Website layout and content best practice

In view of a recent article regarding the situation of websites rankings on major Search Engines, particularly Google. I think it is time for me to digest most of it and get some sound bites out for reference.

This article will treat both causes and effects relating to SEO and good website content, there are no secret recipes, just plain common sense. Unfortunately, common sense tends to go out of the window when a few simple facts are apparents:

  1. The website is designed using WYSIWYG editors by an non coder
  2. The website is not HTML Compliant
  3. The website is full of typos and makes no sense
  4. The website is lacking good honest real information humanely readable

Let’s not kid ourselves, Search Engines, any search engines, haven’t got the clairvoyance of a human reader, yet the situation is quite comical in a way, as most people scan a web page in a hurry to find the next thing they’re hunting about and you work towards making a website “scan-able” but wait, you have to expect a Search Engine to understand what that web page is about and serve this page to a visitor looking for that specific information whichever it may be.

It is no surprise that people behind search engines are seeing that quality is important, so by using these criteria, a new era of website craftsmanship is [back] upon us; it is time for people that know how to design websites to harness their powers as devised by the creator of the world wide web: Tim Berners-Lee.

Put simply:

Write compliant and correctly spelled web  content which makes sense.

That’s it. Combine this with your niche market and you should be all good (well… not bad).

Know your HTML and the rest

Yes folks, that means you must at least know your HTML from your CSS and JavaScript and be able to write clean code, so that alienates how many % of the Industry? What about those “free website templates” resources and the like… I don’t reckon these will keep on going or will they? Come to think of it, they probably will, but not to worry!

If you knew how much I laugh sometimes when I look at some web pages source code you’d laugh with me. I recently came across an SEO company that had their own website entirely designed in Flash. I kid you not!

Knowing HTML coding [I do all my websites in native code] allows you to also know exactly what the optimal hyper text mark-up language for the page is. Obviously Search Engines like that (why wouldn’t they?).

Untie style from content, have a  separate CSS file and don’t clutter the page with on-page styling. Well you might let the  non-coders do their stuff and then clean afterwards for them, bless.

Know your grammar

Anyone can type text as long as they’ve got the right tools, well unless they’ve got a problem with reading and writing in the first place, the tools usually come with a spell checker, use them, and have someone else read after you. Sometimes staring at your own work hides things for all to see but you.

By having clean HTML surrounded by correctly written content is half the battle, at least you can rest happy that all the badly spelled and written websites can only behind yours in the Search results (Although the purists would tell you that it actually makes sense to exploit the mistakes made by others).

Know what and how to write

This probably is the most important aspect of a website content, years ago it was common practice to emphasise keywords with bold and use a lot of Header title tags including purposefully key-worded links within a tight number of words per page to maximise your ranking. Today I am not sure it is as relevant, Search Engines algorithms should be considering these as spam anyway. So I think that if content quality is more predominant than in the past let’s scrap the rule books and start to write web pages with the “scan” factor of the reader in mind whilst providing the “understanding” factor of the Search Engines algorithms, that alone is a tall order you might say, however people in the know simply know this, period.

To summarise: write clear content that makes sense with heading titles in the right order and meaningful sentences within properly defined tags containing all the required (and non-required) attributes allowed.

The importance of linking

Back links are (still) hugely important. However if these links are placed on irrelevant pages it makes no difference, you might just as well have none. So link build wisely my Friend. Also I think the emphasis on websites that actually link to other reference content (especially when the originating site may look like a reference in itself, right?) will be more pronounced. So don’t be afraid to link to relevant content (or irrelevant if it is required, you can still do that!). Don’t simply accept any links that are to be pasted on your “Links” page any more, in fact I would scrap the links page all together.

Be unique

And that does not just mean write your own stuff but design your own unique site as well (or have someone like me do it), be it HTML 4 transitional or XHTML 1.0 Strict does not matter, using DIVs or TABLEs does not matter. On a side note I would say that web 2 stuff should be avoided for important bits like navigation and so on (unless it degrades gracefully), as long as your code is in good shape but not replicated on 1000′s of other websites (funny that we’re getting back to free websites templates again) you should be all good.

Check and re-check, don’t forget to check again..!

This is the most important bit, HTML, Copy Writing, Spelling, Titles, Keywords, Descriptions, Alt tags, they all matter.

Other aspects worth noting

Apparently the Geo-location of your site is somewhat quite important too, so if your market is for Fish and Chips Take Away for the British market don’t host in the US for example, host in the UK. If you can host in various countries do it you can get hosting for next to nothing, but remember to target the market, mirroring your own site will not do.

