Search engine friendly websites

At 1st WebDesigns we sometimes get asked the question, what makes our websites search engine friendly? Below is a brief run down of how we do it.

Search engine friendly HTML markup

  1. Search engine friendly URLs. Rather than a URL such as
    http://yoursite.com/products.php?id=c26 we prefer http://yoursite.com/bathroom/accessories. The latter contains relevant keywords relating to the content of the page, and is also more intuitive and enticing for a regular visitor to click on.

    If we re-develop an existing site and change the URLs to make them search engine friendly, we’ll put in 301 redirects (otherwise known as “permanent” redirects) from the old page URLs to the new ones. This tells the search engines that the page locations have changed, and also ensures that there is no loss of traffic until the site is re-crawled.

  2. Canonical tags. These are used where your site might have multiple URLs that display the same content. A good example is a page where the user can sort products by price or stock level. Different sorting options may generate their own URL but the content on the page is pretty much the same (just in a different order). Canonical tags alert Google to the fact that there is one “true” URL for this content and helps to prevent duplicate content penalties.

  3. Page headings. Our sites feature hierarchical page headings, in the correct order. This tells a search engine what a particular page is about, and divides the document into logical sections and sub-sections.

  4. Title tags. An optimised TITLE tag gives the search engine an overview of what a particular page contains, and also serves as a brief summary in the search results. If we were to choose the single most important element on a page for SEO, this would be it.

  5. Alternative text for images. Since search engines cannot “see” images, we set an ALT attribute on all photos to provide an alternative description of what they represent. This is also useful for visitors who turn off images in their web browser if they’re on a slow connection or need to preserve bandwidth.

  6. Order of content. Where possible we try to ensure that main content appears before navigational menus and sidebars in the source markup. This is because these elements are repeated on every page, so it’s generally a good idea to give them less priority than your main content which varies across the whole site. This is done by coding the elements in a particular order, and then changing this order visually using a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS).

  7. No tables! We don’t use tables for layout, unless the content includes natural tabular data (i.e. a pricing matrix). In fact, our markup is lovingly hand-coded which ensures it’s semantically correct, condense and fast to load (see the next point).

  8. Speed. With Google’s announcement that page speed will be playing a factor in the ranking of a website, we run each project launch through the Google Page Speed checker. All of our recent projects have a score of 95+ out of 100.

    This reflects a number of core principles that we adhere to, such as writing efficient and compact code, optimising images throughout each webpage, fine-tuning the site’s hosting environment for maximum performance and following all best practise guidelines.

  9. Search engine friendly drop-downs. When we create drop-down menus we do so using pure HTML and CSS, rather than a combination of CSS and JavaScript. This means search engines (as well as regular users) can navigate them without having to rely on client-side scripting being enabled. Generally speaking, Google won’t crawl links if they are only accessible with JavaScript turned on.

  10. JavaScript fall-back. Following on from the last point, we always ensure that functionality which requires JavaScript has a fall-back option for users who do not have this feature enabled. This is also important for search engines because they will crawl your site in its most basic form – without JavaScript turned on.

Of course, all of the above doesn’t just make our web sites search engine friendly, but also makes them fast, reliable and user friendly, which is just as important.

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