You would expect that a reliable structure is built on a strong foundation, that goes for houses, hospitals and office buildings as much as it does for websites. HTML programming standards have evolved over the years, and search engines have also evolved to sense whether a site is compliant with these standards. The art of sound web development is in knowing how to integrate solid, reliable code with the content that is noticeable by search engines and useful to people that use them.
Steer Clear of Tables
Way back when (in internet time, this is referring to the late 90’s), makers of graphics software devised products that enabled designers to deploy visually rich websites. But it came with a trade-off, many times the sites were heavily dependent on graphics for the text elements displayed on the site, like menu items and page headings, making the websites harder to edit and harder for search engines to index. They were also built with heavy reliance on html tables, which can be thought of as a kind of a spreadsheet matrix. These tables still present an obstacle to search engines, mostly due to the many ways that tables can be manipulated, making the order of the content harder to correctly decipher.
Don’t Forget the Title Tag!
A well structured website takes advantage of the most effective HTML elements by combining code with keywords. And one of the most important of these “tags” is the title tag (read more)
When you are looking at a website, pay attention to the text that appears at the very top of the browser window – this is above the page content itself, and usually above the window containing the website address or URL. That text is the content of the title tag, and search engines display it on results pages. A descriptive page title tells both the search engines and the searchers what a particular page is about. For example, consider these page titles of a fictitious company: “Jones Law Firm” says nothing about the business, but “Employment Law Experts in Southern California – Jones Law Firm” speaks to the nature and location of the same firm. Using descriptive page titles is one of the most effective SEO techniques in use.
Where Coding Meets Visuals
Pictures and graphics are useful in making a website interesting and engaging for viewers, but without alternate text in the code, images are basically invisible to search engines. Alternate text coded into images can be used to tell the search engines who or what is in a photograph, for example, “Attorney Henry Jones receives the Los Angeles County Bar Association Distinguished Service Award.” Without this text, the search engines have no way to differentiate a photo of a person receiving an award from a photo of a beach sunset.
Employing a call to action is an effective method to get a viewer to visit a particular page, but using the simple phrase “click here” represents a lost opportunity to call attention to search engines. Giving the link text a stronger context makes it more user-friendly and increases its SEO potential – “View our list of recent employment law victories”.
When faced with a large block of text, there’s the danger that a viewer’s eyes may glaze over and they will become restless, disinterested, and leave your site for greener pastures. Headings and text formatting can counter the effects of long, intimidating text passages. HTML code for headings are controlled by a website’s style sheet (technical term: CSS), and are varied on a scale from 1 as the most, to 6 as the least in prominence, very useful in showing a hierarchy of information and breaking up long passages. In a similar fashion, using bold or italic text can accomplish important visibility and viewer retention goals: the search engines are made aware of text that the author deems important, and the rendering of the page allows a person to scan to quickly get a sense of the page content.
There’s a lot more to it than what has been outlined here, but these elements should be examined if you are revamping an existing website, or building a new one using a the strongest possible foundation.