphic
- Once in the URL
- At least once in the meta description
And generally, you SHOULD NOT use it in link anchor text as this is known as keyword cannibalization.
What You Need To Know As A Business Owner
Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this tech talk? Don’t worry. It’s not important for you to become a web dev guru in order to ensure you have a site that’s working and ranking well for you.
What is important is that you understand the basics enough to select the right web dev team to provide you with the results you are looking for.
Some companies get sloppy on the tech side of development. They ensure the “pretty” page looks awesome – that’s the deliverable that is presented, and that’s what the purchaser knows to look for. Yet it’s equally important to ensure the “coded” side of the page says what it’s supposed to say. Think your “golf” site can rank well if the meta data is filled with optimization way outside of the keyword – “coffee” for instance? Us either.
Find a company that provides the graphics that are pretty. But also focus in on one that can prove results. Because no matter how pretty a graphic is, if it isn’t where its supposed to be, it ultimately does you no good.