Category Archives: SEO

Planning Your Site for Users and Search Engines

Posted by on April 5, 2007

Choose a subject for your site

This might seem obvious to some but an effective web site is focused on one subject. If it’s your business web site, then it’s about your business, your products, your services, and what you can do for your customers. That’s the theme of your site and you should stick to it.

A focused site is easier to develop and maintain. It offers a clear signal to the user about what you are trying to do and offers a similar signal to search engines. Search engines consider a tightly focused site on one topic to be more valuable than a random smattering of topics, all other things being equal.

Focus on one topic per site

Sites that have mixed signals as to their purpose lack focus, efficiency, and clarity. Everything you do should be focused on one topic area. If you are running a pet store, your web site should be all about pet information, products and services. Talking about real estate, online gambling, and your favourite music might best be served on a separate web site, both from a user’s point of view as well as search engine ranking.

If a search engine sees that each and every page on a web site is about pets in one form or another, then the site is focused on pets and, therefore, might have some authority (combined with other factors) on the topic. If different pages follow wildly varied topics, then the site isn’t all about one thing and, therefore, is not an authority on any specific topic.

Which brings up a good point: if you keep your users in mind and design the site to give them the best overall experience you can, you will already be well ahead of others in making your site search engine friendly, as they have similar needs and goals.

One subject per page

Just like choosing an overall theme for your site to keep it focused on one purpose, any given page within the site should also be focused on one specific subject where everything is in sync.

When people type in keywords to search for topics, you need to carefully place similar words and phrases in your site.

Let us say that you have a web site about selling pet products. You might have several web pages, each with a specific topic. Let us try to imagine what the titles of some sections and pages might look like:

  • About Us
  • Canned Cat Food
  • Canned Dog Food
  • Cat Food
  • Cat Toys
  • Contact Us
  • Dog Food
  • Dog Toys
  • Dry Cat Food
  • Dry Dog Food
  • History
  • Home
  • Location
  • Pet Food
  • Pet Toys
  • etc.

Each separate web page should be about one specific thing and have the title, headings, and keywords match to give a strong impression to the user and search engines exactly what the purpose of each page is.

Storyboard your site

You need to brainstorm exactly what pages your site is going to have and how you want to organize them. You can organize them with fancy software tools, common office suites, or even on a paper napkin over coffee.

Some people visually sketch out the logic like an organization flow chart. That is sometimes called Storyboarding or flow charting the site.

Other people might list pages in groups related by topic. Do whatever works best for you but it is an important stage as it helps your visitors focus and find what they need quickly and easily.
This will also help you identify any orphan pages that do not fit the overall theme, as well as pages that might need to be merged or broken apart for better usability.

When you are organizing your pages, avoid forcing your users to click 20 levels deep to get to a page. Some search engines do shallow crawls (only a few levels deep) when your site is young and only do deep crawls after the site is more mature. Try to keep all content three or four clicks from your home page. This is best for users and certainly can help with spiders.
In the end, this step is a prerequisite for creating your web site navigation.

Creating a text site map of your site benefits both users and spiders. This is a page that lists all the major (and, if the site isn’t too large, minor) pages in one spot. It should show the organization of your site (information architecture) so that your users can easily focus on what they want by scanning the page with their eyes. This helps users to quickly visualize the content of your site without having to use a search form to find pages within your site.

Text site maps and search forms

Spiders cannot use forms to search your site, so your text site map can give it easy access to all areas for indexing. Sites that use content that is dynamically generated from a database (Content Management Systems, for example), may not be fully accessible to the search engines, as the spiders cannot themselves enter a term in a search box and hit the ‘Search’ button to search your site. Much of your content would be ‘dark’ (hidden or unteachable).

By having a site map and creating static text links deeper into the content, you can get much more of your site indexed to attract traffic. Site maps on small to medium sites help spiders index more thoroughly by pointing to all major areas of the site. Medium to larger sites might try using Google Site maps to ensure that the spiders crawl as much of your site as possible.
Make your site maps for humans first but do not forget about the search spiders.

Content is King, Usability is Queen, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a Joker.

Posted by on February 1, 2006

I recently was having a discussion with a ‘marketing specialist’ who was complaining that Google had dropped his site from the search rankings. He used to be in the top 10 of the Google search engine results page (SERP) but now he is nowhere to be seen. Going on and on about how much money he was losing in sales per month, and how Google was going to personally destroy his company.

Yes, he admitted, he was getting traffic from other sources (other search engines, some pay per click traffic), but it was Google that was on his mind.

I asked if they were using any SEO techniques that would be considered cheating. He looked at me as if I was new to the planet. “Of course, how else do you get to the top of the SERPs?” I just smiled and asked if I could see his site.

The Web site was very common for his industry (I’ve done sites in that industry, too, so I recognized the format right away). It was basically a shopping cart, lots of marketing graphics, and TONS of tricks to get Google to notice it.

No content. No articles. No forum, blog, or community building features. Not even a decent FAQ. Just marketing ‘sell’, ‘Sell‘, ‘SELL‘ messages with a lot of ‘Buy now!‘ graphics. I am sure you know what I mean.

No wonder the floor fell from underneath him when Google did an update to its search algorithms. There was nothing left to use once the tricks were ignored.

Tip: Create a Web site that users will love and want to use, and Google will follow.

I am not saying “Build it and they will come”. Not by a long shot. There are billions of Web pages, and not enough people are going to fall into your site (in your target audience, and a qualified buyer, in the correct mindset) out of nowhere to keep you in business.

However, it is a good starting point.

If you take a look at the top 10 results of an average Google search, one thing is usually common to them all: content. They have something you want. Information, views, facts, gossip, whatever, but they have content, and it’s probably well written and organized.

Too many companies are trying to reverse engineer Google. What are they looking for? How can I trick their software spiders into giving me preference?

They should turn around and think of it from Google’s point of view. Google is on top of the search world. Why? They spend time trying to find out what their search customers want and then figure out how to give it to them.

It lookd gud 2 me

Posted by on January 24, 2006

Matt Cutts, master Google guy, brings up a good point. Although he is talking about general spell checking of your Web page content, it really goes beyond that.

The example that he shows has two mistakes (although he only noticed one initially). The word guarantee has a typo, and also don’t is missing the apostrophe before the t.

The point is simple: content counts. The example given is trying to sell you something. You can do all the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you like, and bring in hundreds of thousands of eyeballs to your site, but if your content is filled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, you will not be able to convert them to sales (or whatever your goal of the site is).