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April 2, 2009

SMX Sydney: Search Engine Friendly Web Design

Live blogging SEO session by Aidan Beanland from Yahoo7 at SMX Sydney 2009.

Design and SEO are NOT mutually exclusive, Aidan says. Nobody likes ugly pages, but will people find your pretty ones?  To ensure this, you should:

1) Specify SEO requirements before design plans. Use:

– unique page titles / URLs

– H1, H2 headings

– reasonable amount of body copy

– spiderable links

2) Treat Flash like images, wrap text around it or create a HTML only version*

3) Use image alt attributes and keywords in file paths*

4) Apply CSS image replacement to replicate text embedded in an image*

5) Use CSS layers to position text

* no cloaking or hidden text. That’s naughty.

Would you drive a car built purely for aesthetics?

Next Aidan showed search engine unfriendly design examples, including:

These sites have no text at all on the page, only Flash content. Therefore these sites won’t rank well in Google.

SEO vs Technonlogy

1) AJAX and other client-side processes CAN affect SEO, so:

– weigh cost vs benefit

– check default page load state on AJAX pages

– use as enhancement, not for core content/links

– view pages with a text-only browser

2) Use technology to:

– rewrite URLs

– link to relatd pages

– enable “progressive enhancement”

SEO vs Accessibility

An accessible site is good for:

– disabled users

– low bandwith users

– mobile browsing

– old hardware/software

– legal compliance

– search engines!

W3C Web Accessibility Tips:

– images and animations

– multimedia

– hypertext links

– page organization

– graphs and charts

– scripts applets and plugins

– if using frames, use the no-frames element

– make table content sensible

These are all SEO tips too – it’s no coincidence.

SEO vs Cost effectiveness

– almost always delivers highest ROI of any online marketing channel

– first 80% of SEO benefits come from 20% effort

– medium upfront investment, low ongoing cost

– you’re already: writing content and adding images, getting links, doding pages, so do it right the first time

– consider the cost of : NOT optimizing (handing users to your competitors)

– equivalent PPC traffic

– Optimizing your site AFTER it’s launched

– offline advertising

Become a web analytics expert to prove your value

Final advice“The most important single ingredient in the forumla of success is knowing how to get along with people” (Theodore Roosevelt).  In other words, communication is key.