Live from #SMX East: Search Engine Friendly Web Design

By Chad Rhodes | Sep 13, 2011
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After a short break for coffee and some delicious chocolate snacks, it is time for the final session of the day at SMX East 2011. In this presentation Shari Thurow, Found and SEO Director at Omni Marketing Interactive, discusses search engine friendly web design (#SMX #14A). Matt Van Wagner, President of Find Me Faster is moderating.

Shari Thurow – Founder and SEO Director of Omni Marketing Interactive

Search engine friendly design is not the same as search engine optimization. It is not always user friendly design either. Search engine friendly design is actually a merger of search engine and user friendly design. However, users are always the priority. They are the ones using your site and possibly generating revenue. “…a sure-friendly website design that can be easily found on the crawler-based search engines, human-based search engines, and industry-based search engines.”

The 5 rules listed below for creating a search engine friendly web page are not exclusive. You must follow all of them in order to be successful.

  1. It should be easy to read
  • Is content legible?
  1. Navigation should be easy
  • Answer these questions as if you were a user:
    • Where am I?
    • Where can I go?
    • How can I get there?
  • Make navigation clickable, scan-able, and distinguishable
  • Poor navigation is one of the most common reasons for a user leaving a website
  1. The site should be easy to find
  • Before arriving to the site consider:
    • Search engines
    • Niche directories
    • Local listings
    • News and blog sites
  • After arriving to the site consider:
    • The user should be directed straight to the relevant page
    • The 3-click rule is a myth, and users will continue to click as long as the content is relevant
    • Put important text at the top of the page. When people arrive at a page and don’t see what they are looking for, they often assume the information is not there
    • Once they leave, there is only a 12% chance a user will return
  1. Consist layout, design, and labeling are necessary
  • This will help communicate trust and reliability
  1. Quick to download
  • Actual download time
    • This is the real time it takes for a server to transfer data, not what the user experiences
    • Perceived download time
      • This is the actual user experienced time, and takes into account that if a user cannot find data they perceive the download time to  be longer

Usability is about task completion. Just because it is not search engine friendly does not mean that it isn’t the best link component for task completion. However, it is often a good idea to have two forms of navigation on your site to accommodate different users who have different preferences.

All sites must contain informational pages. They contain information your target audience is interested in, are spider-friendly, often have a simple layout, and visually match the rest of your site. They do not contain a lot of sales information.

Doorway pages are not the same as informational pages. Doorways are built with the intention to rank, rather than provide information. They are also often text-only pages, have poor quality links, and searchers and search engines do not see the same page.

Page interlinking is very important. Both horizontal and vertical linking is necessary. Linking to related pages is key for interlinking to be effective.

To conclude, Ms. Thurow reviewed the importance of usability. No matter what, the user experience comes first when it comes to search engine friendly web design. If a web page is not search engine friendly but has a very high task completion rate, it is more search engine friendly than one that is search engine optimized, but difficult to use. Although it is a fine balance between the two.

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