A prospective client asked me to view his web site and give him some advice on how to make the site better. Unfortunately, his site was such a mess it became the inspiration for this article.
One of the primary reasons to have a web site is to attract and educate visitors. However, this obvious concept seems to be lost on many web designers. The way your site is designed, what's there and what's not there, including what's in the unseen HTML code, can have a great impact on how much traffic your site will generate.
Here's my list of the most common web site design sins and traffic killers. Use this list as you design your own site or show it to your web designer. If your web designer does not understand these points or dismisses them as unimportant. . .move on!
One word of warning, we are going to look under that hood of that shiny web page and see some of what makes it run from the search engine view. – This is not always for the squeamish.
No title tag or meaningless title tags. – Title tags are part of the HTML structure of every web page. Think of them as the informal name of the page. See for yourself. Go to http://www.ducttapemarketing.com . Look up there at the top of browser window and you will see the words – Small Business Marketing Ideas and Strategies – that's the title of that page. Now right click your mouse in the page and hit "view source or view page source." When you do this, you are looking at the HTML code for this page. Now, see that The Most Common Small Business Web Site Traffic Killers Small Business Marketing Ideas and Strategies [/ title] Every page has got them and they are one of the most important aspects of your web site. . .yet most people do not even use them. NOTE: While you are looking at this source code realize that this is what the search engines see. No matter what your page looks like it will not be found if this code does not help you get found. More on that.
Your title tags can be a great tool for getting you search engine traffic if they are combined with good page content. Notice that my title tag is not Duct Tape Marketing or the often used Welcome to My Site. My tag is Small Business Marketing Ideas and Strategies. Now, think about this for a minute. Not too many people search for Duct Tape Marketing and nobody searches for Welcome to My Site, but small business marketing, now that's another story. Most small business owners waste the effectiveness of their title tags with something like: The name of their business or our products. Use title tags and make them part of your site content. Think about what people search for in your industry and name your pages based on that.
Flash Intro pages – Do not get me started on this one. You know those pages that do all this really cool animated motion graphics and then present you with an entry or splash screen. I'll admit, these are works of art and I could not design one if I had to, but visit http://www.superclubs.com/home.asp and do that "View Source" trick again and tell me if you think a search engine could tell what that page was about. Remember, search engine spiders can not see pictures or hear sounds!
No Anchor Text Hyperlinks – Web site designs like to make little buttons and badges for navigation links. Now, this can be okay but this is also a place where less is more. Text with a hyperlink is easily understood by search engines. Remember, they can not see images. Help them understand what your page is all about. Even if you have images navigation, put text links at the bottom of your page with all of your navigation.
Referral Marketing – This is a text link
Contact info hidden – There are some web site owners out there that do not want to be easy to contact but I'm guessing that's not you. Put your address and contact information on every page and make them text. More and more people are turning to their web browser like a phone book. Lots of local address and content links can make it easier to find you in your own town.
Most important content out of order – Search engines read your source code in the order they come on it. Some engines only read a small portion so you should make sure that your most important content is early on your page. Left side navigation columns, commonly found on web sites, appear at the top of the source code and could be hindering your site from receiving proper credit for the content it contains.
No use of Heading tags – HTML uses a series of H or heading tags to help structure a page like an outline. H1 for the most important headings h2 for subheads and so on. Each of your pages will do well to contain a keyword rich headline, much like an ad for the page, and h1, / h1 mark-up in the code to let the search engines know that this is a really important part of the page. Then, do the same with sub sections with h2, / h2 tags. I know that most designers understand these tags when it comes to styling a page but few get the important role they play in the search engine game.
Look, there is plenty more to learn about this subject and certain aspects will change from week to week but now that you have a better understanding of how search engines view your site you can go out there and make pages that get found.
Copyright 2005 John Jantsch