Search Engine Optimization FAQ
Website Design Tips

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Website Design Tips: What are the top five concerns when designing a search engine friendly site? top

  1. Broken links
  2. Proper formatting
  3. Relevant titles for every page on your site
  4. Browser compatibility
  5. Descriptive phrasing to describe images

Will HTML errors affect profiling within the search engines? top
Any errors in your HTML source code can cause severe problems, and destroy your efforts to increase search engine visibility. For instance, your site may appear broken to certain spiders, and even Internet users using different browsers. If this occurs, you will lose part of your targeted audience..

Can I use "Under Construction" pages? top
No. Your website has the potential to be a 24/7 store, but all parts of the store must be up and running at all times. The patience threshold of the average Internet user is relatively small. The amount of information available on the Internet makes it an "information swamp." The average search engine user has developed survival techniques to quickly and mercilessly weed out web pages that have no content or solution to their problem.

When you include a link to a construction page, you create a dead end with the possibility of users not returning to your "broken" site. Disable links to unfinished pages, and use a test page, only reachable by entering the exact URL into the search bar. Once you're satisfied with your work, you can rename and link this page to the rest of your site. This way you are always up and running.

I want to have Flash on my site. What can I do to ensure I'm not isolating any of my potential customers? top
Make sure you have a link on your main page allowing users to skip the flash presentation, or implement a link to a non-flash version of your site. The power of multimedia is immense and the lure of creating beautiful pages is strong; but many Internet users still have dial-up access with limited bandwidth. The waiting period to enter your site should only be a few seconds, and definitely no longer than 10 seconds for a 56kbps connection.

Can a broken link affect my visibility? top
A broken link is a hypertext reference to a document that does not exist. Broken links interrupt, or in some cases inhibit, indexing by search engine spiders. All broken links should be corrected before submitting your site for indexing to any search engine. If a link goes nowhere, the spider will reach a dead end and return home. This means the spider will not be able to check out the rest of your site, and quite possibly your site will not be accepted into the search engines' databases.

Is formatting HTML source code important? top
Yes. Unfortunately, many common mistakes within HTML go unnoticed because most browsers have very robust HTML interpreters. A robust HTML interpreter is good when you're trying to get information from another person's site, but you will want to test your pages with different browsers and view the source code to make sure things are working properly. Another option is to use an HTML validator to verify if your pages meet W3C standards.

How can I make sure my source code is properly formatted when I use a WYSIWYG editor?top
You can use the "View Source" menu option integrated into most of the popular browsers. This is the fastest way to see what your WYSIWYG editor is placing into your pages. For Internet Explorer, select "View" from the main menu bar, and then "Source." For Netscape, select "View" from the main menu bar, and then "Page Source."

For Example:
All tags within the BODY need to be in proper order, with no line breaks (i.e. the complete tags must be on the same line).

If your editor is mangling your source code by breaking your HTML tags up with new line characters, you may have to do some research into how to set your editor so it will not break your code and possibly cause compatibility issues, or broken links within your page. If that doesn't work, try upgrading the version of your software, or try a different program.

What can a relevant title do for my site? top
The title of a site is a very important factor to the search engines. You can use this to your advantage by selecting a title containing the relevant keywords and phrases you want to place emphasis on. Be careful not to make your title too large. Up to fifty characters is a good limit. Also make sure you have relevant keywords inside your title. Your site may not be indexed properly if you do not.

What is "alt-text," and can I use it to help the search engines place my site properly? top
"Alt-text" is an attribute used to describe an image. While viewing a web page through a graphical web browser, the content of the alt-text is displayed as a tool tip when the mouse pointer is placed over the image. Originally, alt-text was implemented for people with slow Internet connections or text-only browsers. Currently, alt-text is used to help the visually impaired navigate graphical content, and help search engines "see" the images. Using short, relevant alt-text descriptions will greatly enhance your site's visibility within the search engines.

