Continuing our discussion of search engine friendly design considerations I offer you part 4 of a 6 part series on SEO friendly design:
Text design and page elements
When designing the text, information elements and links on your page consider the color, size and placement on the page. When I say this, I mean consider them visually and in the code. Many people consider this part of the process a “designer only” department but it’s not.
For example, your page titles should always be labeled with an H1 tag. The H1 tag not only presents the title of your page in a larger font but it also tells search engines that this text has a lot to do with the subject of the page. Most of the time it actually IS the subject of the page summed up in a couple words. Placing your target keywords within an H1 on the page will get you a long way to ranking well so make sure that your page titles are coded properly.
Consider laying out additional sections with headers as h2 and h3 tags to call importance to them as well.
You can further bold important keywords throughout your text where possible too. This is a good way to mix in similar but different combinations of key phrases and call attention to them.
On a pure usability note, this is also a preferred way to call out important points in your text because studies have shown that the majority of people who read on the internet scan information. By calling out important points it will add to their user experience and benefit.
Text links on the page should contain your keywords and colored with a contrasting color from the background of your page. Link text is very important to search engines so fill your links with important keywords instead of linking to information at the end of a sentence.
I should also mention here that search engines are paying attention to proper sentence structure and spelling more and more. Sites that have high quality, technically correct content will most definitely rank higher. At the most basic level this tells them that this is quality content. I don’t claim to be an English major but I definitely try to proof my writing for spelling and do my best to craft sentences that read clearly. I don’t always succeed but my point is that you should try because it matters.
Visually pleasing = a happy, dedicated reader = a “fan” that links
This is the area where most leave it to their designers but in all fairness there are parts of the design process that truly help with SEO and have nothing directly to do with what the search engines think of your content.
Making your site visually enjoyable and easy to read will immediately show that you care enough about your site to devote a decent amount of time and dollars to the presentation. This will help with your overall respect and trustability and users will return and more importantly they’ll link to you.
The part about your site being visually enjoyable is a given. I know from personal experience that I tend to go back to sites that I enjoy working within. It’s the same reason I like working on a stylish, clean desk. I might even go to a site that’s less useful just because I enjoy the entire experience, not just the information that I get from the site.
This all contributes indirectly to SEO. The more people that like your site, the more they’ll link to you.
The layout and placement of elements on your page is important.
Where you place elements on the page helps to draw the eye to where you want it to go. For example, you might have an RSS icon or bookmark on the page but it appears at the top of your page and not where someone is likely to see it when the time is right. You might have a signup for your newsletter (which is important for staying top-of-mind with your readers so they continue to come back and continue to link) and it’s not highly visible or eye catching.
Make sure that you decide what’s most important on your page.
Everyone likes recognition but your pretty mug on the page or authorship tagline is not nearly as important as the RSS subscription link or the link to bookmark or signup. So take some time and weigh all these elements in the design process. Make the right decision that will help people get the most of your site and ultimately bookmark, revisit your site many times and link, link, LINK to your content.