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Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website
Step Three – Site Structure
Welcome to part three in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance and considerations that much be made while creating the content that will provide the highest ROI for your optimization efforts. In part three we will discuss the importance of site structure.
While there are numerous factors involved with the search engine algorithms, site structure is certainly of constant importance. Cleaner structures that remove lines of code between your key content and the search engine spiders can mean the difference detween second page and first page rankings.
Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.
The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:
- Keyword Selection - October 24, 2004
- Content - October 31, 2004
- Site Structure - November 7, 2004
- Optimization - November 14, 2004
- Internal Linking - November 21, 2004
- Human Testing - November 29, 2004
- Submissions - December 5, 2004
- Link Building - December 12, 2004
- Monitoring - December 19, 2004
- The Extras - December 28, 2004
Step Three – Site Structure
Developing the structure of your website is a very important step in its overall optimization. The site structure will dictate how the spiders read your site, what information they gather, what content holds the most weight, how much useless code they must weed through and more. You must structure your website to appeal to the visitor and the spiders.
When developing your website you want to be sure not to create useless code that can confuse spiders and take away from the content of your site. When developing your site I recommend hand coding as the best option however not everyone has the time or the skill to do this so I would suggest Dreamweaver as a great option. (Though the code will not be as clean as hand coding it does not create an over the top amount of extra code like programs such as Front Page do.) The object here is to keep the code as clean as possible! Remember the more code you have the more the spiders must weed through to get to your content, where you want them to be.
A great way to cut down on extra code as well is to use style sheets. You can use style sheets in ways as simple as defining fonts or as advanced as creating tableless designs. There are many ways to use style sheets and the biggest perk to using them is to cut back on the code on any given individual page.
When you are setting up the initial structure of your site you want to be sure that the table structure is laid out in such a way that the spiders can easily and as quickly as possible get to the most important content. A great way to attain this is to create your website using the table structure outlined in my article "Table Structures For Top Search Engine Positioning". When the spiders visit your site they read through it top to bottom, left to right following the rows and columns. The key to the table structure outlined above is the little empty row. Were this row not there the spiders would read through that first column hitting nothing but images and Alt tags, your navigation, until it would then move onto the next column, your content area. Placing this empty cell in the first row of the main table guides the spiders directly to your content, they hit the empty row and with nothing to read move onto the next column to the right, where you want them. After they have read your content they will then move back to the left in row 2 and read your navigation images and Alt tags, finally they will end the page at your footer, a great place for keyword rich text links. (Internal linking structures will be covered in part 5 of this 10 part series.)
Once you have created the site structure and inserted all of your content you will then begin the basic optimization of your site. In your code you will want to create Meta tags that fit your keyword choice. The two most important Meta tags are the Description tag and the Keyword tag. Your description should highlight your keyword phrase, keeping it focused, to the point and readable. Your keyword tags should also be focused using each keyword a maximum of 3 times in any set. These tags should be customized on each page to fit the specific phrase targeted.
After the Meta tags have been inserted appropriately to fit each page it is important to title each page appropriately. The main targeted phrase should be the focus of the title, keep it simple, focused, to the point, do not bog it down with extra descriptive text, this is not your description, it is your title.
Next move onto Alt tags. Though it is good practice to add Alt tags to all your images the spiders only put weight on those that are contained within links. An example of this:
<a href="http://www.beanstalk-inc.com"><img src="/Images/webhead.jpg" alt="Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization" width="461" height="145" border="0"></a>
These Alt tags allow you to make your images matter. Most main navigation is image based so be sure to add appropriate Alt tags targeting your keywords to this very prominent area of your site. Another great place to add a link along with its Alt tag is in your header image. Linking this image to your URL adds the ability to make the first thing the spiders hit within your tables to at least hold some content that "matters" rather than simply a static image.
H1 tags are also great way to add weight to your content however, use them wisely. You can use any of the H1,2,3,4 tags, the idea being H1 has the most weight, H2 a little less and so on. Do not over use these tags or they will lose their value all together. The correct way to use these is to use them where they actually belong, for example the first line of text on a page, the title. Also, if you are defining your fonts in a style sheet, which you should be, be sure not to abuse these tags. An H1 tag should be defined bigger than an H2, etc.
Utilizing the above tips will create a site structure that is the perfect environment for the spiders, it is clean, focused and easily read. Your site structure is now optimized and ready for the more advanced content optimization elements to come.
Next week in part four we will be covering content optimization. This will cover everything from meta tag optimization to the use of heading tags.
Click here to go to the next article in the series.
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