Search Engine Friendly Design

When looking into having a website created for your business or how you can improve your existing website’s results through the search engines you will often hear and see the buzz words “Search engine friendly”. Creating a search engine friendly website has two main parts:

  1. Search engine friendly website design.
  2. Search engine optimization.

A third part, if you are creating a dynamic website (a website that uses a database e.g. an ecommerce website) then you need to consider search engine friendly web development also.

In this article we are going to concentrate on search engine friendly design.

What is Search Engine Friendly?

Generally, search engine friendly means to have a website that has been built which the search engines will visit, find out all about your website and include it in their index.

This does not mean to have your website built just to please the search engines. The website should be built to suit your target audience first, then incorporate techniques to help the search engines add your website to their databases.

There different techniques used to create a search engine friendly design.

Search Engine Friendly Website Design

While discussing the design of the website with your designer there are a few things to keep in mind to create a search engine friendly website design:

  • Images, Javascript and Flash

    Search engine do not see (read) images, javascript or Flash as of this writing. A search engine bot (the little program that travels the internet looking at websites) only reads text. Therefore, all important information needs to be actually coded into the web page.

    Update June 30, 2008 – Google and Yahoo have partnered with Adobe to use technology that will make Flash files readable by these two search engines. Search Engine Friendly Flash

  • Crawlability

    A search engine bot does what is called crawling. It uses the links on a web page to find other pages within the website and on the internet. This means that your links need to be in a format the search engine bot can read. So going back to our first point, search engines do not read javascript, you have to make sure that any fancy menus used can be read by the search engine bot or provide regular links to those pages for the search engine bot to find.

    Providing a sitemap not only helps your visitors if they get lost, it helps the search engine bot find the rest of the pages on your website.

  • Frames

    You have seen websites built with frames, those sites where you see additional scrollbars within the web page. This is not a search engine friendly design.

    In the background coding all there is for the search engine bot to see are the links to the pages that are used to build the page you see.

  • Splash Pages

    Splash pages are the introduction pages you see on some websites. They do not contain a whole lot of content, usually a picture or a Flash introduction and a single link to enter the website. There is no content on these type of pages for the search engine bot to evaluate and add to the search engine database.

There is a series of articles entitled Web Page Content Search Engines See which covers some other design issues related to building a search engine friendly design.

To learn more about search engines and how they work, see the Search Engine Optimization series of articles available at HTML Basic Tutor.

Once your website has a search engine friendly design, you can then work on the search engine optimization of the content you will be adding.

Search Engine Friendly Design Updates

June 3, 2008 Google updated their definition of doorway pages. They have also updated other SEO documentation.

Search Engine Friendly Design Related Reading

The Importance of Page Layout in SEO

…”A search engine doesn’t really want to pay too much attention to sections of a page that it might consider noisy, such as navigation bars, or banner or targeted ads when extracting information from a page….

…That most significant element of the page would be based on the amount of weighted content of elements and the position of the elements within the page as approximated by the visual layout process….

Also at SEO by the Sea, Google and Document Segmentation Indexing for Local Search.

The “Design” Part Of Search Engine Friendly Design

“…Allocation of screen real estate, use of color, font/typeface selection and formatting, use of graphic images and multimedia elements, file format, categorization, and labeling are important components of the design process. A person who truly comprehends search-engine friendly design knows how to combine all of these elements to meet user expectations, accomplish business goals, and meet the terms and guidelines set forth by the major web search engines…”

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25 Responses to Search Engine Friendly Design

  1. James Says:

    Excellent overview of search engine friendly web design. I agree with everything you mentioned 100%. It can be a tough thing for people to weigh and measure search engine friendly web design and visual impact of flash. SEO is only one small part of internet marketing and I guess people just have to choose the strategy that fits their business and their site.
    Thanks for the overview, people will find a lot of value here.

  2. A graphic designer Says:

    Flash/images/JS are all part of selling/entertaining the people once they get to your site. No problem using all 3 as long as they don’t get in the way of the web crawlers!

  3. Web Page Mistakes Says:

    Agree the images, flash and scripting add to a site when used in moderation.

    If the important information is contained within these elements, then the visitors who cannot read them (no flash, images turned off, scripting turned off, those who use technology assistance, some mobile phones, to name a few), including the search engines, don’t benefit from the eye candy.

