Search engines view websites completely differently than humans do. The same appearance of a website can be achieved with a number of different coding methods. Some are more effective for search engine rankings than others. Simply by looking at a website in an internet browser it is impossible to tell how effectively it is coded.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ongoing process that must be a priority in order to reach the top of search engine results and to maintain those rankings. Proper design is the foundation for SEO efforts, but design alone cannot deliver the maximum results.
What Makes a Website Search Engine Friendly?
1. Valid Coding
HTML and CSS coding can be validated through the W3C. Valid coding will help to ensure that your pages will be accessible across a range of different internet browsers, screen sizes, devices, as well as for those with disabilities using screen readers. Valid coding will also help search engines to be able to accurately read the code and decipher the contents of your page.
2. Effective and Accurate Page Titles
Each page on your website should have a title. The title has a strong influence on search engine results, and it will often be displayed on the search results page. Titles should accurately describe the contents of the page and should include keywords whenever possible.
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HTML includes specific tags for headings. Many websites create the same visual effect by using bold text and a larger font size. Although the look can be accomplished either way, using headings helps to show the search engines that a certain word or phrase has added emphasis. Heading tags should especially be used if keywords are in the heading text.
4. General Content
Search engines love websites that provide original content. Websites with a lot of quality content are useful to visitors and for this reason, search engines favor websites with content.
Because search engine spiders crawl through your pages from link to link, dead links can stall the process and can prevent all of your pages from being indexed. Sites with dead links may also be penalized by search engines.
Links also provide search engines with information about the pages that are linked. The anchor text (the wording that is part of the link) is considered to be representative of the page that the link is pointing towards. For example, a link that says “Quality Website Design” is indicating that the page is about website design. Keywords should be used where appropriate in anchor text. Using a link like “click here” does nothing for your search engine rankings.
6. Meta Tags
Meta tags are invisible to the viewer but are intended to provide information to the search engines. Although meta tags have much less influence on search engine rankings than they did several years ago, every website should still use meta tags.
The description meta tag is used by some search engines on the search results page to describe the website. Some search engines ignore the description tag, but because some still use it, every page should have a description. When you are writing a description for your pages, remember that it will determine how many people will click through to your site from the search engine results page. Descriptions should draw attention and create interest.
7. Alt Tags
Every image can have an alt tag, which is the text that appears when the mouse hovers over the image. Alt tags are important for several reasons:
- Users with slow connections will see the text before the image loads
- Disabled users may rely on alt tags rather than being able to see the image, and
- For search engine rankings. Every image should have an alt tag, and they should include keywords when possible.
8. CSS-Based Design
CSS-based designs separate the content of the website from the design. Table-based designs combine the two. By separating the content and the design you can make it easier for search engines to find and index your content. CSS-based design involves less code and smaller file sizes, which helps the search engine spiders.
Another benefit of CSS is that it allows the designer to place more important content at the top of the code regardless of where that text appears on the screen. Text at the top of the code tends to carry more weight in searches and is also found faster by search engine spiders. Table-based design requires code to be in the same order of appearance on the screen.
By having a website designed with these points in mind, you will have a strong foundation for search engine optimization efforts. SEO is an ongoing process that includes link building and the continued development of quality content.