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FREE Guide to Website Design

Search Engine Friendly Websites [SEF]

Graph depicting search engine friendlyFor a Website to be considered "Search Engine Friendly" it must have top-quality, meaningful and well-stuctured content which is easily accessible to search engines.

What a search engine friendly Website isn't!

Before I begin explaining what a search engine friendly Website is, I want to first tell you what it is not. A search engine friendly Website is not a search engine optimised Website -- there are distinct differences. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a long-term undertaking which, although also dependant on "search engine friendly" Website construction, is ultimately based on specific statistical information and extensive research that focuses on user behaviour. An optimised Website is the result of much research into what provides the best search engine results and is designed to influence the way in which visitors navigate to accomplish specific tasks. Web page content, including page titles and descriptions, is carefully written to include key words and phrases that will help the site acquire more visitors via search engines. For more information on SEO, go to the next stage of this guide 'Search Engine Optimisation'.

What a search engine friendly Website is!

So what is a search engine friendly Website? A search engine friendly Website has unique, logical page titles and well-written descriptions which explain the page content simply and accurately. It has text which has been carefully written to be clear and understandable to the widest possible audience.  It ensures that all navigation paths are recognisable by a search engine to make certain that all important page content can be indexed.  A search engine friendly Website is the result of a design and development process which has taken into consideration technological issues which could reduce the number of people that can view it (see Accessibility and Usability).  A search engine friendly Website is the first big step towards making a Website more visible to search engines so that they rank higher in search engine result listings.

SEF Techniques used

Websites which are search engine friendly use tried and tested methods and techniques that enable them to be more accessible and consequently, more visible to the search engine programs [crawlers] which read and index [record] information about your site. The following list explains some of the main techniques used:

  • Informative page, heading and link naming - Each Web page of a site is given a file name that appropriately describes the page content. The file name makes up part of the URL of a Web page. The actual URL of a site is frequently scanned by search engines and if it contains a word that someone is searching for, it will achieve a higher page ranking. Using this method of page naming also has the effect of making the URL more memorable and the user has more of an idea of the content of the Web page. A user is more likely to click on a URL if they believe that clicking on it will take them to information they want.
  • Alternative (ALT) text - The “ALT” tag is the text you see sometimes when holding your mouse over a picture. ALT stands for alternative text.  It displays as a small box, containing the “picture description” line, and appears over the image if you ‘hover’ the mouse above it. This is also the text that displays if a picture, for one reason or another, is not visible.  Have you ever been on a Website where missing images display as a box with a cross in the top left corner.  The text you see beside the cross is the image’s ALT text.  When you are considering what text to use in the ALT tag of an image, imagine how you would describe this picture to someone who can not see it.  Search engines look for these ALT descriptions when scanning your site because they are unable to see the actual pictures themselves.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) - CSS-based designs separate the content of the Website from its design (structure). This method of separation makes it easier for search engine to find and read (index) its content -- CSS requires less code to build a Web page and creates pages with smaller file sizes. CSS also benefits the reader because it allows them to have a greater control over how the Web page content displays in their Web browser window.
  • Meta tags - Meta tags are invisible to the viewer, but are intended to provide specific information to search engines. Although Meta tags have much less influence on search engine results than they did several years ago, every Website should still include them in the site design. One essential type of Meta tag is the 'Keywords' Meta tag where the key words and phrases that are important to your web page are listed. The other is the 'Description' Meta tag which is used to describe the content of the page. Some search engines ignore the description tag, but because there are some search engines that still use them, every page should have key words and phrases specific to each page.

    During the development stage of your Website I will ask you for key words and phrases for each page of your site. If you require help on acquiring key words and phrases specific to your site, let me know during the design stage and I will help you. For best results, the key words and phrases that are placed in the Meta tags should also appear frequently in the content of your Website pages.
  • Valid, lean and accessible markup - Clean standards compliant HTML code is important to the success of any Website because it reduces page size, makes the Website search engine friendlier and increases its accessibility. Wherever possible, scripting code (for example, javascript) is stored separately to the main Web pages in external files.
  • Headings - Headings that are correctly named and formatted help the search engines understand the relative importance of different textual areas of the page.
Arrows pointing backwards Accessibility and Usability Search Engine Optimisation Arrows pointing forward