I have been astounded by well meaning designers and web marketing managers who have created websites with a flair, with a stroke of artistic genius, and with a look/feel that excites not only the internal teams but their visitors as well.
Extreme graphics, use of Flash technology, smoothly streamlined, and pixel-perfectly positioned for web folks to admire, be impressed by and navigate within.
I have told them that they have done a good (great) job. I have told them that they have created works with the user in mind – NOT the search engines – which is the correct mindset, and the right place to start, always.
However – the sad truth in two recent cases (yes, large firms too) – is that when I showed them what the underlying data looked like for search engines, they felt embarassed, almost helpless, and then the “Oh, My God” expression on their face thinking about the loads of dough they’d spent on graphic design, development and implementation initiatives.
See, the pictures I showed them tell it all – what the search engines really look for: words, content – heck, let’s call it like it is – quality content and links. (Off-the-page factors, the links are still considered the SEO trump card of yesterday, today and the future, especially for Google).
So, to protect my clients, I will show you other pictures of a recognized website that is highly ranked in Google, a well known brand. I simply typed “shoes” into Google, and received this page when I clicked the link:
It’s payless shoes! Great looking site – inviting, strong call to action, relevant and apparently well designed at first glance (thinking ‘web site visitor’ now)…
However, looking at this page from a search engine perspective, we see a different view, not as pretty, but now we’re really looking at it with “search-bot eyes“:
There is really no content here at all, only links. My quick disclaimer note is that they have thousands of incoming links and have built a long-time presence on the web, such that content for this (home) page may mean less (no pun intended) to them than you & your own website.
To find out what you can do to look under the covers – try the Lynx Viewer, which is a text-only based browser and what I used in this example. (You can also use Google itself, by clicking on the “Cached” link from search results, and then the “cached text” link on the resulting page).
It is certainly revealing, and hopefully will help you think about how you can structure content and links on your page to support your core keywords and theme(s).
It’s good practice to provide at least 200 words on a page and sprinkle your keywords/phrases throughout: “early, often & naturally”.