Before I delve too deeply into the design principles that will help your site rank well, it is incredibly important to keep a few things in mind:
- Getting your site to rank prominently is not the end goal – or at least it shouldn’t be. The end goal is to get people to contact you and ultimately, purchase your products or services.
- Accomplishing the bullet point above will only happen by executing a variety of online marketing activities well.
- Search engines read the text of your site. To take a look at how a search engine might “read” your site you can use a tool like Lynx Viewer.
Okay, with those points duly noted, executing proper site design principles for the search engines is absolutely essential to getting quality ranking results for your site. In short, good design can be overly-simplified in this way: it’s the way you label the different parts of your site. Let’s take a look at how to do it:
We can get into some advanced design principles in later posts, but for now, we’ll go through the following areas:
- Title Tags
- Alt Tags
- Meta (index, keywords
Title Tag – this is the text you see at the top of your browser when your site is up. Naming this properly is exceptionally important. It should be descriptive and focused. Even better would be if it used terms people will use to search for your site.
Headers – Headers can generally be described as the titles of articles and other prominent text found within your site. There are different levels or categories of headers beginning with H1 headers (generally the first title on a page), going down to H6 and so on (less prominent headers). All headers should be descriptive and specific to the pre-established goals of your site. Your H1 headers in particular should be very specific to the keywords your targeting.
Body – this is the text of your site. See my previous post about crafting quality copy for your site.
Alt Tags – Ever use pictures or other images on your site? Of course you do. Alt Tags provide the search engines an alternative method for displaying images in case those images don’t display properly. Instead of naming your image something like “stock photo #5″, give it a name that is specific to the keywords you’re focusing on.
Meta Tags – In general terms Meta Tags are simply user-defined terms or text assigned to different areas of your site. Once upon a time, Meta Tags were the way to get your site ranked by the search engines. Today, meta information is still important, but not nearly the way it once was. Most search engines look at the data, but the value of this data varies.
One last note that is probably fairly obvious at this point: be very careful about the use of flash or other “web development tools” on your home page. Often search engines won’t be able to “read” them properly thereby reducing or eliminating all your other optimization efforts. Splash pages are almost always a bit no-no.
Okay…now that we’ve talked in detail about how to create your site, it’s important to discuss the platform and hosting variables that can make or break your optimization and marketing efforts. That, next time. Stay tuned.