  4. Brad - Office Supplies Says:

    Very nice article about SEO design. You hit on a major one with crawlability. Many people seem to think that they can ignore good SEO based design & layout; and then make up for it by using a site map. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Sitemaps are great for getting the deeper part of a site crawled, but nothing beats good design and crawlability on the home page. I have a client who insists on using javascript based menus on his site. No matter how many times, I’ve suggested it, he refuses to switch to a text based menu. He claims that the sitemap makes up for the inability of bots to crawl javascript. I politely disagree and his lack of keyword rankings seem to back my disagreement. Oh well, he’s the client and it’s his site.

  5. SEO Design Says:

    Having a SEO friendly design is the #1 step a web designer should take when building your business a site. This article is good because it talks to business owners who can use this information to decide what web designer to go with. The problem is that most fancy web designers use a lot of Flas and oftentimes do not know anything about SEO. When I first got into the website design business, I got into it because of the fancy things that Flash was able to do. Then I learned that Flash sites have very little to no chance of coming up on the first page of Google. Of course, so long as you use HTML on most of your page, a little Flash is okay. Also, while images don’t say anything to search engines, there’s the “ALT” and “TITLE” tags that describe each image and Google pays attention to these tags.

  6. Tom Says:

    Any website you need to be seen by G or others MUST have the goals of SEO in the onset of the site design..

    Great post,


  7. Franco Says:

    I thinks its more important to optimize the website for humans than optimizing it for search engine bots.

  8. Web Page Mistakes Says:

    A happy medium needs to be reached between optimizing a website for it’s target audience and make it search engine friendly.

    If your site doesn’t show up in the search engine results, new visitors from your target audience are not going to find you.

  9. seo hosting web design Says:

    SEO is definitely a friendly web site design for web designers and developers. But it is not only search engines that will help us to achieve highest ranking,nor the process that comes after the design. Rather, it should be a persistent consideration all throughout the creation process.

  10. Company Logo Design Says:

    This is something most of people are not aware about when they start off a site. In the beginning they might not be interested in development method and how friendly it would become with search engine. Nice tips you have given. Thanks for sharing

  11. quang cao online Says:

    Beside, Content and backlink also play important to search engine bots find your site.

  12. Real Estate SEO Says:

    Excellent overview of search engine friendly web design. I agree with everything you mentioned 100%.

  13. SEO Services Says:

    Well most of the times a lot of people get misguided about this whole search engine friendly concept. But i think this article is something that you can rely on.

  14. credit repair guide Says:

    a lot of people will pay tons of money for a website, and not ever ask if it will be seo friendly!

  15. Seo Consultant Says:

    It’s a fine balance of having a high conversion rate and having your website rank well in the search engines. seo services and seo web design need to be done hand in hand, the site needs to be spiderable by the search engines, yet easy to use by the customer, this takes experience and skill to manage both correctly, my advice is first check out the sites ranking well and see if they are user friendly, then emulate the best.

  16. Seo Service Says:

    an informative article…. many web site designers don’t design their sites for the search engines. This is a huge mistake because they miss out on attracting lots of free traffic. Your beautifully designed web site may have cost you thousands of dollars but it still needs to attract visitors to be profitable.

  17. mac consultant manhattan Says:

    i hate to see splash pages it takes a lot of time..
    recently i have heard that google takes into account the loading time of the site for PR so its wise not to use splash page that will affect your PR

  18. Vacaville Chiropractor -- Michael Fiske DC Says:

    Good info here, but I’d also like to see some tips for SEO optimizing for WordPress.

  19. Web Page Mistakes Says:

    All the things above apply to your WordPress blog too.

  20. Henry Says:

    This is definitely an informative article. This should make a lot of people realize that a website doesn’t only need to look good; they need to be appealing to search engines as well.
    It can be hard to do it especially if the web designer doesn’t know the importance of optimizing a website using SEO techniques that won’t, at the same time, make it look like the site is designed specifically for search engines. They still need to be catered to the target audience first.

  21. Allison Clark Says:

    I completely agree to the importance of having search engine friendly designs for the websites. However, it will all depend on the strength of the keywords optimized and the SEO strategy but the design is truly a major factor.

  22. Edmonton Marketing Company Says:

    I think Allison Clark missed the entire point of this post. Search engine friendly design is simply making the job of the crawlers easier, so they can access as much as possible of the data on your pages and store that data for later use by the indexing engine. Stregth of keywords really does not fit into the scheme of things until the indexing engine gets hold of the data, and that is more of an on-page optimization aspect than making a SEF design.

  23. web design Says:

    An excellent post.Really informative.Thanks for sharing it.In my opinion having a strong hierarchical structure in your website navigation design is best practice even beyond to the impact on search engine rankings.

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