The process of putting your business online involves more than just building a website. As with other areas of your marketing your website requires careful planning to ensure it will be a success. One area which is crucial to that success, but sadly often overlooked, is a search engine friendly, or search friendly – website.
What is a Search Friendly Website?
A search friendly website is a website that has been designed from the ground up in a manner that enables the search engines to find, crawl and index the website’s pages. You may think that sounds easy but you would be amazed at how many search engines, such as Google, are unable to list a website because of technical issues.
A search friendly website should also ideally rank highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business. Personally I would take search friendly a step further and say that a search friendly website is a website that is also user friendly. By that I mean a website that users (your customers and prospects) find easy to use and engage with.
What Are the Benefits of a Search Friendly Website?
A website that looks great but has no one visit it is not very useful. It’s kind of like a bricks and mortar store that is tucked away out of sight, and no doubt out of mind. The search engines are like busy shopping strips and ideally you want your business, or website, to be positioned up front and centre so you can attract lots of prospects and convert them into customers. A search friendly website can deliver this prime position to you. Some additional benefits of a search friendly website include:
- High visibility in the search engines;
- Increased targeted traffic to your website;
- A website that is search friendly is usually more user friendly – meaning your prospects will find it easier to use and therefore convert into customers;
- Saves you time and money by not having to find someone to optimise your website after it has been built;
- Increased customers and sales!!
What Stops a Website From Being Search Friendly?
As I mentioned above you would be amazed at the number of websites that don’t appear, let alone rank, in Google purely because of the way they are built. Here are some common issues that can harm your website and stop it from being search friendly:
In the earlier days of the internet frames were hailed as the next big web design weapon. These days frames are probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to having a search friendly website as most search engines cannot follow links via frames. Even if a search engine does index your pages it is usually just the content of the page so a user is taken to a page of your website’s content with no visible logo or navigation as they are part of a separate frame. Frames also cause problems for users when using the browsers back button, printing or bookmarking a page. There are some remedial fixes available but they really are an interim fix until you can get your website re-designed.
If your current website has been built using frames I would highly recommend you consider redesigning it.
Flash is not the total search engine friendly killer it once was but you do need to ensure that the web designer who implements a flash website for you either develops a HTML version of your website or creates a website that can incorporate Flash within your HTML search friendly website.
Again I would avoid a purely Flash built site if at all possible.
Dynamic URLs are generally seen in e-commerce websites and Content Management Systems (CMS) that have not been designed in a search engine friendly manner. Here is an example of a dynamic URL:
Re-written to be search engine friendly the URL would look like this:
Dynamic URLs can cause problems with the search engines who may find them too complex to index. Generally speaking they can be avoided by ensuring that the system you use allows search engine friendly URLs. If your website already has dynamic URLs your web designer should be able to work with you to correct the problem.
A splash page is usually the entry point of your website which contains an animated image/message and not much else. Apart from all the usability issues I’ve raised about them in the past they generally contain no content a search engine can index which makes them redundant to the search engines as well as your users.
Poorly Implemented Page Title and Meta Tags
Unique well crafted page title and meta tags on each page of your website help the search engines to understand what each page of your website is about and rank it accordingly. A website with the same page title and meta tags on each page makes it difficult for the search engines to understand the contents of the page which in turn will affect their ability to rank the page well.
What To Do If Your Existing Website Is Not Search Friendly
If your existing website has not been built in a search friendly manner I suggest you talk to a web design company who specialises is search friendly web design to see what can be done to rectify the problem. They may be able to make changes to your current site, or re-design it to ensure its search friendliness. A company that specialises in search engine optimisation (SEO) may also be able to help you.
Its also important to review your current site for it’s potential to convert visitors into customers. If the design is not up to scratch in this regard it may be better to re-design the website from scratch.
How Can I Ensure My New Website Is Built In a Search Friendly Manner?
The best way to ensure your new website is built in a search engine friendly manner is to find a web design firm who understands the importance of search engines to the success of your website and has knowledge of search engine optimisation and search friendly web design. Alternatively select web design and search engine optimisation firms who are happy to work together to ensure your website is search friendly.
The best way to find companies who have this expertise is by doing your homework, asking questions and looking at other sites they have built to see how search (and user) friendly they are. If they don’t seem knowledgeable and/or interested in search engine traffic I would suggest you run, not walk, away.
A search friendly website is vital if you want to receive targeted visitors to your site from the search engines, such as Google. Ideally having your website built in a search friendly manner from the ground up is the ideal way to go, however if your site has already been built talking to the right people can help you rectify the problems and reap the reward of targeted traffic to your website.