Do frames make it difficult for search engines to spider my site? top
They can. Have you ever noticed that some search results contain the description, "Your browser does not support FRAMES"? Most search engines cannot handle framed sites at all. Please read the FRAMES workaround ideas in the next question.

How can I make my framed site search engine friendly? top
Sometimes a search spider visits a framed site and only sees the main frame page (which is usually void of content), and cannot follow links to the other pages. Most of the spiders do not recognize the frame source tag as a link. There are a couple of ways around this problem:

  • Place the page's most important information between the <NOFRAMES> tag set.
  • Be sure to have links within your <NOFRAMES> tag set to link to the other pages on your site.
  • Include non-framed pages on your site. These should have the most information and the keywords you want search engines to index you by. Be sure to maintain content relevancy and do not jumble pointless key words on one page.

For Example:
<NOFRAMES> Place the content you would like to have the search engines index and the links you would like them to follow between the tags, as seen here. </NOFRAMES>

*Please Note:With the Metamend automated solution, the main frame page and each of the source frame sets are optimized. This gives the search engine spiders all the meta information they need to properly index the site.

From a search engine perspective, are image maps a good idea? top
Not really. Image maps work by passing the (x,y) screen coordinates of the mouse pointer when the mouse button is pressed. Then a scripting language figures out which button you "pressed" and changes the browser window accordingly. The majority of search engines will not be able to follow navigation links set up this way because the spiders do not generate a "click" event to allow the execution of the script that opens the nest page. So, it's best if you use hard links within your navigation menu, and give the search engines the path of least resistance as they index your site.

Can I use redirects? top
It's not a good idea to use redirects because redirects can deceive the spiders by pointing them to a page specifically for them.

For Example:
  1. A site may have a page set up for the spider to index, telling the search engines the site is about music and mp3s.
  2. An Internet user runs a search using the search engine, and finds the site under the search summary "mp3 music."
  3. That user follows the link to the site and is shown a page telling him/her how to get high rankings within the search engine.
  4. The user recognizes the search engine does not provide very reliable results and begins looking for an engine that does.

This has happened, and is the prime example of how the search engines came to ignore redirects. Usually, if a spider detects a redirect it will most likely not waste its host's processing power going through the rest of your site. Thus, the effort to drive relevant traffic to your site is nullified.

How does load time affect my site's traffic? top
The longer people have to sit and wait for a site to come up, the less likely they're going to stay. Most Internet users will assume the site is broken or not worth seeing if they have to wait longer than 10 seconds for each page to load.

What factors affect my site's load time? top
The main factors that cause a page to load slowly are:
  • Slow Client / Server hardware
  • Heavy network traffic
  • Large image files
  • Lots of animations
  • Complicated pre-loading scripts
  • Textual content more than one screen large
  • Poorly designed banner ads
  • Content directly linked to other slow loading sites
  • Server processing overhead
  • HTML errors and broken links

What can I do to make my images load faster? top

Pre-load your image files so the client does not have to reload them every time he/she makes a page request. There is a drawback hereif you pre-load too many files you will eat up your visitor's system memory, thus, slowing down the load time. Another good tip is to use a static background image that doesn't move when the user scrolls down the page. Try using smaller images (size wise in KB) and fewer animations. Ultimately, your solution will depend on your target audience, but a safe, good design philosophy is to keep your pages simple.

Can I use "mouse-overs" within my navigation bar? top
The use of mouse-overs can add to a site's style if designed correctly. But a poorly designed mouse-over can cause frustration and increase resistance for visitors trying to get through to your site. It's advised not to make visitors decode cryptic images in your navigation bar. Keep it simple and your viewers can easily find what they're looking for.

How do I ensure my site is viewable by the largest possible audience? top
Make sure your pages are displayed properly on different browsers. Try looking at your work with Netscape and then switch to Internet Explorer. If you see dramatic differences you can modify your code to ensure the site's main content is viewable by everyone. If you're really adventurous, try earlier versions of each browser. There are many broken sites out there that aren't really broken; but the pages were made with only one type of browser in mind.

Where can I find more information about scripts and other HTML techniques? top
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