April 21, 2009
When we speak about website architecture, we are talking about the design & layout of the web pages. There are some things that Google has a hard time with and so avoiding them is just plain smart both from a visitor point of view (vpov), and a search engine point of view (sepov).
You want a web design that looks great and appeals to the human eye, so visitors stay a while and come back often. I understand this is necessary. The problem is that often what is appealing to the human eye is not so appealing to Google’s algorithm. This can create problems getting your web pages to rank well in the search engines.
Google looks at text when it visits your web pages. It doesn’t “see” images and it doesn’t understand moving pictures too well. It sees text content on the page and in the code of the page – not much else. Websites that make heavy use of such things as “Flash” and “Java scripts” often have trouble getting decent ranking from Google.
Now Google is starting to get a “read” on java more than ever, and in some cases using it is ok. Placing it properly in the page code is important and your web designer needs to understand how to do it. For java scripts you need to place the script itself into a file, which resides in the root directory of the server. Then a link is simply placed in the code of the page where the script needs to be seen, so the script is called up through the link from the file in the root directory of the site.
Flash should only be used on a small portion of the web page, not the entire page! Flash files should contain keywords that Google is able to read. You see a lot of intro pages that are nothing more than moving images, and they take up the entire page – stay away from these designs if you can.
Static images should be kept small so they are not driving people away because the page takes too long to load. If you have to use a large image file, create a separate page that displays the larger version of the picture and use a small image link on the original web page.
Another problem that, fortunately you don’t see so often anymore, is something called “frames”. You know you are looking at a “framed” web page when it appears there is a smaller, scrollable window embedded in the larger page of your browser window. It is actually, a separate web page.
The problem with frames is that Google has to divide its Page Rank evaluation between 2 pages instead of one. If the larger page is being optimized for a specific set of keywords, and the framed page is not, this creates what we call Page Rank Dilution. If Google gave a value rank of 4 to the larger page, and only 2 to the smaller framed page, the overall ranking of the page may only be 3.
For page text, use a color for the text that is not close to the background color of the page. Black text on white background is best. Don’t use a print font smaller than 10 or 11. Both of these issues can cause Google to think you might be ‘spamming’ its search engine.
Make sure your page links are text links, not image links. Remember, Google reads text very well and it’s trying to offer pages that most accurately relate to a search term. It does that by checking the page text content against the query searched on. If the relationship between the two is very accurate, it will help your pages score well.
Links should be found in your site menu (usually placed at the top, or in the left or right column of the page. It’s a good idea to also include the menu links horizontally across the bottom of each page. Links should also be added in the body text of your pages wherever there is an occurrence of a keyword or key phrase. Use these links to link to other pages of your site that contain more information relevant to those keyword links.
Web design can sometimes cause problems when optimizing your website for Google. Strike a good balance between visual appeal and search engine appeal for best results!
Check with your web design person and make sure that care has been taken to ensure none of the above are issues with your website. If they are, edit the site so they will not be a problem in the future.
Brad Knell is a professional search engine optimization consultant who has helped many business website owners improve their search engine rankings using a wide range of ‘white hat’ methods.