Is Your Site Search Engine Friendly?
We’ve all been to the bank and have seen the promotional banners exclaiming: “Let us make your money work for you!” Your website should be working for you, too! A well-designed industrial website with great organic ranking is a real money-maker. RFQs will tumble into your inbox and you’ll receive plenty of conversions on your contact forms, too.
But how do you know if your site is meeting it’s potential or is a real money-pit?
Here’s a handy checklist so you can do a quick site audit on your website!
Design aspects of your website
- Splash Page - A splash page on a website is in the top five worst mistakes you can make with a site design, in my opinion. It might even be fighting with frames for the number one spot. A splash page for a site is useless other than providing a graphical entrance point, often built in Flash, and rarely containing any relevant and useful content or links. The majority of splash pages do not contain navigation of any kind, leaving users without the latest version of Flash enabled out in the cold, with no means of entering or navigating the site. It also blocks search engines from entering the rest of your site. Your “welcoming entry page” is really a locked door, preventing your site from ranking and your visitors from making a successful conversion.
Frames - I don't just optimize sites, I also design and I have to say…my stomach clenches when I see frames on a modern website. Sure, I can let it slide if it’s a site from 1998, but a recent design? That’s just a mean thing to do to a web design client. There is no way to SEO a site with frames, plain and simple. If your site is in frames, whether it’s an old site or new (shudder!), a re-design is definitely in order!
- Flash - There’s been a lot of chatter recently about how Flash is now able to be spidered and indexed by search engines, but this is a long way from a foolproof truth. Full Flash designs are great for multimedia approaches where use of the latest web technology is warranted, such as for education, music or gaming sites. However, if your site is built completely in Flash and you aren’t the Rolling Stones, nor do you sell video games, you might want to re-think your site’s design. While aspects of Flash designs are spiderable, it’s still piecemeal and there is no guarantee that all of your site will be found by the search engines. You can make some concessions though, by either designing an HTML version of your site to offer visitors and the search engines, or you can re-design the site with both Flash and HTML. Read more about how to choose between HTML and/or Flash for a search engine friendly website.
- Dynamic URLs - If you are using a content management system or database that hasn’t been designed with SEO in mind, you may see this kind of URL: http://www.mydomain.com/details.asp?state=california&county=orange-county. That is one ugly URL! And it’s not very accessible for the search engines or your visitors. URLs with many variables such as the one above are called query strings, and they can become quite cumbersome. They are difficult for your visitors to remember and search engine spiders will often abandon them if they are too long, leaving entire sections of your site unspidered. The solution is to spend a little time incorporating URL rewrites into the site. URL rewriting involves masking the dynamic URLs with static URLs. The long-winded URL above becomes masked by an SEO- and user-friendly one like this: http://www.mydomain.com/details/california/orange-county. Isn’t that pretty? Google’s spiders think so!
- Navigation and menus - Take a look at your navigation. Is it image-based or built with Flash? If so, it’s definitely not search engine friendly. Flash menus are shiny and pretty but can prevent spiders from exploring your entire site and if your visitors don’t have the proper version of Flash, they won’t see your navigation at all. Image-based navigation is also difficult to spider, because search engines can’t read the text in the images. If your ALT tags are inaccurate or missing completely, you lose out on the opportunity to gain ranking for important keywords in the navigation. Every page in your site is an opportunity to incorporate the keywords and phrases that will bring you traffic. Good navigation is key to making sure the search engines reach every page and rank you for the keywords you’re focusing on. In a perfect world, your navigation would be text-based and styled with CSS. Each navigation link would contain the keywords of the page you are linking to, to ensure relevance and enhanced page rank. Your menu is a major roadmap to your site, for search engines and your potential customers. Help them along with a clearly defined, text-based navigation.
- Sitemaps - If your web designer is worth their salt, they added an HTML sitemap to your site. This is the basic sitemap that all websites should have. It is essential for visitor usability, as it acts as a ’search’ function if your site doesn’t have one, or visitors reach your 404 error page and don’t know where to go next. It’s also critical for SEO, as it’s basically a list of the key pages of your site, organized and in order, for the search engines to follow. Better still is to implement an XML sitemap. This is a step up from a basic XML sitemap that is only visible and readable by the search engines. They are highly customizable, can be dynamically generated and list every page available that search engines may not be able to find otherwise. Read more about dynamic XML sitemaps here. With an HTML and XML sitemap in place, your site is a veritable beacon to the search engines, with deeper indexing nearly guaranteed.
Your site should be working hard for you and the points listed above can really help your site move up in rankings and search engine presence. It’s only a start, but what a great start to make.
Let us make your site work for you!