Site   Web

June 24, 2008

A Design for AI

While creating a website can either be a simple or complex procedure it is always advised that you start simple and add on from there.  Once you have a basic design it is a lot easier to add in advanced functionality.Create a standard design that runs through the website, this is usually done by using base templates or include files.  The search engines will read each file once per visit.  What this does mean is that once the bot has cached the file it won’t need to reload it each time it views a page.  More importantly this will also prevent these lines of code being replicated and taking up a good percentage of unique content on each page.  Although it is now suggested that the major search engines can now recognise boilerplate content and filter it out for the most part.CSS while being valuable to human visitors as it quickly styles a page with quicker load speeds this advantage can also be carried over to the bots.  It has long been speculated that the quicker a page loads the more likely the bot is to continue indexing your website.  It would almost seem that a time limit is posed on each visit, the more pages the bot can index in that time frame, the better for the site.

CSS has also widely taken over from the old frameset style of design used in what seems a totally different age.  Frames are a bad way to design as the frameset page only holds details for where the how the frames are applied – there is no useful content.  CSS enables you to place what you want exactly where you want it, no frames required.

Navigation is crucial for deep indexing.  The search engines love text, they can follow a hyperlink to any page, but the anchor text in these links gives a very quick title of the page it links to.  Use the anchor text wisely, if you are linking to a page about koalas, let the anchor text say “koala”.  By following this format you will help identify the page as being about koalas.

Many people like to use flash for navigation.  While this often looks pretty the search engines are unable to follow objects embedded in flash files.  More often than not it would seem you could create a very similar effect by using CSS.

Links, links, links…  This seems to be one of those things that everyone has on their mind constantly.  From a design point it is important to remember a few simple things:

  • Don’t put too many links on a single page as this weakens the links strength.
  • Make sure that the links are text based and are clearly labelled; this will let the search engine know about the page it is linking to.
  • Try to link to all important pages from your homepage as this will help the bot create a hierarchy.  If at all possible try to make each page accessible in just 2 clicks from the homepage.
  • Link to a static text sitemap from the homepage – This will help link each page just 2 clicks from the homepage.  Also remember that when the bot finds this page it also finds every page on your website.

There is a lot more to linking but this is keeping it simple.

Breadcrumbs (No, I’m still not talking about the type that Hansel and Gretel used – but close enough) are useful once again to create a link to a page with related text as an anchor.  In the case of our koala the pages that most likely lead them to where they are would be something like:  animals – marsupials – koala.  While we find ourselves on the koala page there is no need to link back to this page but you can link “animals” to the animal’s page and “marsupials” to the marsupial’s page.  Again you get to make best use of anchor text.

Keep your pages uncluttered.  This not only refers to the content but code of a page.  By keeping the number of lines of code to a minimum you will be able to increase the download speed of the page.  By doing this you will also prevent your content being diluted with what the bot may find to be little more than garble.

The content on your pages should be unique and specific.  Going back to our friend the koala, many will know that koala’s eat eucalyptus.  But it would be more beneficial to make short reference to this and then create a separate page for each of these related topics.  While it won’t do any harm to mention eucalyptus on the page try to keep the info on that page predominantly about the koala.  If the visitor is looking for koala’s then give them koala’s but by all means link to the eucalyptus page.  Again you can make use of anchor text to link to eucalyptus.

As you can see by keeping it simple you can present the website in a manner that bot would really eat up and one that should also be focused on an exceptional visitor experience.  The search engine engineers have tried their best to create a bot that will spot a website or page that is the most relevant for a particular search based on what would be best for a human visitor.  As you can see in many cases the benefits of doing this is beneficial for both parties.

Robert Cerff is a search engine analyst and marketing consultant in South Africa for Prop Data Internet Solutions. He has ten years experience in e-commerce, online marketing and web development.