My top 10 tips for designing a Google/SEO friendly website

Google SearchSEO is not just about content, link building and social media, starting from the ground up you need to have a well structured website, with clean and simple code. The reason for this is because back in early 2010, Google introduced a new part to the ranking process with looks at the website speed and load time. Now I’m not talking about seconds, I’m talking milliseconds which make the difference.

Take a look at my top points below for building a Google friendly website.

Point 1: Use a clear and simple navigation with appropriate labels (names)

Now I’m sure you will have visited a website and struggled to find the information you are looking for, very simply because of how the navigation structure has been created, or due to poor labels (aka hyperlink names).

Using simple text for labels which clearly describes the page you are about to click to really helps; not just the user but the search engines too, especially when internal linking is important as well.

Try to avoid using JavaScript or flash for navigations, this can stop the search engines from finding specific pages on your site. Also make sure each webpage is accessible via at least one text link.

Use simple folder and file names that describe the page, for example, don’t call the about page “/find-out-more-about-abc-company”, simply “/about” or “/about-us” will do the job.

Also using breadcrumbs on page can help the user and the search engines, for example:

You are here: Home > About us > Meet the Team

Point 2: Use HTML, URL, ROR and XML Sitemaps

Using sitemaps is a great way to tell Google (and Yahoo/Bing) about all of the pages on your website. This will ensure that the search engine spiders will find all of your content and rank as many pages as possible which are relevant to specific terms and phrases.

One thing I recommend is to link to all the sitemaps from every page of your website, this is because if the search engine spiders struggle with a specific page, it can refer back to the sitemaps to find the rest of the content.

A great website to create all four sitemaps is http://www.xml-sitemaps.com. There free version will only do up to 500 pages, but the paid version (which I’d highly recommended) is unlimited.

Point 3: Ensure your content is quality and useful

Now when I say this I mean the following:

  • Unique
  • Specific to the website
  • Well written
  • Content that users will want to read
  • Content that users will want to link to

Now I know writing content takes time, but from an SEO point-of-view, will stand you in good stead for great rankings in the future.

Point 4: Keyword placement

Now following on from the last point, you need to make sure that your keywords are in prominent positions; here is a great list of places to include your keywords:

  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Meta keywords
  • H1, H2 and H3 tags
  • Alt text
  • Title attribute on links and images
  • General content
  • Internal links

Also positioning of the keywords is vital, placing your keywords above the fold and in prime positions also helps Google identify what the page is about.

Point 5: Avoid using a large amount of images per page

Using images on your website can make the difference between a user making an enquiry or placing an order – would you really buy something online without seeing a picture first?

But… images can slow the load speed of a website so using minimal and to the point images is crucial. I’d advise not to use more than 10 images per page and making sure your images are optimised. When I say optimised I mean reduce the file size so they load quicker, using Photoshop or Fireworks will do the job.

Using images for content and links can harm your positioning in Google as the search engine spiders can’t read the text on the image. If you have to use images make sure you use the alt or title attributes to describe the image, but don’t stuff these with realms of content, 5 words should do the job.

Point 6: Make sure all of the on-site links work

The free version of XML-sitemaps.com will identify any broken links, but the paid version will tell you where they are. Also tools like Xenu can discover any broken links or bad file paths.

Point 7: Use static pages over dynamic

Search engine have got better at reading URLs with parameters, for example: www.websiteexample.com/page.php?search=websitepage1001. But from my experience simple URLs like www.websiteexample.com/about are far better. Also it’s important to keep your full URLs to a maximum of 66 characters or the search engines may think you are keyword stuffing in the filenames.

Point 8: Avoid flash

Flash is a great way to create visually interesting websites to draw the user in, but… it isn’t SEO friendly. Unfortunately the search engines have yet to discover a full method to read text which is embedded onto an image. If you are looking to using moving images, fade effects etc on your website, use jQuery or HTML5/CSS3 to create the same effects.

Another point to consider is Apple products; they no longer supports Flash, so potentially you could loose a large audience share.

Point 9: Avoid on-page styling (CSS)

Going back to the website load speed point, it’s important to keep your website code streamlined. So by having elements that define certain styles like H1, H2 and paragraph tags should be moved to the CSS style sheet and not be placed on page.

Point 10: Speed up your cascading style sheets (CSS)

It’s very good practice to write CSS elements in the following format:

#div {
width: 500px;
height: 1000px;
background-color: #FFF;

But… every line break and space uses a small amount of file size, if you imagine a style sheet with 100 elements; obviously this will increase the file size. So the perfect solution is to write the elements from left to right, for example:

#div {width:500px; height: 1000px; background-color:#FFF;}

This can save a large amount of space when it comes to file sizes and decreases load times.

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