Host your site on a fast server. Most people (I am one of them) aren’t going to wait around more than 4 or 5 seconds looking at a white page of a sluggish site, Personally I am gone in less than that, again, Search Engines would probably consider that to be showing signs of bad design and/or lousy hosting service and by doing so reducing the quality of your own business in the process.

If you are providing a service, for God’s sake, PROVIDE all of it, that means being there for your customers, don’t necessarily provide a phone number if you don’t want to be called at 2am in your home business phone line, but reply to your customer in a timely manner, and keep them updated at all times, you’ll be amazed how much good that does to your reputation, and that gives you another edge against your competition, you need it, remember?

Social

Be active on social websites with news and updates regarding your business, you may have the same news replicated on your own site, but keep the site for a formal type of news and loosen up a bit on Facebook or Twitter, it’s almost a full time job (I know! but I am lucky I am not the one doing it. :-)). It might be good to have a Like button on your website, I have developed a JavaScript code that I simply stick into an “include” and the JavaScript does the rest… I don’t have to worry about the link not being seen by S.E. as I think the social website’s got enough incoming already and Search Engines probably disregard that. But don’t stop there, keep your clients, followers and friends in the loop as well to make them remember you.

If you have a mailing list you must use that, however email being so elusive and seen as a spam harbour that, one day, it might not proving to make marketing  sense any-more. So using social networks make perfect sense, but obviously it does not mean that these are mutually exclusives, far from it.

Use the power of youtube, get an HD camera (there are very good and quite cheap ones now) and take the time to make a video promoting your business, it does not need to be fancy, make sure the shots are steady enough (use a tripod) and video editing software, if it is too complicated for you, hire someone, do it as it makes you stand out more than those who haven’t got a video, that also is probably a criteria for Search Engines Optimisation.

How Exciting!

Just added a new Plugin on this Blog to enable me to be more creative. I am still experiencing with it. I am glad to see that one of the biggest issues with CMS systems is still their level of complexity.

The most important barrier to past, modern and future technologies is simplicity and foremost usability and ability to remember how it works. In 2001 that was when I saw a website called Superupdate, now Hannon Hill advertising their CMS, I looked into it, it was relatively simple. So I though, I can easily do that even easier and simpler and created my own CMS system A very simple system, so simple that It is for people that are barely able to use Computers at all. Most of these people being the mature generation,

This is not a problem for things that you’re using all the time like Smart phones (well how much do you actually know about the phone you’re using? Do you know for example it’s got a feature allowing you to make phone calls). It’s more like when you tend to not do it often and you’re not an Internet Guru, let alone a PC wiz kid. For most people having or managing a website is not necessarily something they do on a full time basis. like the chairman of a Club or a charity or a one man business. That is my target market. My website design site provides an unique design plus the ability to edit the pages easily and fast without having to hold a degree in Computing Science. My clients only contact me when they need technical assistance, it works because it is KISS.

WordPress

This CMS system is quite good I must say, (the one that I used to create this content.), it is relatively simple, the strategy is working great especially the Plug-In system, although I must say that I struggle, it’s getting too complicated for me already.

How Exciting?

Now the reason, finally, of my excitement is that when you are using WordPress you tend get a lot of spam messages (well this site does). I am happy to announce that on this front there’s  been a development, with the use of a Plug-in called Spam-stopper which is the easiest one ever. I have yet to receive a single spam comments :-) or any comments at all for that matter.

Fruit shopping

As I went to get some fruit from my local Supermarket, I decided to take a look at their Country of origin, the Bananas where from Colombia, the Apples from Brazil the Corn on the  Cob from Portugal and a salad from Morocco.

There were no British Fruit, This is hardly promoting local Producers. It is amazing that despite the transport cost, it still make sense to have most cheap products imported from half way across the World than help the economy by buying and producing British. But ah, there’s a problem, buy British and face a sensible increase in price. Yet the economy is on its knees, no-ones buying local produce and no-one’s getting paid …Once in the hole….

I recently bought very cheap (and very good when Barbecued) Lamb steaks, coming from New Zealand, dear Lord! My regular Bacon is from Denmark thank God(!), not too far off then. I buy British, sorry, Scottish Chicken*, which is less than half what you’d be expected to pay for a similar one in Switzerland (yet the price of milk is about the same).

I decided to get my Free range eggs from a local Neighbour like I used to do a couple of months ago, the eggs are really good and they charge £1.50 for half a dozen. Try you get “as good as” Eggs in a shop at that price since January this year.

But the plans is really to get my own Hens and have my very own Free Range Eggs in the not too distant future.

I think I will start to grow my own, again… We should all do. At least we’d have more money for Fuel. Now how much is recycled plastic sheeting?

*And very good too with Roasted Potatoes (which are also Scottish phew).