Website architecture can make or break a website’s potential to attain prominence in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
There is often no one single item at issue; usually its a combination of elements that add together to present impediments to proper search engine indexing or cataloging.
- Site Maps – XML & HTML
- Customised 404 Error Pages
- Provide A robots.txt File
- On-Page Content Factors
Search-Friendly URL Aspects
- Page file names – URLs – ought to contain a relevant key word phrase for every page
- Neither capitals, nor spaces in file names are appropriate. Hyphens should separate all words.
Google et al can now cope with URL containing ?, & and =. However, these give no assistance to human viewers and provide no clues to the search engines as to what the page content might be… Search–engine friendly URLs (SEF-RRLs) are valuable determinants in the process assessing page content category or theme.
Verbose Image File Names:
Use keyword-rich explicit Image file names e.g.;
Image File Names should include relevant keywords related to the page they are on!
- Google & Yahoo have Image Search tools that generate traffic when images are accurately named and tagged (image ALT tags)
- Neither capitals nor spaces are appropriate in file names, use hyphens to separate words instead.
Image Alt Tags Usage:
Use Image Alt Tags on every image – a short keyword-rich, relevant sentence that describes the content of the page / image is what’s needed. Its essential to reinforce relevant keywords in every area of the page – Image ALT tags are an important location to insert one or more exact match search phrases.
Site Maps – XML & HTML
A sitemap shortens the number of “levels” down to the primary content – the Products / services. Many Ecommerce websites have nested Categories that artificially push the “real” content down more than 3 levels from the Home page. Deeper than 3 levels in the internal structure appears far less valuable to Search Engines – and such pages will seldom attain a Top 30 ranking! HTML and XML site maps are important;
- An HTML sitemap can double as a custom 404 error page AND help search engine indexing.
- An XML sitemap should be linked to from a robots.txt page, as well being submitted to major SE’s for indexing.
For example; in very large osCommerce sites its possible to dramatically increase the number of indexed pages on Google by using the All_Products modification as a site map, and placing the A-Z links it generates on the footer of every page.
Customised 404 Error Pages
Adding a Custom 404 Error page is rather important. A recent poll showed that only 23% of visitors encountering a 404 page will bother making an attempt to locate a relevant page. That means 77% of visitors that encounter a 404 error abandon your website immediately! Provision of a good Custom 404 Error Page gives you a chance to increase visitor retention times! That’s now an important metric in Google’s relevancy ranking algorithm…
Provide A robots.txt File
Arobots.txt file must exist on the site, not least because search engine spiders looking for a missing file will add to your “404 page not found” error count. The robots.txt file is used to specify which, if any, directories or files shouldn’t be indexed. Usually, we allow all spiders access to everything.
The robots.txt file should also include a link to your sitemap e.g.;
On-Page Content Factors
Pages require textual content in order to contribute to your search engine rankings. Without on-page content, there is little for a search engine to work with as it attempts to establish what the website is about.
Attaining Top 10 rankings for competitive search phrases is not easy… The minimum content volume you should aim for 800-1000 words per page. In the past, lower volumes may have worked but Google’s goal to provide the most relevant pages for any given search has raised the stakes. Its illogical that a page with 400 words of good content would outweigh a page with 1000 words of equally good content…
Page content should be original, well-written, authoritative, entertaining and/or provoke comment. Obviously, a focus on the relevant keyword phrase you hope to rank well for is a given… Including images in content adds interest, and providing relevant keywords in the Alt text gives SE traction.
Don’t forget to include a “Call to Action” – and specify WHAT you want visitors to do, and How/Where to do it.
Page Headings in H1 / H2 Format
Load your Headings with main keyword phrase/s, most important at the beginning and to ensure that all are in H1 / H2 / H3 format. This is the most (SEO) important “On-Page” location to specify to the search engines what the page is about.
The 1st Paragraph
This is the second most important “On-Page” location to identify to the search engines the page content theme or genre….
- Place the primary targeted keyword search phrase at the beginning; commence the 1st sentence with it, and highlight the words in bold if appropriate.
- It is important to include text anchor links on main internal pages. Links TO these anchors (bookmarks) should be provided on Home page and sub-pages, to pages below, and at the same level.
Anchor text links to internal pages (containing relevant keywords) from within body text helps set keyword relationships to those pages. Anchors on internal pages, and links TO those anchors, raises key word count on each page thus related. Linking to anchors on internal pages from Home page raises the perceived importance of those internal pages, and provides additional internal link networks for search engine spiders to find and index them.
- CSS / DHTML – text-based – delivers best results
- Menu passes Page Rank downwards through the site if menu links are accessible
- The keywords in internal links are also what SE’s will associate with the internal pages
If possible, allow addition of hyperlink titles to the menu item links – dynamic, based on the internal page’s 1st heading is not as good as the ability to manually add titles to menu item names. Hyperlink titles in the menu, and in the text anchors (above) can significant increase keyword count on a page, as well as reinforcing what the page (that the link leads to) is about.
Social Media Considerations
Social Media inclusion has become a key issue in both website design and web redesign. Its also become an element over at Google HQ lately and is apparently factored into the search engine rankings algorithm…
- If you have a Facebook account you could / should add a Business Page, and link to it from the site
- If you have Twitter/ YouTube/LinkedIn accounts, you should link to them from the site
- Facebook/ Twitter /YouTube/LinkedIn accounts should be connected. so that any activity on one generates a corresponding entry on the others
- Facebook “Like” buttons should be added across the site’s pages