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SEO's Relationship With Website Architecture

Daria Goetsch
Expert Author
Published: 2004-04-07

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Search engine optimization for today's search engine robots requires that sites be well-designed and easy-to-navigate. To a great degree, organic search engine optimization is simply an extension of best practices in web page design. SEO's relationship with web design is a natural one. By making sites simple and easily accessible, you are providing the easiest path for the search engine robots to index your site, at the same time that you are creating the optimum experience for your human visitors.

This approach ties well into the notion of long-term search engine marketing success. Rather than trying to "psych out" the ever-changing search engine algorithms, build pages that have good text and good links. No matter what the search engines are looking for this month or next, they will always reward good content and simple navigation.

Search Engine Robots

Search engine robots are automated programs that go out on the World Wide Web and visit web pages. They read the text on a page and click through links in order to travel from page to page. What this really means is that they "read" or collect information from the source code of each page. Depending on the search engine, the robots typically pick up the title and meta description. The robots then go on to the body text of the page in the source code. They also pay attention to certain tags such as headings and alt text. Search engine robots have capabilities like first-generation browsers at best: no scripting, no frames, no Flash. When designing, think simple.

Search Engine Friendly Design

Creating search engine friendly design is relatively easy. Cut out all the bells and whistles and stick to simple architecture. Search engine robots "understand" text on the page and hyperlinks, especially text links. The relationship of SEO and web design makes sense when you start with good design techniques for your visitor. The easier the navigation and the more text on the page, the better it is not only for the visitor but also for the search engine robots.

Obstacles For Indexing Web Pages

Search engine robots cannot "choose" from drop down lists, click a submit button, or follow JavaScript links like a human visitor. In addition, the extra code necessary to script your pages or create those lists can trip-up the search engine robots while they index your web page. The long JavaScript in your source code means the search engine robots must go through all this code to finally reach the text that will appear on your page. Offload your JavaScript and CSS code for quicker access to your source code by the search engine robots, and faster loading time for your online visitors. Some search engine robots have difficulty with dynamically-generated pages, especially those with URLs that contain long querystrings. Some search engines, such as Google, index a portion of dynamically generated pages, but not all search engines do. Frames cause problems with indexing and are generally best left out of design for optimum indexing. Web pages built entirely in Flash can present another set of problems for indexing.

Depth Of Directories

Search engine robots may have difficulty reaching deeper pages in a website. Aim to keep your most important pages no more than one or two "clicks" away from your home page. Keep your pages closer to the root instead of in deeply-nested subdirectories. In this way you will be assured the optimum indexing of your web pages. Just as your website visitor may become lost and frustrated in too many clicks away from your homepage, the robots may also give up after multiple clicks away from the root of your site.

Solutions And Helpful Techniques

If there are so many problems with indexing, how will you ever make it work?

The use of static pages is the easiest way to ensure you will be indexed by the search engine robots. If you must use dynamically-generated pages, there are techniques you can use to improve the chances of their being indexed. Use your web server's rewrite capabilities to create simple URLs from complex ones. Use fixed landing pages including real content, which in turn will list the links to your dynamic pages. If you must use querystrings in your page addresses, make them as short as possible, and avoid the use of "session id" values.

When using Flash to dress up your pages, use a portion of Flash for an important message, but avoid building entire pages using that technology. Make sure that the search engine robots can look at all of the important text content on your pages. You want your message to get across to your human visitor as well. Give them enough information about your product to interest them in going the next step and purchasing your product.

If you must use frames, be sure to optimize the "no frames" section of your pages. Robots can't index framed pages, so they rely on the no frames text to understand what your site is about. Include JavaScript code to reload the pages as needed in the search engine results page.

Got imagemaps and mouseover links? Make sure your pages include text links that duplicate those images, and always include a link back to your homepage.

Use a sitemap to present all your web pages to the search engine robots, especially your deeper pages. Make sure you have hyperlink text links on your page, and a sentence or two describing each page listed, using a few of your keyword phrases in the text.

Remember that the search engine robots "read" the text on your web page. The more that your content is on-topic and includes a reasonable amount of keyword-rich text, the more the search engine robot will "understand" what the page is about. This information is then taken back to the search engine database to eventually become part of the data you see in the search engine results.

Last of all, it is very important to test your pages for validation. Errors from programming code and malformed html can keep the search engine robots from indexing your web pages. Keep your coding clean.

Check List For Success

  • Include plenty of good content in text on your web pages


  • Incorporate easy to follow text navigation


  • Serve up dynamically generated pages as simply as possible


  • Offload JavaScript and other non-text code (style sheets, etc.) to external files


  • Add a sitemap for optimum indexing of pages


  • Validate your pages using the World Wide Web Consortium's validation tool, or other html validator


  • On Your Way To Indexed Pages

    The best way to assure that your pages will be indexed is to keep them simple. This type of architecture not only helps the search engine robots, but makes it easier for your website visitors to move throughout your site. Don't forget to provide plenty of good content on your pages. The search engine robots and your visitors will reward you with return visits.

    Resources

    To learn more about how to work around optimization problems with JavaScript, dynamically-generated pages, Frames and Flash, read the following articles:

    Optimizing Pages with JavaScript and Style Sheets for Search Engines

    http://www.searchinnovation.com/optimizing-pages-with-javascript.asp

    Optimizing Dynamic Pages (Part I)

    http://www.searchinnovation.com/optimize-dynamic-pages-1.asp

    Optimizing Dynamic Pages (Part II)

    http://www.searchinnovation.com/optimize-dynamic-pages-2.asp

    Optimizing Frames for Search Engines

    http://www.searchinnovation.com/optimizing-frames-for-search-engines.asp

    Html validation tool

    http://validator.w3.org/

    Stylesheet validation tool

    http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/

    Copyright © 2002-2004 Search Innovation Marketing.

    http://www.searchinnovation.com All Rights Reserved.

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    About the Author:
    Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing, a Search Engine Optimization company serving small businesses. She has specialized in Search Engine Promotion since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly Media, Inc., a technical book publishing company.

    Copyright © 2002-2005 Search Innovation Marketing. http://www.searchinnovation.com All Rights Reserved.

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